One of the most exciting areas that I saw whilst I was on sabbatical was the role that Missional Community Groups play in some of the churches I visited. A number of the churches that I visited used them but it was the way that one in particular used them that really interested me. King’s Church in Warrington has developed these to where they are making a significant impact (my post on my visit there is here: http://bit.ly/18OqGI9).
One of the great things about Missional Community Groups (sometimes called clusters) is that they are very much in line with our vision and values as a church. They do what they say on the tin. They are both Missional and Community focused. They build on our cell group structure and our River Ministries and they allow us to expand and draw people into the church.
So, what are Missional Community Groups and how are they different to cell groups?
Well, firstly, they are larger giving more people to help. Indeed they are anywhere from 12-60 people in size. Missional Community Groups can contain several cell groups.
They create and have a clear vision and mission ensuring that we all know what we are about. For example, they could have a focus on social justice, reaching out to men, a geographical focus, young families etc. It also means that they can be responsible for one or more River Ministries.
They are lightweight and are low maintenance. This means that they aren’t a large burden and can be led by people in full time work. Most have a structure so that the weeks a Missional Community Group has a meeting the cell groups don’t ensuring that it isn’t an additional meeting.
Food and fun are important elements! They are about relationship rather than event. How do we build relationship between and with people? Well food and socialising can be great ways that we get to know one another and share time together.
They are based around an Up/In/Out model meaning that each Missional Community Group has a balanced diet of worship, community and mission. To have one of these elements missing means that it is a lop-sided group. Just as in cell we recognise that if we are focussed just on ourselves that we aren’t a cell!
They can help with some of the issues that some have struggled with in cell groups.
For some who are new to the faith, some cell groups can feel too intense. The mid-sized Missional Community Group can be a great place for a new Christian to be part of something without having to share to the depth of a cell. Though I have to say here that cell groups are great places to grow in faith and we want to encourage people to experience the deeper growth that cells can bring. But initially these can be safe places to start in.
Some cells have struggled with multiplying and the sense of loss that some people can feel. Obviously, cells will still multiply but within the context of a larger Missional Community Group people the relationships will remain.
It will ensure that there is a regular mission focus. Each Missional Community will have a focus that allows and encourages regular outreach and mission. This may be in the context of River Ministries or regular outreach.
So, what would they look like? Well as different as chalk and cheese! It depends on the group and the people in it. A group would decide and define their mission together so that they know what they are focussed on (e.g. a geographical area, people group etc), they would define how often the cells met and how often the Missional Community Group met each month. They would decide what ministries that they my set up or take over. They would look at how they encouraged sharing and worship and mission. They would look at how they shared life together.
The PCC agreed that we would set up 2-3 Missional Community Groups in the coming year to trial and learn from. We decided that we didn’t want to role out the model until we had determined how it works, how it links in to the cell groups and River Ministries. We have already identified a number of possibilities and will be talking to those people to see how they feel about it. I also know that there are quite a few where it would make sense in the future to create them but we don’t want to rush!
If you want to see a church that is developing these and some of the ideas that they have come up with then do have a look at the website of King’s Church Warrington