faq missional community

The Family Meeting – Sharing a Meal

This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”.  Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:

  • Sharing a Meal
  • What Do You Talk About?
  • An Evening of Prayer
  • Celebrating Communion


How to Conduct the Missional Community Family Meeting

Rather than dive into practical, “how-to” answers, I usually spend most of my time on “why?” Against my normal tendencies, in these next posts I will try to be immensely practical and explicit about what we do in the different gatherings of missional community life.  Before I go too far, though, we are immensely flexible with forms as long as they are pursuing the proper function.  What one missional community does, another may do completely differently, yet hopefully they are pursuing the same purpose.

For the Family Meeting, the objective is to live out our identity as a spiritual family.  The primary focus of this gathering is the meal – together as a community preparing, eating and cleaning up from a shared meal.

As we train missional communities, I’m often asked a bunch of practical questions…everything from “should we go potluck or have one person prepare the meal?” all the way to “do you have any recipes for large groups of people?”  I have the spiritual gift of grilling, so that’s usually the route I go if I’m on point!

While there is not a single way to do this, here is what I would suggest.

Find the Right Time

First, find a time of the week where you won’t be under a time crunch.  For most families, one of the best times to gather is on Sunday evenings.  Mid-week is so often crammed with activities and events that it is really difficult to pull this off.  Second, I’d highly recommend that you aim for an every other week rhythm on this in order to cut down on some of the stress of a larger gathering.

Planning the Meal

For the meal itself, I have found it works best in our community for one family or person to do the meal planning, but to involve others in the preparation.  This cuts down on a lot of the planning and communication that is often necessary to do a potluck-style meal (and also limits the number of leftovers that get left behind!).  If you rotate through who is taking point, then it shares the burden over time.  Some meals that have worked well for us, and been relatively easy to prepare are homemade individual pizzas, oven-roasted chicken tacos, lasagna and other pasta dishes, grilling with a variety of salad options, and a bunch of others.  I keep bugging my wife to share some of her tricks!

When Do You Start?

Our Family Meeting will usually “start” at least 30 minutes prior to meal time.  This allows for people to pitch in for some preparation, as well as to have some conversation before the meal.  Because we have small kids, we will often aim for a 5 pm start so we’ve got enough room on the backside to get the kids bathed and ready for bed.  We’ve also found that it’s a good idea to either feed the kids before the adults, or to let the kids play outside while the adults are eating, in order to give us some uninterrupted time.

Generally, we will gather in the kitchen and the host dad will pray for our meal together and sometimes provide a topic of discussion for dinner.  We eat for about 30 minutes, and often will have some kind of dessert following the main course to appease the kids and provide a little more opportunity for conversation.  At the end of the evening, we generally invite people to help us clean up after the meal, then it’s time to head home.  In general, from start to finish we usually take about 2 to 2.5 hours.


There’s nothing special about what we do, but then again we’re aiming at being a family together, rather than doing something special in this time.  In the next post, I’ll walk through what we spend our time talking about during this kind of gathering.

faq missional community

Missional Community with Different Ages of Children

Perhaps the single most frequently asked question I receive with respect to missional communities is “what do we do with our children?”.  For this next series, I’m going to focus on answering that question from multiple different angles:


Involving Different Aged Kids

In the first post of the series, I talked about why you should involve your children, primarily from applied theology.  The rest of the posts will focus on the philosophy and practice of involving children.

For this post, I only have experience thus far in Pre-School and Grade School aged missional community, but will draw off the experience of others for Middle School and High School.  What follows are mostly some random and anecdotal thoughts…I’d love for contributions in the comments!

The Challenges of Age-Appropriate Ministry

As a dad, I definitely want the absolute best for my children.  As a Christian, I recognize that best is found in obedience to the Word of God. As a pastor and missionary, I find the greatest joy in obedience in a life intentionally submitted to God seeking out those who are far from Him.  As a dad, Christian, pastor and missionary with different aged kids, I’m often confused!

The first thing to recognize about kids and missional communities is that every age kid has a different learning style and appropriate things they can handle.  If you ask anyone in children’s ministry, they will tell you apart from finding volunteers, the single most difficult part of the job is communicating the truths of God in an age appropriate way.

Bottom line, teaching kids is hard!  Life in missional community is no different – it’s hard to know when to involve kids, what to tell them, and how much we should expect.  I will say this though – if you aren’t making mistakes, chances are good you aren’t trying very hard!


In my experience, involving pre-schoolers in missional community life more centers around the parents then it is the kids.  I’d encourage you to focus attention on caring for the little ones well, teaching them as much as you can from God’s Word (I highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible!), and thinking through mission more as adults.

