Failure to Multiply

I always knew that multiplication playedfailure a role within Missional Communities.  I read about it, and even attempted to map it out.  However, even though I thought I had an understanding of it (which I didn’t), the simple fact that I never saw it caused me to miss the opportunities when it was in front of me…SEVERAL times!

That’s right, in our first 2 years of doing student GoCommunities, I missed the opportunity to multiply on 3 specific instances.  At one point, 2 of our GoCommunities had 40-45.  Both of them had developed 2 distinct groups of students within.  But we didn’t multiply.  The nutshell story is that because we didn’t multiply both of these GoCos started to dwindle in number (for various reasons) and eventually dropped down over time to around 20-25 students.  One of them dropped to about 10 students at one point!

Because of this you would have thought that the following year I would have this figured out in order to prevent same mistake.  Nope!  We ended up launching a GoCo for 8th grade students halfway through the school year.  It blew up! Like 60 students at one house blow up!  We should have multiplied that.  We easily could have had 3-4 GoCos coming out of this GoCo, each with a distinct mission.  But I missed it, yet again.  And the numbers eventually dwindled down to 25, simply because of missed opportunities to multiply.

Currently, we have 5 student ministry GoCommunities and we are getting ready to launch our 6th (Song & Story). God is definitely moving in some powerful ways and His grace has kept things going.  However, I can’t help but think that if I had been aware of multiplication, and seized those opportunities to multiply, where we would be at – 9,10,11 GoCos? And how many more students would be connected and on mission in intentional communities?  With all this said, God has definitely given us clarity in our vision on what it looks like to multiply our GoCos and release students on mission.  We are moving forward with new eyes and focused vision.  We will talk about this vision, as well as some practical steps, in the next post.

As you venture down the missional community path be aware of the multiplication process.  The opportunities to multiply WILL present themselves.  Ask God to give you discernment and wisdom in those moments.  It’s a beautiful thing when you are able to multiply and commission students to intentionally disciple those around them.  On the other side of the coin, it’s a rough road recovering from the failure to multiply.

The First of Many!

I am happy to say that we are multiplying our first student GoCo (Missional Community) this very month!  It’s such a blessing and joy to let students run with their passions and gifts.

The two students that are leading this are going to be seniors this upcoming school year.  Both of them love Jesus.  Both of them have a heart for people around them.  Both of them are very talented musicians.  In fact, their band won our local high school battle of the bands competition this last year.  Anyhow, as we began talking about passions, gifts, people, community, and how all of these could come together for them we came up with the idea of Song & Story.  Song & Story will be an intentional community that will be led by these two guys that is focused on music and the arts – with Jesus at the center of it all.

Song & Story’s Mission/Vision is A community where students can share their creative passions and be encouraged in their artistic growth.  And a slogan they are using to go along with their GoCo is “Everyone’s Song has a Story.  Everyone’s Story has a Song.”

In the upcoming posts we will be talking more about Song & Story, including  the practical plans for it.  We will also be doing a few posts on how we got to the point of being able to multiply our GoCos, which will include many mistakes we made along the way, as well as, the vision for the future of how we continue to multiply.

What I am asking right now is that you pray for the two students leading Song & Story, all students that will become part of this community, and for a movement of the Holy Spirit.  The launch date is June 24th.

PoP Story Time

Luke 10:5-6 – “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’sperson of peace heart peace be on this house.’  If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you.”

Our friend Alex Absalom has a great post on the Person of Peace and the important role the PoP plays in mission.  He describes the Person of Peace in this way: ‘They like you and you like them.’

At our GoCos we try to stay away from teaching lessons.  We like to have as much discussion, conversation, and student participation as possible.  However, there are definitely principles and ideas that we want to teach students as we continue to equip them to live their lives as their mission.  Some of these include The Learning Circle, For-With-One of-In, sharing their stories of faith, and the Person of Peace.  When we ‘teach’ these lessons we like to do them in a way that is interactive, creative, and also simple (this way anyone can teach them).

When it came to teaching the Person of Peace principle for one of our GoCos geared towards 8th grade students we decided to come up with a storybook way of communicating it.  I got together with one of our high school student leaders (Jonah) who is a Junior and big time football player at one of our local high schools. As we sat at Starbucks we came up with a literal Person of Peace story.  Below is that story.  So at the following GoCo Jonah read the story to the students during “Story Time with Jonah,” then we had discussion following story time about the PoP and how students can begin to identify their PoP.  After the discussion we gave a copy of ‘The Story of the Person of Peace’ to each student for them to keep.

There’s a few things I love about this besides the fact that an older student was ‘teaching’ younger students about Person of Peace:

  1. It’s a simple way of teaching PoP that anyone can do it and do it effectively.
  2. It’s taught in a way that students have fun with it and fully grasp the idea of it.
  3. This way of presenting PoP generates a lot of discussion.

Feel free to go to the embedded link and download the PDF. Make your own story using one of your own students and change whatever you may need.

The Power of Story

One of the beautiful things about a story is that everyone has one.storytelling2  Everyone has a story they can share. Maybe they have a story of triumph.  Maybe they have a story of heartbreak.  Maybe they have a story of redemption.

Another thing I like about a story is that there are often ‘mini’ stories within the whole.  These mini stories build onto, add, and contribute to the bigger story.  Often times, the mini stories are simple and a  moment is typically found at the center.

