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Jun 11, 2004


Ben Thole

>...we are going to need to develop the art
>of forming missional communities

Right on, Tim. In my experience with "small groups" (all outside of CHBC -- at churches in Virginia and Pennsylvania) I have been concerned about how artificial they seem to be. I can't imagine the early church sitting around and creating curriciula, Bible study outlines, (forced) service projects, arbitrary timelines, etc.

Maybe that's just a function of trying to counterbalance the busy-ness of modern life, but I think that we (the church) would be much better treating community development as an art form. IMO there are many in the church who treat the subject of community development as a hard science (8-12 people + a Living Room + Refreshments + an Ice Breaker = Community). Of course, I'm over-generalizing here (I forget to mention that we tell the participants "This is Your New Family ... Go, Experience Life Together!"), but I definitely think that's the approach that's been taken.

Community Building as Art-form, however, requires a different approach. Many different styles and forms. More freedom. We can still make sure that the communities have a purpose (to keep them missional, as Tim describes), but maybe that's where the 'organizational forces' of the church end and the art and creativity of the group begin.

How does this work in practice? I don't know. I think that's the point. The expression of these communities will take many different forms. We can save some time and look at other expressions of missional communities, but these become the starting point for our endeavor rather than the end that we seek (no more "we want to be like [fill in the blank, rhymes with Pillow Greek or Paddlesack]" .... nothing against those expressions of community, but they exist in a different context).

Well, I think I've rambled enough for now, but all that to say that while "painting by numbers" can create something that resembles art, it will never substitute the (sometimes) messy process of getting paint (and dirt) under our fingernails, starting and stopping, dealing with writers/painters/singers block, etc. that come with trying to create a thing of beauty such as true community.

So I leave this question to any and all who would like to comment ... what might this "artistic" approach to community development look like?

Tim Conder

Great words Ben! Our efforts in Christendom toward community have so often been formulaic and stiff. Even in the churches with the best small group ministry programs — they often acknowledge that only about 35% of involved persons participate in their small groups (statistic from Joe Myers in "In Search of Belonging"). We so need to work hard to develop creative, organic, and diverse environments where community develops.

Here's a question — what are some unique spaces and gatherings (sacred or secular) that you've seen where "community" has spontaneously erupted?

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