Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Mission from Old Congregations?

A friend in a Facebook clergy forum was wondering how an established church might be able to participate in some of the "new things" going on missionally without abandoning wholesale the forms and expressions that have fed and continue to feed those who have been there for a while. Here's what I shared on that:

"Awesome question! What it might look like, I think, will depend first of all on the economics of your current congregation. If they are, like most, working hard just to keep the doors open then a both/and scenario is going to be really hard to envision. If I can assume that you're not in survival mode, then here are a couple of ideas that might at least be good for stirring the pot:

1. Provide financial support to a "home front missionary." Most people get the idea of a missionary as someone you give $$$ to, who then goes somewhere far away (where there are reported to be some non-Christians) and once in a while reports back. The missionary does not preach or teach at your church (except maybe once a year) and the people that join his/her congregation do not help pay your bills. Leverage this idea to support a missionary to the people who are *culturally* distant in your area, but with *no* expectation that the will join your church. The missionary then has freedom to help the evangelized to develop a non-conventional form of congregational life that fits their culture and is both reproducible and financially sustainable. (For more on this, check out this old blog post of mine.)

2. Release a batch of folks from your current congregation to be a "missionary band" and support them in inventing a new mode of congregational life. Be sure they take their offerings with them!

3. Offer an alternative confirmation track for those who are interested in being "missionaries to the future." Train these young people to function like the missionary band in #2 and hugely empower and encourage them to take ownership of the formation and leadership of their own congregation. (Confirmation as mission developer training. This will have some very salutary effects on the design and content of your confirmation program, I think.)"

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