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
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 Meal, LTGs, Third 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?