That being said, I think it is a helpful practice to occasionally study the Bible together in community oriented towards children.  Use the Jesus Storybook Bible in your discussion with all families involved – you’ll be amazed what you can learn from a 2 year old!  Also, it’s a great way to teach families in your community who might not know how to have devotions with their own kids yet.

As a missionary though, little kids are an amazing tool – they can make friends with just about anybody!  Pre-schoolers are a great way to connect with people of all ages, and particularly other moms of preschoolers.  Those moms are often in the house all day long with only a two year old to talk to, so take any chance you can to schedule play dates!

Grade School

Grade schoolers, in my opinion, are an American missionaries best friend.  The rhythms of life in my neighborhood are primarily oriented around the grade school – we walk to school each morning, the kids are often on good terms with a large number of other kids, activities usually involve the whole family, and you are in close proximity with most people who are there because of the way schools are zoned.

As far as involving grade schoolers in MC life, they also are becoming more independent and able to articulate complex thoughts, they understand motivations, and are generally beginning to form a worldview.  There is no better time to open up your life and community than now.  I have a friend who says: “You’re parenting your teenager when they are 5 years old”. I want to make sure my teenager understands what the missionary life looks like, and so I involve my grade schooler.  He eats with us, he is learning to study the Bible like we do, I often involve him in activities like serving my neighbors, and he’s spending time with other members of our community as well.

Middle School

I affectionately call middle schoolers “electric chihuahuas”.  Middle school is full of opportunity because your kids are still dependent on you to drive them places, but by and large they are beginning to face many adult problems – hormones, identity, drinking, sex, and all kinds of other issues.  Additionally, in late grade school and middle school, often cliques begin to form and kids’ friend groups and activities begin to narrow in and focus on a particular group and a particular activity.

Involving kids in MC life at this age means two things: allowing some freedom of choice, but also involving them as much as possible.  In my opinion, middle school is a great time to involve your child in the life of a youth ministry where they can hear the same truths you are teaching but from a different voice in their lives.  At The Austin Stone, we focus most of our attention in middle school on what we call discipleship communities, which look a lot like Life Transformation Groups.  We’re treating the kids as individuals who are responsible for their discipleship, but doing it in the context of a group with leaders who are somewhat older.

With respect to involving them as much as possible, I think there are two haymakers for MC life – the first is actively serving the least of these.  Nothing quite kills narcissism like service!  One of our MCs at The Stone serves with a ministry that feeds the homeless in our city, and their kids do most of the front line service while they prepare food…it’s been incredibly powerful.

The second is taking them on a mission trip with your family.  Some of the best stories I’ve heard for middle schoolers come from a family mission trip.  I’d highly recommend that you do it with other families, so the middle schooler has another person to connect with!

High School

In high school, kids are often asserting independence, establishing their own identity, and in many cases self-transporting.  They tend to develop a life rhythm of their own at this point!  In my experience, the best missional communities with high schoolers are often aimed at helping their kids be effective missionaries in their school.  Now is the time for your children to start leading things on their own – cultivating their own missional communities that are trying to live out the practices faithfully amongst a pocket of people.

As far as involvement, I think it’s important to treat high schoolers more and more like adults – full participants in the missional community.  Have them share their highs and lows in Family Meal discussions, let them lead out in ways to serve neighbors, and practice Life Transformation Groups with them.  As far as Third Place goes, I want to have the house that every high school kid wants to be at, and the most effective parents have thought through creating a home that high schoolers are welcome in and want to be at.


By no means are these exhaustive thoughts…I welcome your feedback and ideas in the comments, especially as it relates to middle schoolers and high schoolers.  I hesitate to be prescriptive when it comes to kids and missional communities, because I’ve seen a variety of effective ways of discipling kids and involving them in life together.  I do know this though – our children are looking to us as the pattern for life in godliness, and if we don’t teach them to be missionaries, they likely will not become one!

What have you found helpful when it comes to different ages of children in missional community or group life?

faq missional community

Kids, Missional Community and Demonstrating the Gospel

Perhaps the single most frequently asked question I receive with respect to missional communities is “what do we do with our children?”.  For this next series, I’m going to focus on answering that question from multiple different angles:


Kids and Demonstrating the Gospel

In the first post of the series, I talked about why you should involve your children, primarily from applied theology.  The rest of the posts will focus on the philosophy and practice of involving children.  Before diving into this next post, I’d highly recommend you read the Demonstrating the Kingdom post for context.

