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Missional Communities series | Post #4

January 24, 2011

It does seem pointless to have a series on Missional Communities and not have it teeming with stories, right? Theory is good, but let’s see it put into practice.

Here’s a story about a Missional Community developing in Lexington, KY. The core team that is doing it are part of Southland Christian Church who was in one of our Learning Communities.

What I’m really hoping to do with this series is cover a lot of the theory and practical questions that come with Missional Communities, but give lots of stories into how these mid-sized, missional groups can incarnate themselves ANYWHERE. What we’ll do is put the stories up and then I’ll give some thoughts on the particular MC.

This story was taken from Southland’s MC blog, so at the end it does have a shout-out for people who are interested in joining the MC. But it’s actually helpful to see how this church is inviting people to be part of this mid-sized community.

When a skate park opened up down the street from my house in Nicholasville, at the ripe old age of 32, I dusted off my old skateboard and took my son over to check it out. The park was packed and what I saw really bothered me as a Christian and as a father. The kids’ explicit language was embarrassing; kids of all ages were smoking cigarettes, and one six-year old was even smoking a cigar. There were no parents around and I overheard two older kids talking about their dads being in jail. These kids were from my community, my neighborhood – and there they were, right on my street. I left the park knowing God was showing me the mission field and that there was a deep need for love in those kids’ lives – His love.

After much prayer, my wife and I started to visit the skate park weekly, taking our son with us. We set out to skate with the kids and build positive relationships by modeling what that looks like. As a father and son team, we encouraged and challenged each other in a positive way. The park kids quickly noticed and that opened the door for conversations about skateboarding. We also brought a cooler full of cold drinks and popsicles with us to share. They were hesitant, but once we told them to help themselves and that everything was free, they dug right in. And they started asking, “Why are you doing this?” They obviously expected strings attached. Our answer is always, “We’re just doing this out of love.”

Encouraging the kids in a positive way, and showing them love expecting nothing in return allowed us to also share that God loves them. Since then, God has grown Love Skate into a full time ministry with monthly cookout dinners (April – October) for the skaters in addition to weekly Wednesday night cooler visits. During the off-season (November through spring break), we meet on Wednesday nights for a full home-cooked dinner and fellowship. We’ve been able to remain a consistent Godly influence in their lives regardless of the weather!

Winter is actually our busiest time of year even though the kids aren’t skating as much. The cold weather provides more one-on-one time with the kids since they’d rather be inside where it’s warm and dry instead of trying to skate out in the cold. Last year we cooked a big meal each week to feed kids in our home. God used us in amazing ways to reach these kids — we started dinners with about a dozen kids and by spring break, there were 40! Needless to say, we’ve outgrown our house and are happy to report we’re moving to the local YMCA for our weekly dinners, where we will also include some kind of lesson or teaching as part of the evening.

With that many kids, we have some serious food needs every week! If you can help, please let us know! We need the following:

  • Home cooked meals – The kids aren’t picky…they are hungry! This is often the only decent meal they get each week so we want it to be special. Food will need to be dropped off no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday nights or – if it’s frozen and ready to cook, earlier in the week is fine! The key is homemade food (we steer clear of frozen store-bought pizza!). We will start this year with servings to feed 25 hungry people and adjust as the season progresses. We would love to find a number of life groups willing to prepare a full meal once a month or so.
  • Drinks – Water, sports drinks, sodas of any kind.
  • Paper goods – Paper plates, bowls, napkins, towels, plastic silverware, plastic cups, etc.

If cooking isn’t your thing and you still want to volunteer, check out these other serve opportunities!

  • Prayer team – We need prayer warriors willing to pray on Wednesday nights during the 6 o’clock hour.
  • Set-up teams – Come about 5:30 p.m., and help get the Y ready. This will include setting up tables and chairs for serving and for dining.
  • Devotional leaders – People willing to give a short 10-minute devotional once a month.

Last but not least, we need a reliable and trustworthy ministry partner. I need another male to assist in mentoring/leading the group. Ideally it will be someone with a skateboarding or biking background who loves Jesus and has a servant’s heart. The last two characteristics are definitely the most important!

