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Launching Missional Communities | Excerpt #4

September 28, 2010

We are just about to release the book so many people have been waiting for: A practical book on how to launch, sustain, develop and multiply MCs within a church. Couldn’t be more excited.

Here’s the website you can go to for more about the book.

Each week leading up to the release we are posting a short excerpt from the book.

You can read the first excerpt here, which is the Introduction to the book.

You can read the second excerpt here.

You can read the third excerpt here.

Today’s post is in the fourth section called MC LIFE (which is about all of the nuts-and-bolts things that go into MCs). How does teaching happen? What does mission look like in community? What do we do with kids? What about baptism? What about worship? How is it funded? How do we multiply MCs? How do we disciple? How do we raise up new leaders? What if an MC fails?

You get the picture.

There are tons of questions. I wouldn’t say we have/give all of the answers, but we do give tons of suggestions and stories for different things you could do. For instance, one of the big questions with MCs is what do you do with your kids? The real answer is that there isn’t one right way. Each church, each MC and each family is different. What we did was lay out the pros and cons of each route:
1) Kids are fully involved in everything in MC life (pros/cons)
2) Kids are separated for some/all of MC community time and entertained rather than “kids ministry” (pros/cons)
3) Kids are separated for some/all of MC community time and have children’s ministry when separate (pros/cons)

You start to realize that there aren’t always right answers and flexibility is really important.

But I digress.

Here is today’s excerpt from our fourth section of Launching Missional Communities and focuses on MCs and College Students. Again, this is just a taste. The amount of information this section covers in MC LIFE is pretty astounding.


College Missional Communities

Missional Communities are tremendously effective when reaching young adults, including those in college. That age group naturally operates in communities, with networks and neighborhoods of friends gathering informally throughout the week, at all sorts of strange hours! It is also a stage of life at which people are very open to discussing the deeper things of life, as beliefs and opinions are shaped and formed in the ‘ideas environment’ of a college campus.

The most effective missionaries to reach such an open environment are other college students, and MCs are an excellent way to facilitate such outreach. We see the Person of Peace principle working well, as a group of friends identifies others—for instance, in the same dormitory floor, sports team, fraternity or class—and naturally and organically builds relationships and sees where the Lord is at work in hearts.

At the same time, young adults are often very keen to make a difference and serve in a meaningful way. Again with the emphasis on service, an MC that gives time and energy to transforming some aspect of society will be highly attractive, as well as enhancing their wider credibility. There will be many avenues of opportunity for service, not just at the university but also within the surrounding city and further afield (for instance, summer trips to developing nations).

In most areas, churches do not need to treat college MCs in any way different to other adult groups. Indeed, young adults would much prefer to be treated as adults rather than ‘kids’. However, there are some particular things to bear in mind:

  • Do treat them like adult groups, but realize that they have less leadership and life experience. Situations that older groups would take in their stride might be huge for a leader who is only twenty years old, since he/she may well have never been caught up in that dilemma before (after all, experience has to be gained from somewhere!).
  • Their lifestyle is very different from everyone else in the church (e.g., staying up past midnight is the norm, not the exception), so don’t be surprised at the ways in which they live and operate.
  • They tend to have intense seasons within the year when they are very visible in the church community, followed by college vacations where you can go for months without seeing or hearing from them. This will affect when you do key training and activities for MC leaders.
  • This is a very passionate age group, where life is lived with great intensity. Perhaps more than any demographic, young adults want an authentic cause to which to devote themselves. This means that you encourage and support MC visions that are audacious and challenging, since this age loves to be stretched. When it comes to the wider church, they will want to be part of celebrations and whole church activities that work in the same way. For instance, a prayer meeting at 8pm might not be well attended, but ask them to do the 3am shift on a night of prayer and they’ll be all over it!
  • This means that whoever is tasked with leading the college groups will need to do so with energy and enthusiasm, mixed with great wisdom and patience.
  • Young adults long to have spiritual fathers and mothers. They love to be mentored and shaped by older and wiser heads, to feel that they are not just a group of young people by themselves. This opens the way for some older people, even grandparent age, to partner with Missional Communities and their leaders. They don’t need to be at everything, but they are there in the background, encouraging, supporting and offering wisdom in the issues of life with which young adults wrestle (especially around faith, relationships and careers). This is a wonderful way to have the different generations grow together and build the wider body of Christ.
  • If your church is reaching a number of different colleges and campuses, then great value can be had by bringing leaders together from those different places to learn from one another, develop best practice and be a mutual encouragement.
  • You will need to always be looking for who the next generation of leaders will be.  While this is true anywhere, it is especially true here, since the turnover is so fast as people move towards graduation and look to hand the MC on. This can be tricky as often there won’t be mature or experienced new leaders at hand, hence the need to work out how emerging leaders can be recruited and trained ahead of time.
  • Sometimes a college Missional Community will have a bumper year, when they have a lot of members, followed by a much thinner year. While generally you will be expecting to persevere through the lean times, there may be occasions when you need to let a group come to an end, trusting that God will give you fresh vision and leaders for future seasons. Hanging onto the tail end of an ineffective group is not usually the wise thing to do.

Stephanie on Campus Mission with her MC:

Our MC had incredible difficulties establishing a missional focus. We struggled with attendance for our outreach events and an overall passion for one particular thing. As college students, the possibilities were endless; coming up with a missional focus proved more divisive and offensive than beneficial to the Kingdom. So, our community settled on a broad missional focus for Missional Community as a whole, utilizing our small groups for pointed ministries that each was really passionate about. One group visited the battered women’s shelter, another ministered in the dorms, yet another group focused on evangelistic prayer for healing. As a whole, we prayer walked the campus and our surrounding neighborhoods.

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