For families with young children, the idea of “serving” as a group usually strikes fear into their hearts.  The thought of my four year old running through the aisles of a food bank and pulling things off the shelves, or of my two year old princess helping clean up in a really rough neighborhood tend to cause anxiety in me.  If you compound that by 6 or 7 other families, you can pretty much guarantee that serving the least of these will happen rarely if at all.

Who Is My Neighbor?

When it comes to demonstrating the kingdom as a community, I think it’s important to consider first and foremost the question “who is my neighbor?”  When a group begins to process through serving together, it often centers around a cause or people you don’t know, and is based on what works for the entire community.  We certainly have a mandate to minister to the least of these as believers, and I no way do I want to undervalue that, but often we miss opportunities right in front of us. The question “who is my neighbor?” I think is answered best by someone who is right in your path and that you have the resources to help.

For our missional community, the school my kids attend is a Title 1 school, which means that 60% of kids are on free or reduced lunch.  While it might be easier to serve with The For the City Network because they have opportunities that a ready to go, there are people that I have both the proximity and the resources to help right in my backyard.

Demonstrating the kingdom doesn’t mean just serving the least of these though, it means serving all your neighbors.  The two primary ways I serve my community are though organizational involvement (PTA and Soccer!), and then through practically serving neighbors by babysitting and meeting other needs (like catching neighborhood rats!).

The first step to involving kids in this kind of ministry is to think first on the question of opportunities that exist in your everyday life rather than what organizations you can participate with.  This kind of thinking will certainly lower the barriers to engagement.

How Can I Involve Kids?

After understanding who your neighbor is, you gain clarity on how you can engage in demonstrating the kingdom.  The next question to wrestle with as a community is “how can we involve our kids?”  Here are a few ways that we have done it:

  • Group babysit other peoples’ kids – it’s crazy, but it gives children and adults the opportunity to interact.  Try to put some creative thought into it rather than just putting on a movie!
  • Have you kids help in fundraising for causes you support – they’re cute, and they learn to advocate and be generous!  We had some friends who helped fundraise for a Compassion child, and others who fundraised for a global mission trip.
  • Recognize you don’t need to take all the kids along.  I love opportunities to do things with as a father and son, and most dads would love for the opportunity to go along with their kids to an activity!

How Can I Involve My Community?

After we’ve done the homework above, now we can start processing through bringing others along.  The critical piece to remember in this is that you don’t need every single person to always participate in a Third Place!  As you experiment with these kinds of activities, makes sure that you’re intentionally inviting others in your community to join, and on the back side telling stories of how worked (or didn’t work!).

The most effective missionaries often aren’t the ones who are the best communicators…they are the ones who invite the most people to join in!

What has been helpful to you as you consider ways to involve kids in mission?

faq missional community

Kids and Third Place

Perhaps the single most frequently asked question I receive with respect to missional communities is “what do we do with our children?”.  For this next series, I’m going to focus on answering that question from multiple different angles:


Kids and Third Place

In the first post of the series, I talked about why you should involve your children, primarily from applied theology.  The rest of the posts will focus on the philosophy and practice of involving children.  Before diving into this next post, I’d highly recommend you read the Third Place post for context.

When it comes to gathering for community, most groups try hard to accommodate children in some way.  In my experience, however, when it comes to mission, most groups give up at the outset of the conversation.  The thought of getting multiple families with multiple children in the same place to accomplish anything together is far too overwhelming of a task.  Part of that mentality is from real challenges – it’s hard to involve kids!  Part of that mentality, though, is still rooted in event-based thinking and needs to be challenged.

The objective of a regular Third Place is to involve your your non-believing friends with the life of your community.  It’s less about “where” and more about “what”.  One way that we have talked about practicing this with children is through the phrase “mission is to your kids and through your kids”.  Mission is to your kids, in that you have a responsibility to disciple them well, and mission is through your kids in that often times your rhythms as a family are oriented around kids’ activities.

Perhaps the most effective way to think through a Third Place with kids of any age is to ask the questions “what are my children already doing?” and “how can I involve my believing friends in those activities?”

Rather than adding something new to your calendar, instead try thinking through how you can intentionally do something that is already on the calendar with someone who loves Jesus and someone who doesn’t yet know Christ!

How Does it Work?

