This series of posts provides an overview of each of the missional community practices we foster at The Austin Stone:
- An Overview of the Practices and a Story
- Different Kinds of Gatherings
- The Family Meal
- Life Transformation Groups
- A Third Place
- Putting the Gatherings Together
Third Place – Gathering as Missionaries
The third way we gather is as missionaries in a third place.
Up to this point, we’ve reoriented a typical small group with a family meal, and cultivated discipleship with the LTG. A third place is where a missional community becomes intentionally missional.
Unless we intentionally make time for people outside our community, we often won’t do it. Very few of us naturally drift into mission! What does it mean to obey Jesus and be a missionary?
Obedience means gathering for the sake of people who don’t know Jesus.
For us, it wasn’t enough to just serve together. Mission is about people, not projects. We must think through ways we can integrate people into our communities, not just serve them at arm’s length.
As we wrestled with this, we needed to create a third place – a place to introduce your lost friends to your community.
What makes a good place to invite people? We use three words to describe it:
An effective Third Place is neutral ground that is informal and non-committal. It naturally fits into the rhythms of your lost friends lives, and we do it regularly.
So where do missional communities gather for a third place? It depends on the people you’re trying to reach. Ask the question, “where do people already spend time and naturally go? How can we gather there?”
For some of our downtown missional communities, this may be an after work happy hour. Downtown professionals naturally gather there after their workday. For some of our moms with younger kids, this might be a park where other moms and kids play throughout the day. My neighborhood gathers at our neighborhood restaurants on the weekends and at events at our school, so that’s where we go.
The Advantages of a Third Place
A third place creates space where someone can belong to before they believe. We want to do it regularly, and invite those who don’t know Jesus to participate often.