assimilation missional community

Establishing Healthy Rhythms

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:

This series of posts will explore what comes after the initial efforts to connect individuals into community.

Establishing Healthy Rhythms

Early on in the life of a newly-formed missional community, often the most difficult challenge is establishing regular rhythms that go beyond just a once a week meeting.  Many of the people who are starting out in these communities tend to approach life together as consumers, and also have a preconceived idea of what community practices should look like. Typically, community consists of a once per week event where often you gather to study the bible together.

With that in mind, we want to meet people where they are, but help them take steps towards gatherings that foster of obedience in different ways.

Although I’m not a huge fan of group curriculum, because people are used to utilizing it and because it is very helpful at keeping people on the same page (literally!), we utilize curriculum early in the life of a forming missional community to reinforce our vision for missional community life. We think of this as a curriculum designed to wean groups off of curricula – it’s helping them to move towards obedience rather than just knowledge acquisition.

You can see a sample of this curriculum here: MC Curriculum Sample

We have used a fair number of curricula in the past like the Tangible Kingdom Primer, Gospel Centered Life, and various other tools.  Although they were great, we would have to spend a lot of time interpreting different language and explaining some differences between our theology and philosophy of ministry. Over time, we decided it would be best to write our own to minimize these challenges.  There are three volumes of curriculum, about 8 to 9 weeks each, and they continue to develop and reinforce our core gatherings (The Family MealLTGsThird Place), as well as our method for studying and applying God’s word, while working through the topics of Gospel, Community and Mission.

The process of developing this curriculum drove us to clarity in a variety ways, and I highly recommend that you do the same in your context.  What would you like to have as core practices and core ideas that drive your ministry? Put them together into a study!

The other piece to establishing a healthy rhythms early in community life is intentional coaching.  I’ve written plenty on the topic here, but we focus a good deal of time and energy on coaching new groups early on.  This is for two primary reasons:

  • It establishes a relationship early with a coach
  • Groups tend to have the most need for help early on

Curriculum and coaching have proven to be an effective tool for setting a foundation that a missional community will build upon over time.  What have you found to be helpful?

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 replies on “Establishing Healthy Rhythms”

Hey Todd–

In thinking through rhythms, I was wondering how you guys compare with Soma regarding their 6 rhythms (story, listen, eat, bless, celebrate, recreate)?

From what I can tell, it looks like your gatherings cover these (as a whole)– but does each gathering have a specific emphasis or two? (I.e. story and listening rhythms happen in LTGs, eating and celebrating rhythms happen in family meal and blessing and recreating rhythms happen in third place?) I realize there’s overlap (you can do story and listening in family meal for example)—but just wondered if each gathering had specific emphases of sorts.

Just got done with your doctoral thesis. Thank you for sharing that online. I thought it was excellent!

Thanks, Todd!

In general, our gatherings emphasize identity rather than rhythm. We gather in LTGs to be disciples together. We gather in family meals to be family. We gather in 3rd Places to be missionaries. The Soma rhythms are excellent, and as you mentioned certainly a part of what we do.

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