Here are a few examples of Third Places that I have done with kids involved, and also without:

  • Intentionally coaching a soccer team where two other families from my community participated in a YMCA league.  We were able to serve a single mom who desperately needed some short term care for her daughter, and contributed in her re-engaging with another local church.
  • Gathering weekly at our neighborhood coffee shop with our kids and one other mom with kids.  There were already ladies that met there with children, and we were able to have great conversations that led to three of them coming to faith in Christ.
  • My house and our neighbor’s house.  Our neighbors don’t know Jesus, but always open their home up, so we almost always intentionally invite a member of our community to join us when they invite us over.  Our house is always open for business as well, with kids in and out all the time!
  • Wednesday nights, we used to alternate with the women taking and week and the men taking a week going to a local pub to hang out and talk about life.  It didn’t yield much fruit, but it sure was fun!
Regardless on when or where it happens, the critical point is to involve your kids, other believing families, and those who don’t know Jesus in something together.

When Do You Do It?

At this point in my missional community our Third Place is shifting to be built around our school.  Currently, we’re repeating the soccer team idea in a different league, and then involving our missional community in the school PTA, even though they don’t have children.  When PTA happens, we bring folks along!  We’ve also involved another church that is right in the community to help, so we’re building bridges within the Kingdom.

Effective Third Places take into account not only your rhythms of life, but the rhythms of the people with whom you are trying to engage.  Most suburban life with children happens around a school calendar, so we use that as a guide.  If folks are busy, we get busy with them.  if it’s a slow season like the summer, we slow down with them.  Practically, weekend evenings tend to be the time when most families have availability, so do your best to incorporate Saturday and Sunday evenings into your rhythms of mission.

A Final Word

Everyone has a longing for community – for a sense of being known and a sense of belonging.  We’re hard-wired for it.  Pursuing mission as a Christian is not our natural default, however.  Mission is hard, requires sacrifice, and doesn’t often come with a lot of earthly reward.  I want to plead with you to not give up on mission as a believer – God’s glory and people’s eternity is at stake!  If we don’t intentionally create time and space to faithfully orient our lives around those who don’t know Jesus, chances are good we never will.

Lastly, your kids need a model for mission.  If they grow up with their entire lives never oriented around God’s mission to share the good news with others, it’s no wonder the church continues to struggle and flounder in emerging generations. God’s glory isn’t just at stake, the discipleship of your children is as well!

What have you found to be helpful to involve kids in everyday mission?

faq missional community

Kids and Life Transformation Groups

Perhaps the single most frequently asked question I receive with respect to missional communities is “what do we do with our children?”.  For this next series, I’m going to focus on answering that question from multiple different angles:


Kids and Life Transformation Groups

In the first post of the series, I talked about why you should involve your children, primarily from applied theology.  The rest of the posts will focus on the philosophy and practice of involving children.  Before diving into this next post, I’d highly recommend you read the LTG post for context.From the perspective of children, the LTG is probably the easiest to facilitate when it comes to thinking about child involvement.  The LTG is designed to be a place where we can gather as disciples, and hold one another accountable to obedience as a disciple.  They are single-gendered groups with two or three people, and last generally for an hour.  The most critical piece to making LTGs work is valuing them enough to commit to them every week.  I need accountability on a weekly basis to connecting with God, reflecting on my life, and participating in mission, and I would guess that you do to. I believe it communicates a lot to your children when you explain to them what you do in an LTG, as well as why you are committed to participating in one.  If you faithfully practice this, you will model well for your children that you must have some time and space in your calendar to study the Bible, continue to confess and repent of sin, and intentionally consider opportunities and pray by name for those who don’t know Jesus.  Like Jesus, it’s important that we model time alone and time with two or three as crucial to the submitted life.

How Does it Work?

The easiest solution for this is to alternate for a husband and a wife to take care of kids, or find particular portions of the day where child care is easiest.  I gather early in the morning with other men, and Olivia gathers either in the afternoon during nap time or occasionally after we’ve put the kids down to bed.  Bottom line, find a time in your schedule regularly where children are a little easier to accommodate, and then go for it!

A Final Word

In teaching my children to read and study the Bible, I am actually using a very similar framework for what we utilize in our REAP plan at The Austin Stone.  We have created kid-friendly Bible journals at The Stone, and you can see an example that my 6 year old completed here:

In helping my kids understand their sinfulness and what repentance and faith look like, I consistently try to preach the gospel in a way they will understand.  Lastly, as we are praying with them, we always ask them to consider one person by name who needs the love of Jesus.  As they grow older and are able to read on their own, I will start practicing LTG with my kids to model it well.  If the LTG does in fact have the core components of faithfully being an obedient disciple, then it should be transferable to our children with few modifications. In my experience, it’s a great way to regularly disciple your children!

What questions do you have about practicing LTGs with kids?