Recently we launched two cohorts meeting online to learn about starting missional communities. After the session that met at noon, I began thinking about the process of starting missional communities and the need for those developing such communities to behave a little like — mission developers mad scientists!
Developing a missional community requires curiosity and discernment. We want to curiously seek out and discern what God is up to in the world. This requires that we act a little like scientists—OK, maybe not mad scientists, but nonetheless scientists; seeking out and testing ideas.
A scientist is bound to the scientific method; you ask a question, collect information, establish a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to determine whether or not your hypothesis was right. If it doesn’t work, you go back and collect more information and try again. If it does work, you move forward. Similarly, missional communities do not develop without experimentation.
To begin, clarify what your missional hypothesis is; what kind of community do you envision? Where will it be? Who will participate? What are the values and beliefs you feel to be important?
From there, you will need to consider who you need to discuss your missional hypothesis with. Share your interest with your head of congregation. Discuss with leaders in the neighborhood you hope to start in. Invite the participation of those who have gifts and abilities you will need for this effort. You then begin to test your hypothesis with missional experiments that will help you collect data. Prayer walks, interviews and asset mapping help you check your assumptions. Through these experiments if you discover that things are not working—which will be most obvious by whether or not those in the neighborhood do not participate, than debrief with your leaders and attempt a new experiment.
If your experiment is gaining traction it is still important to consider what future challenges you might face. Will you have expenses you are unprepared for? Is there appropriate space for the people you are gathering? Be clear about what success will mean in each stage. List the outcomes you and the other leaders hope for. What will spiritual, relational and missional health of this group look like?
Here’s a diagram I came up with to describe this. Is this helpful? Let me know.
This article originally appeared here.