Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —


May 3, 2008

Mission Groups

Category: All Posts,Community,Leadership,Mission – Rose – 12:50 pm

A change of pace for a moment:

I am in the midst of writing an eighty page paper documenting the process we have gone through to birth two mission groups. Hopefully we will have our website updated with more of our history in the next few months.

A mission group is a group of people that join around a passion to serve others, usually driven by one or more entrepreneurial leaders gathering a team. These leaders are joining their passion with some area of God’s redemptive purposes in this world. The group develops its own leadership, mission, purpose, values, and organizational structure. The group functions under the VCC board of directors until it reaches viability. Once the group and the Board agree it is time, the group spins off with its own 501c3 status and becomes an entity unto itself.

Our dream is that we would help birth multiple mission groups over time. We know of folks who instead of planting a conventional church are actually planting a mission group with the dream of a church being birthed in the midst of the mission. There has been great conversation about sustainable models of church in the past week or so. It is a much needed conversation. One way I believe we have to think about the future, no matter what size congregation we are is how to garner resources beyond our size. Church of the Savior has pioneered a way to bring the healing ministry of Jesus right into the neighborhood with their mission group model.

While not adhering exactly to the COS model, they gave us an imagination to what we perceive is God’s path for us. You see we began a journey about five years ago to discover why our church had a reason to exist. When we began to ask that question partnered with inquiring prayer, our vision of what it meant to “be” the church was forever changed.

We are only five years into our journey toward what we now name as our grand experiment. I wrote a piece for Scot McNight’s Jesus Creed blog that will be posted sometime in the next few weeks while he and Kris are in South Africa. It is a short piece on how and what we focus on as a congregation so I won’t go into that here. I will link to it when it is up at Jesus Creed.

Bullet points for my paper:

    We decided to grow a church big rather than grow a big church

    Mission group development, includes those dreadful words from the 90’s; mission, vision, values. Somehow in the mission group context they are life giving if you want to be faithful to the mission.

    Leadership – what kind of leadership within the church is required to let go of control enough to let others run with their passion and vision. This seems to scare pastors. We are often asked (sincere) questions that reflect this fear: how do you make sure leaders of mission groups stay on track with your vision? What about resources, do they take away from people giving to the church or serving in the church? Our vision is to “incubate” kingdom activity through those that are responding to God for the sake of the world. The mission group model has shown us that there are resources of not only money, but time and talent beyond what our local church could ever provide. The amount of resources that are available when you invite people to partner for a grass roots cause continues to amaze me.

    There is a need for structure to organize around the mission. We are a mysterious blend of organic community and organizational structure for the work of the kingdom.

    All kinds of people get to play. Those that follow Christ and those that wonder about following Christ but in the meantime want to make the world a better place work together for kingdom purposes.

    We partner and collaborate with the City, the School District, Social Service Agencies, the local Food Bank, the County Housing Authority and many other sectors of our city. We are at the table where the needs and resources of our community are discussed and then addressed as best they can in collaboration to make the “community livable again”.

More later including:

Some specifics in mission group creation, including financial sustainability.

How a congregation moves through the kind of change necessary to cultivate incubating passion for God’s healing in our world…incubating, or the term “birthing” is interesting. My friend is a doula, she has a lot of stories for walking alongside a woman giving birth. I, myself have given birth tree times and my husband’s first wife, Wendy was a mid-wife. He witnessed the pregnancy process and birth of hundreds of babies. The birthing metaphor is fitting for where our journey has taken us these past few years and very metaphoric for where we are heading.

3 Comments »

  1. Rose,
    Thanks for sharing this. I love the model of birthing and releasing missional groups out of the larger group according to the passion and gifting of those involved. While alternative forms of church may arise from mission, this is important as a model for how existing congregations can transition into missional ministry.

    Comment by grace — May 6, 2008 @ 6:14 am

  2. Grace,
    Thank you. I am quite passionate about this as this will be my life’s work. My dissertation project is just that, The Practicing Church, How to morph a Conventional Church into a Mission-focused community. We are experimenting with one way through…

    I am all for new forms of church, some of the young people I coach will probably never do a conventional church model, neither should they. I believe in our time, it would be devastating to unplug every church out there because of its structure, institutional, conventional, traditional…you name it. I think we could be 20-50 years away from what will emerge in the U.S. Church — we are just at the beginning of seeing an old world pass and a new world emerge. We need explorers out front pioneering new ways, but we also need bridges for people to navigate this transition from one place to another.

    I know there are great challenges in church as usual USA. I understand we have to “name” those things, I just want a way forward. It might be a bridge way, but a way. The Kingdom of God is alive and here, I want to lead folks in as many ways possible to enter it here and now.

    Comment by rose — May 6, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  3. Rose, I am eager to read your 80 page paper. I am of those pastors who has a lot to learn. We too, as a church serve broadly in our community. But, in your grand experiment it seems you are quite intentional and focused. I love the freedom you have as a leader to bless what God has put into others. Your work with grants and nonprofits is impressive as is your doing away with unhelpful boundaries. How fun to see new models emerge. Thanks for your bold pioneering!

    Comment by Adey — May 6, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

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