If everyone can share a story, then how are you allowing students to share the stories of what God is doing in their lives?  I am finding that the sharing of stories is becoming an integral and life-giving part of the DNA of our GoCo families.  Social space is a great setting for students to share their stories.  It becomes contagious and inspiring among the students.  When they hear a couple of their peers share stories of how God is using them, even if it’s something little, they begin to realize that they can, in fact, live their lives as their mission.

It’s Not Accidental

“no one creates a discipling culture modeled on the life and ministry of Jesus by accident.”challenge_accepted_invitation-r4f94cd7130a4484b91bb57aa489e7d8e_8dnmv_8byvr_512 – Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture.

Those final two words in the statement above are crucial -‘by accident’.  It doesn’t happen by accident.  Discipleship is hard work.  Creating a discipling culture is very difficult.  It takes time, it takes imitation, it takes prayer, it takes discipline, and the list goes on.  As we build a discipling culture we must be intentional in all we do (while letting the grace of God make up for our weakness).

When you look at the Challenge/Invitation chart on our previous post we have found ourselves in all the quadrants at some point.  When I first started in ministry, much of what I did ended up in the ‘Chaplaincy Quadrant’, where the invitation was high, but the challenge was lacking.  I was just beginning to figure out how to challenge students and leaders (this is definitely one of the areas where God’s grace has entered into my life and ministry).   However, once I became aware that challenge was probably a weak point of mine I decided to make drastic changes and probably erred a little too far in favor of challenge, winding up in the ‘Stressful Quadrant’.  Because of this I definitely burned out a couple leaders and students along the way.

Going back to Mike Breen’s quote saying that a discipling culture doesn’t happen by accident: it takes serious intentionality to maintain high challenge and invitation on mission with students.  It’s important to make sure that you are challenging students in their faith and in their mission, while simultaneously making sure that the very thing you are inviting them to is worth the cost of the challenge.  We have not always done this well.  When we have erred in the past, we have fallen into not being challenging enough and by default, have created a comfortable, inward focused community.  Unfortunately, I think this is often a common default of many student ministries.

As we are learning and growing, here are some things that we have done that have helped us maintain the balance between challenge and invitation:

  • Clear Mission/Vision – our student GoCos have not always had a clear mission/vision.  However, this is integral to the community.  If everyone knows what the mission/vision is then they have an idea of what they will be challenged in and they also know the very thing they are being invited into.
  • Rhythm – setting the culture that each of our GoCos will maintain the discipling rhythm of Come, Thrive, GO has been extremely helpful in keeping the high challenge and invitation.  It breaks the weekly GoCo gatherings up to prevent every week from being the exact same, which in turn prevents things from getting comfortable.
  • Multipliable – Everyone: both students and leaders need to have ownership in the community.  It needs to be structured in a way that anyone can share, lead, and contribute to the community.  It’s important for you to get out of the way and let others have responsibility and ownership in the community.  This empowers those within the community to eventually start a new GoCo if it needs to multiply or if they develop their own mission/vision out of it.  It CAN’T be your show.  If it centers on you then really what you invite people into is your own presence instead of Jesus’ presence within the community.  

The discipling culture does not happen accidentally, so move forward with purpose and intentionality found in the Holy Spirit’s guidance, while living in God’s grace.

Both/And: Challenge/Invitation

The call of a disciple is one of both Challenge and Invitation.

Luke 9:59-62 – “He said to another person, ‘Come, follow me.’ The man agreed, but he said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’  But Jesus told him, ‘Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead!  Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.’  Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’  But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'”

This is the challenge of being a disciple of Jesus.  This is the same challenge that Jesus initially called his twelve to – the challenge to leave it ALL behind and follow Jesus.  Even though the challenge was steep, the very thing that Jesus was inviting them into made it worth it!  Jesus’ invitation to the disciples was one that proved to be life-changing and, in fact, world changing

When we are intentionally disicpling students to be disciples that make disciples as they live out their lives as their mission, we need to be purposeful about the challenge and invitation.

In his book, Building a Discipling Culture, Mike Breen shows the importance of challenge and invitation in discipleship via this chart:

high invite high challenge

What things work best to keep both challenge and invitation high?  What are some solutions to get out of the other quadrants and into the ‘Discipling Quadrant’?  We would love to hear all of your experience!  Next week we will share some of our mistakes and things we have learned moving forward.

This is a Must…

A scripture that we use constantly ispaper people real 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our lives, too.”  We use this when encouraging our leaders to pursue their relationship with their group of students and also in our GoCo settings as encouragement to our students to be intentional in the relationships they have with others by sharing not only the Gospel but their lives.  At the very core, this scripture is a verse of thanksgiving.  Paul is writing this, thankful to God for the community that has developed in Thessalonica and for the relationships that he has gained.

One of the cores of a Christ-following, intentional community on mission is that thanksgiving must spring readily from the lips of the people in the community.  We have so much to be thankful for and people need to experience that joy as we share our lives with them.  If thanksgiving isn’t regularly a part of the community then you need to ask: are you coming into God’s presence on a regular basis, is healing occurring, are lives being transformed, are you blessed by those around you, are you being a blessing to those around you, are you worshipping, are the lost being found in Christ?  If this is happening in your missional community then you MUST BE THANKFUL to God!  How can you not be thankful when all of this is going around you, in you, and through you?  Just the simply fact that you get to share the Gospel with those who you are sharing life with should be enough to constantly be thankful!