Notice a few things that this MC is doing well:

  • Rather than doing what many churches do, this MC took their relational capital and energy to the place where there wasn’t a Gospel presence. Instead of building their own skate park at the church, they went to one where plenty of people were already present. They acted as a “sent people.”
  • The vision for this MC was birthed not only out of need, but from a specific calling to share God’s love and see his Kingdom break into a place devoid of a Gospel presence. They overheard several of the kids’ dads were in jail and their hearts broke and they gave a Christ-like response: These kids need to be loved. Instead looking at the outside issues (drinking, smoking, terrible language), they understood that in a world absent of Jesus’ love, this is what happens.
  • They made sure to establish relational credibility before doing things like offering water, popsicles, etc. This created an amount of trust within this sub-culture.
  • They didn’t avoid the question. When asked, “Why are you doing this?” their answer was always, “We’re just doing this out of love.” There was a type of boldness to both their presence and their answer to questions.
  • Their was “seasonal” life to the Missional Community. When the weather was nice, they were at the skate park. But when it got colder and not as many people were there, because they had established strong relationships, they were able to capitalize. Notice what they said: The cold weather provides more one-on-one time with the kids since they’d rather be inside where it’s warm and dry instead of trying to skate out in the cold. Last year we cooked a big meal each week to feed kids in our home. God used us in amazing ways to reach these kids — we started dinners with about a dozen kids and by spring break, there were 40! Needless to say, we’ve outgrown our house and are happy to report we’re moving to the local YMCA for our weekly dinners, where we will also include some kind of lesson or teaching as part of the evening.
  • The MC was able to utilize Jesus’s Person of Peace strategy. Notice that when they first started having meals, only a few kids came. Once these kids were comfortable and had a strong sense of community, they proved to be gatekeepers to the wider network. That’s how this MC was able to go from 6 kids to 40 so quickly. They invested the most in the people who were open.
  • They were able to create easy entrance points for new people to join the MC. Basically, if you can cook, you can be one of the adults calling this MC home (and honestly…everyone can cook!).
  • They made sure the entire venture was bathed in prayer as they’ve now established a prayer team focusing all of their energy on this one MC.
  • It went from something that was completely social, to something that had spiritual content, but it didn’t happen overnight. There was a natural, relational progression. But they continued to make the social aspect one of the main pieces of the Missional Community.
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9 Comments leave one →
  1. David Wild permalink
    January 24, 2011 2:52 pm

    I love getting these real stories; they are not only encouraging but help convey practically how to go about setting up missional communities. I like the fact that the aim isn’t to remould the community into a host church, but to let it develop its own life. It’s important to keep in mind that the point is not to be a “sneaky way” to get people to come to church, but rather to be an expression of church, and in this the purpose of an “originating” church (i.e. a church that the people who set it up are involved with) may be purely to provide resources (i.e. there is no reason why the people in the MC should necessarily be absorbed into or dependent on a traditional church).

    I also find it encouraging that they have a transition plan (looking for a leader who has skateboarding experience) and that it’s not necessarily incumbant on the people who start the thing off to keep it going ad infinitum. This is helpful for those of us who are good at getting things going but not necessarily managing them long term!

  2. Terrell permalink
    January 24, 2011 7:10 pm

    Sean,
    This is good stuff! Such a relevant picture of the gospel being real.

  3. January 25, 2011 1:11 pm

    I like how the church went in and built relationships, but I am also reminded that even when Paul did this in acts from city to city he did not waste time about presenting the gospel. In this story it sounds like lives were changed by the gospel, but that part is vague. I assume kids got saved, baptized and discipled. The person of peace principle is powerful and indeed some people take months or years to actual win to Christ while others are rip unto harvest immediately. Would love to read about the stats on this story in a time line over the course of a year or two. Great ideas and great focus of engrafting them into the church of our Savior.

  4. David Wild permalink
    January 25, 2011 6:50 pm

    Here is an interesting blog post by our old friends in Michigan, which I think gives an example of how the lines between church and missional community can be quite blurred (in a very encouraging way) http://thisoldpastor.blogspot.com/

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