As we have led missional communities at The Austin Stone, we’ve found there are some common transitions in the life of our communities, and this series is discussing those four stages. They are:
As I have unpacked the different stages that most communities go through, I’ve probably painted a picture that is much neater than reality. No group of people fits perfectly into any of the descriptions above, but we have found these categories to be very helpful when thinking through training and coaching. We also use these categories to help us understand how we are doing over time as a church in discipling communities to mission.
For those of you who are leading larger organizations of missional communities, I want to share statistically how we have grown over time to give you some benchmarks. Generally speaking we’ve fluctuated between 175 to 250 missional communities over the past 5 years.
We began the transition to missional communities in 2007, and in early 2008 we would estimate that we had:
- 10% Teams of Missionaries and Missionary Teams
- 50% Small Groups
- 40% Community Groups
In 2009 and 2010, we put a significant amount of effort into establishing consistent missional community practices, clarifying our core language, and establishing regular training.
In early 2011, after a significant investment in training, we had:
- 8% Missionary Teams
- 23% Teams of Missionaries
- 33% Small Groups
- 20% Community Groups
- 16% Unknown
Our most recent measurement from late 2012 indicates that we are:
- 13% Missionary Teams
- 29% Teams of Missionaries
- 25% Small Groups
- 21% Community Groups
- 11% Unknown
The reason I share these numbers is to encourage you that transition takes a VERY long time. It has taken us 5 years of investment to shift the culture at The Austin Stone from Small Groups to Missional Communities. If you’re expecting things to change overnight, you are sorely mistaken.
My prayer for you if you’re considering shifting to missional communities is that God grants you conviction that this is His desired ministry strategy for you, and that He grants you perseverance to stay the course when it gets difficult!