When I first encountered a village on mission it was both very welcoming and very exciting. We seemed to have some purpose for gathering beyond just having fun together, and the group allowed for deeper connection than just casual friendships.
But if we are starting to develop our own village, what comes first? Do you start with a vision and gather a community around it? Or do you gather a community and discern a missional vision together?
CAVEAT: The content below was originally written before the pandemic, so please apply it with wisdom and discernment.
There’s not really a single “right” answer to this question.
However, one important thing to remember is that the best missional communities aren’t programs run by influential people with charismatic personalities. Which is great news. I have never found a program that satisfies, and I’m not charismatic in any shape, way or form at all. So, there’s hope that any one of us as adults can start our own village.
But back to our question, what is the right place to start?
Well, a village on mission empowers, equips and release leaders to lead and discern where there is life, and engage with it. If we seek to answer the question with one “right answer” we end up formulating the way forward in every situation. That won’t work for us, life is far too complex for us to come up with a one size fits all answer.
So instead, lets focus on discerning the way life is unfolding in our actual situation, so then we can participate in what’s already happening!
Starting with community
One place we often start is with is a group of friends, or a local extended family. They already have an affinity for each other and live in the same neighborhood. So, they tend to gather as a community whether they have mission or not.
The important thing for the leaders in this group to do, is to discern and cast vision for being missional in their context. A family or a group of friends that does not have mission ends up being formed by the culture around them. It keeps them trapped, repeating over and over the same behavioral responses. That is why discerning a mission is so critical.
What might this look like?
Perhaps if their mission is with adults, they might be intentional about empowering and releasing others to find their agency. If they are parents or teachers, they may be intentional about giving an invitation for their children to exist in their presence. Over the rest of this series, we will talk more about how both of these forms a mission.
In summary, the groups are looking more closely at where there is life unfolding around them, and how are they gathering and engaging with that grace.
Vision is a magnet
Some groups start with a single person with a vision. It could be a very simple one, especially at first. The vision often functions as a magnet to draw other people towards you or repel people from you. And both are okay because ultimately that vision is a filter for the type of people you hope to engage.
I remember being single and wanting to engage with homeless. I moved to live in the neighborhood where the homeless lived so as to be there every day. I volunteered at many different places that served the homeless so I got to know some of the people in the midst of life, both homeless and volunteers. In that place I found a village on mission. For all intention purposes we lived life together, serving each other. We were growing and maturing. There was a moving towards each other with compassion and kindness.
The key to starting a missional community
I think the key to getting a missional community started, it that they are led by people who know how to discern where life is happening, where God is at work and how to gather around that grace with faith.
It’s less of a question of: “Are we starting it the right way?” and more “Are the right people here?”
If we have the right leader or leaders who can discern, they can start and lead a village on mission. They can adjust as the situation changes, as crisis happens, as needs present themselves. They will be able to adapt and overcome because they have the character and competencies of a leader who knows how to navigate those kinds of things.