Missional Faith Formation
Missional faith formation expands and extends the church’s presence through outreach, connection, relationship building, and engagement with people where they live—moving faith formation out into the community. This involves developing targeted approaches and strategies designed around the particular needs and life situations of the unchurched and dechurched. These approaches and strategies need to be contextual—built around the congregation, community, and the needs of people. For example:
Barna Research asked the unchurched to rate how much influence thirty different approaches had on their interest in attending a church. The three approaches that seemed to have the most positive effect on the potential for returning to church were: 1) developing relationships (an invitation from a trusted friend), 2) an appealing event—such as a concert or seminar—hosted at the church, and 3) reputational appeal as reflected in ministries that serve the poor and providing mentoring and development for young people. Two additional ideas had moderate appeal: participating in a house church rather than conventional church ministry; and participating in a gathering of people from their same age group and general lifestyle.
Missional Outreach Examples
Third Place Setting: Lifetree Café (www.lifetreecafe.com)
Lifetree Café is a weekly, hour-long interactive experience that features real people’s real stories on film, guided conversation, biblical insights, and time to build relationships. Lifetree Café tackles the topics that most people deal with—topics about the big (and little) stuff that shapes our lives. Family. Friends. Fears. Busyness. Balance. Money. Materialism. Health. Heaven. Peace. Purpose. Lifetree Café is a place where rich conversation is served up every week. At Lifetree Café you’re encouraged to share your own stories and listen to others. But if you don’t feel like talking, that’s okay, too. You’re welcome just as you are. Lifetree Café discussion groups are hosted in a variety of venues, such as coffeehouses, cafés, pubs, restaurants, community centers, and churches.
Messy Church (http://www.messychurch.org.uk; http://messychurchaustralia.com.au)
Messy Church started in 2004 in the UK with a simple question: “How can our small church reach the many families in our community?” Messy Church was created for those outside the church, and became church for them, not a stepping stone to Sunday morning church. Messy Church is church for families who may not find other forms of church appealing and who don’t yet belong to a church. The key values which define Messy Church are Christ-centeredness, creativity, and joyful celebration in a spirit of generous, inclusive hospitality. Messy Church tries to focus on people as they are and form relationships with whole families, no strings attached.
A typical Messy Church meets monthly and includes four parts:
Saint Lydia's - A Dinner Church & Co-Working Space (Brooklyn, NY)
St. Lydia's is a Dinner Church in Brooklyn. They share a sacred meal every Sunday and Monday night. During the week, we host a co-working space.
Missional faith formation provides pathways for people to consider or reconsider the Christian faith, to encounter Jesus and the good news, and to live as disciples in a supportive faith community. Missional faith formation guides people as they move from discovery to exploration to commitment.
Examples of "Pathways" Resources
Catholic Evangelization Resources
A Catholic Evangelization Toolkit
The toolkit has four sections: Introduction: Parish Evangelization, Assess and Plan: Parish Evangelization Efforts, Review: Parish Evangelization Approaches & Resources, Plan: Ideas for Developing an Evangelization Plan
21st Century Catholic Evangelization Website
The website provides curated knowledge, approaches, strategies, and resources to reach out to those who have never heard the gospel proclaimed, to re-engage those who have lost a living faith in their daily lives, and to those who are faithful and need to be renewed with increased catechesis.
Fresh Expressions UK
Fresh Expressions USA
A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church. In many different places, Christians are stepping out in faith and beginning fresh expressions of church: new or different forms of church for a changing culture. Every fresh expression of church is different. Some are in rural areas and others are in the suburbs. Some are in housing projects while others are on college campuses. Some are primarily for youth , children, or young adults just beginning their careers. Others are based in schools and some in homes. Each is a new adventure for the gospel that brings the church closer to people who might not otherwise experience the need for church. While all fresh expressions are different, there are some guiding principles that tie them all together. Fresh expressions are:
(Click on title for an article and/or link to the church.)
The Unbinding the Gospel Project (GraceNet: www.gracenet.info)
The process and integrated set of resources from Unbinding the Gospel Project empower the faith community—people of vibrant faith and active engagement—to share their faith with those are not engaged in the church community and/or not growing in faith. This process and the accompanying resources help the whole church change its habits to reflect practices of members and leaders of highly effective churches. They begin to pray daily, to talk about their faith with each other, and to take steps toward significant faith conversations with friends without a faith/church relationship. The process moves through the following steps:
Step One. Church Leader’s Study: Unbinding the Gospel. Designed for pastors, key congregational leaders and evangelism teams Unbinding the Gospel helps committed leaders deepen and start sharing their own faith, understand their cultural context, and begin to plan for authentic congregational faith-sharing. It works best as a seven- to ten-week small group study. Each chapter concludes with questions, scripture suggestions and group exercises.
Step Two: All-Church Saturation Study: Unbinding Your Heart: Forty Days of Prayer & Faith Sharing. This is a six-week, churchwide , small group E-vent! that can be conducted during Lent, summer or fall study for all established classes and small groups, and new ones formed just for the E-vent. The purpose of an all-congregation is to help people strengthen their own faith and to learn to talk about it with each other first, and then others outside the community. Each week, for forty days, people will (1) pray each day’s scripture and prayer exercise and work with a prayer partner; (2) study a chapter of the book with their small group, and (3) worship with sermons, music, and prayers centered on the week’s chapter. Unbinding Your Heart enriches the church’s community life. It helps individuals risk face-to-face encounters with God. The entire congregation begins to talk about their faith. The E-vent creates momentum in the church.
Step Three: An Experiment in Prayer and Community: Unbinding Your Soul. Many people who aren’t connected with a church would love to try a no-obligation experience of substantial spiritual discussion, prayer and community. Unbinding Your Soul prepares church members to invite their friends into a four-week small group experience with short study chapters, an individual prayer journal, prayer partner activities, and group exercises. Groups can choose an additional four-week segment: “Faith and Courage.”
Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding the Gospel: Real LifeEvangelism. Saint Louis: Chalice, 2006.
Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding Your Heart: Forty Days of Prayer and Faith Sharing. Saint Louis: Chalice, 2008.
Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding Your Church. Saint Louis: Chalice, 2008.
Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding Your Soul: Your Experiment in Prayer and Community. Saint Louis: Chalice, 2009.