At The Austin Stone, the process of connection to multiplication follows a general pattern that usually takes approximately two years. It generally goes something like this:
- What’s Next?
- The First Four Weeks
- Processing a Preferred Future
- Establishing Healthy Rhythms
- Thinking Critically about the MC
- Considering Multiplication
The First Four Weeks
If you commit to connecting individuals into your church into community life and are committed to pursuing missional community, you inevitably need to answer the question “how do we get them moving in the right direction?”
Although it usually takes 18 months to 2 years for a healthy missional community to emerge from a group of individuals who don’t know one another, we have found that the first four weeks of the community is imperative to set the tempo for the long term future. Most of our new groups are launched from a Sunday, classroom-based environment we call “Connect Class” (see here for more), and those weeks immediately following are often what makes or breaks a group.
These four weeks are often when group participants will decide if they are going to stick with the community. We have found it’s important to give a little space after the Connect Class environment to allow the dust to settle and allow people an off-ramp from the people they were placed with.
For those who do want to stick, we don’t want to overload a group with too many assignments – we’ve found they “need room to breathe”. At the same time, the first few gatherings will often set the rhythms and culture of a community, so we want to template that time as well as we can. Rather than provide a curriculum or prescription, we’ve found it’s best to accomplish four things over those four weeks:
- Read through the Book of Acts together (1 chapter per day) and discuss it
- Gather over a meal twice in someone’s home to share your stories with one another
- Gather somewhere not in a home and continue sharing your stories
- Meet with a Missional Community Coach to discuss your group mission
We leave the planning and execution of these up to the newly minted leader in order to create ownership for the leader and buy-in from those in the group. The first three things are designed to mimic what we will ask of a healthy group down the road (The Family Meal, LTGs, Third Place).
What do you think is critical in the first few weeks of a newly forming community?