This continues the short series of posts on how we have practically tried to organise our Missional Community diary. We’ve tried various ways to schedule the organised part of our life together, as well as encourage the organic and spontaneous shared life to emerge. It’s been quite a learning curve with a fair few mistakes along the way. Why not read the introduction and see what we learned in year 1, and again in year 2?
YEAR 3 – The power of focus
By mid 2012, after two years of the MC, we re-planned our diaries again and made three changes.
Firstly, we introduced a once-a-month Sunday family gathering to act as a core act of worship for the MC with all the kids all together. Everybody focused on making this work and it was a success in many ways: we managed to make it lightweight and low maintenance, we enjoyed it, our kids enjoyed it. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, we got very little attendance from anyone outside our core team… it felt a bit too much like inviting people to a church service, even though it was actually super-relaxed and informal.
Secondly, we also recast two Mondays a month as a prayer night and a ‘community night’ (to include a mix of eating, Bible, prayer, planning). They ended up being a bit too unfocused for various reasons, mainly as a result of me feeling rather unsupported in the MC leadership, but also because attendance was often small due to our group having lost a couple of members for various reasons during that season. This speaks to how helpful critical mass is in MCs. Over the course of the year, the Monday meetings started to feel a bit flat – we didn’t exactly know why we were coming to each session and people’s motivation dipped.
Finally, we stopped meeting of a third Monday in the month, and gave this week back to people to give them time to interact more intentionally with their friends etc. on that week. That didn’t really happen, mainly because I wasn’t getting a lot of excitement from the team and I didn’t push it. So once again a mission component didn’t quite happen – I think because it was too vague an idea, I didn’t follow it up enough, and quite probably people felt they were already trying to live a missional life and didn’t need to add ‘an event’ to prove it.
One problem with this set up was that with only three scheduled events per month, it was hard for people who were not naturally seeing other people in the group on a day-by-day basis to grow closer to the life of the group and feel more ownership. I think in our context four scheduled things per month is a good number to ensure people can stay plugged in to the community even if they have to miss the odd one for work or family reasons.
Despite slightly floundering with the organised side of MC life, the organic life of the group was continuing to grow. Some highlights were:
- the monthly pub nights for the men that two of us started, which took on a life of their own in many ways and have become a popular entry point for new arrivals to town, and a good way for us to build friendships.
- many people in the group really identifying people of peace and focusing on them
- three families choosing the same after-school activity for their kids to provide a touch point in the busy week to be all together
- another ‘hot spot’ emerging in the local scout troop, where three of the group ended up having leadership roles
- increasing visibility of the group amongst our non-Christian friends, and an understanding of the community we were building
So in summary:
- Rhythm: Two Mondays and one Sunday ‘family celebration’ per month.
- Verdict: The family celebration showed we could make something happen if we put our minds to it! The Mondays suffered from lack of critical mass and a lack of investment on my part. And with no follow up from me, the idea of a ‘mission week’ never came to pass. Oops. But despite this, the organic side was building up some nice momentum.
Learning: Make once change to the rhythm at a time if possible, to allow people to help make the change stick and be successful. Make sure each event/meeting has a clear purpose and everyone knows what success looks like. Keep remembering that not everyone in the MC will engage with the same frequency, but keep encouraging those aspects of shared life and shared friendships that are emerging, and look for ‘hot spots’ where God’s grace seems to be on the situation.
As we went into year 4, we started to get some clarity about the rhythms that might work. Stay tuned for the next episode!