Thursday, June 25, 2009

groups as mission

Last year at Opawa I offered the following snapshot of our mission life: Currently, three evenings a week, smaller gatherings occur at Opawa. They provide a snapshot of our changing mission

: Tuesday is espresso, a conversational congregation. Over the last few years, it has provided a place for those inside and outside Christian faith to talk, argue, learn, laugh.

: how to read the Bible is a 8 week block course on a Wednesday, that includes a number seeking faith and wanting to consider the place of the Bible.

: Sense making faith is on a Thursday and has a different set of participants, who bring with them existing spiritual experiences outside of organised religion.

It is fascinating to realise how mission has shifted for us as a church: away from Sunday attractional services to smaller, more relational groups. Each group has a different interest, funds a different type of conversation, engages with a different way of spiritually searching – questioning place, thinking place, experiencing place. (more here).

So it was interesting to read the following caution by John Finney, The Four Generations. Finding the Right Model for Mission. (It’s a Grove Book, which I find an increasingly useful resource). He noted that groups attract a certain type of person – more likely the curious, the gregarious, the educated, the articulate, those who have time. And that’s not everyone. “A vast number of people in this country go to work in the morning, come home, watch the television, do a bit of DIY and never go out except for excursions to the shops or on outings or to see other members of the family. They belong to no organization, join no group, seldom go to the pub; they are self-sufficient.”

So while a variety of short and long groups have been more than useful for us, a reminder that we need to keep chewing on the mission question. Which caused me to ponder again the potential of mission collectives in our life.

These were birthed over the weekend. (We are aiming for four a year.) The aim of the collectives is to collect, focus and resource energy around our mission life. We offered three different collectives on 3 different days in three different locations, each with a distinct vibe. In total 47 people turned up. Could have been more, but by and large, people left energised and challenged.

Now consider the collectives. Living encourages being a good neighbour/worker, creating encourages art installations, loving encourages our incarnational work in our local community. Their focus is NOT on groups as mission (although yes, the collective itself is a form of group), but on the use of lifestyle, creativity and service to name Christ. Perhaps this is both/and; groups and collectives together forming a partnership for us at Opawa.

Interesting. (Yes, I know, probably only to me dear reader, but this is my blog!)

Posted by steve at 04:45 PM


  1. Finney’s idea puts a lot of perspective into ‘middle England’ for me at the moment (Middle England is not like Tolkein’s Middle Earth: far less orcs for starters). Let alone churches: many pubs round here are facing decline for that reason- people don’t ‘do’ community. Will be interesting to watch what happens when that group reaches their 80s and 90s.

    I like what you are attempting: but does it work as you have a (relatively) large congregational resource that allows this scope for experimentation? That is not a ‘trap’ question by the way, but an open one…. I’m seeking to find out more as I’ve wondered similarly in my small British rural context..

    Comment by Graham — June 25, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  2. this is a really helpful comment Graham. I wonder what impact the recession might be having? it is certainly causing people to hunker down in New Zealand.

    re congregational resource: I have both planted a church and now are part of planting congregations within a (largish) church. One of my learnings that I wish I had known when I was planting is that groups require so little resource, yet open up so many more spaces. I remember, with regret, this moment when in the church I was planting someone suggested a Friday evening fish/chips and red wine “God, I’ve got questions …. ” evening. At the time I thought we were too small to start a 2nd thing.

    Now I wish I had encouraged that type of thing more. Now, having worked through our multi-congregational approach here at Opawa, I would have said: tell me how this will be lifegiving for those who gather and how you will keep an outward focus, and Go for it. Groups are ideal next step mission blocks for smaller places IMHO,

    All experiments we’ve run here at Opawa have emerged from 2-4 people. That’s all you need.


    Comment by steve — June 26, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  3. Thanks- that is helpful for my thinking. Got a lot of thinking/dreaming/praying for an Ashes victory(!) to do over the British summer. I may get back to you. I like the open flexibility of what you are saying.

    Comment by Graham — June 26, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

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