By Shane Bennett
With a gloriously clean year stretching out before us chock full of hope and possibility, I want to ask you to consider connecting with like-minded people in some new ways. If you are a classic Lone Ranger, and experience has taught you that your productivity increases with increased distance from other people, this isn’t for you! Otherwise, read on.
1. Starting Ripples of Prayer
My friend Robby of Mission Network turned me on to this. “Prayer ripples” are a simple way to encourage colleagues and friends who share your interest in God’s global purposes. Someone – like you, for instance – can invite four friends to pray with them monthly for one hour via Skype, Google hangouts, or simply over the phone. You might use an online tool such as doodle.com to find an overlapping hole in everyone’s schedule. Three days before the appointed time, the convener (you, for instance) will write and send out an agenda. It may include prayer for the world, the participants’ areas of interest or ministry, and their personal concerns.
Several minutes before the scheduled event, the convener (you know who!) will set up the call. Even with people who are rather computer-literate the technology aspect can be a little tricky. Give everyone some grace to work through the kinks. As you wait, humble yourself by considering what William Carey would have accomplished with an iPad and a fast internet connection!
Honor one another by sticking to the agreed-upon time table. Honor God by giving the bulk of your time to prayer rather than conversation. If you do this monthly with people you even half-way like, that will be way easier to say than to do! Part of the convener’s job will be to watch the clock and the schedule, gently moving the group along.
Now this is where a prayer ripple gets interesting: from the outset the understanding is that each participant will also start their own monthly gathering with others. If you participate in one prayer ripple, convene and participate in another, you’ll devote three hours a month to this effort. Three hours of your schedule matters, but the investment may be well worth it as we significantly bump up the amount of prayer lifted for God’s global purposes.
» Forward this idea to three or four people scattered around the planet who you’d like to pray with monthly. They might be workers your church is connected to, people in your organization, or like-minded people you met at a conference or on a trip.
2. Mission Meet-ups
This takes a ton more work than a prayer ripple. Really, maybe just pass on this one! You’d be crazy to try to pull together the various missions-interested parties in your city for a monthly meeting of information and encouragement. Probably someone else has already tried and failed anyway.
But what if you could do it? What if God gave you favor and people responded to your invitation? Can you imagine the strength and hope that might emerge as individuals who thought they were the only ones realize that God has many in your city fully devoted to his global purposes?
I’ve been encouraged when I’ve had the opportunity to visit gatherings like this, but I’ve also been equipped. Missions consortiums (as they’re sometimes called) provide several tangible benefits:
- Corporate prayer: Pray for upcoming events, for a particular local ministry, and for God’s empowering of the people and work represented.
- Information and resource sharing: New resources can be offered for review and improvement. Helpful tools can be shared for broader benefit. Local or visiting experts can share their expertise.
- Networking: Missions consortiums provide a setting in which to find people with skills and expertise you lack. And to offer capacity you have which could benefit the broader community.
- Project collaboration: You can consider city-wide projects that would be beyond the scope of a single group or church, such as Perspectives or Pathways classes, or Bridges or Al Massira training.
If you’re going to give it a go, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
1. Make sure your city/region doesn’t already have a missions consortium.
This could save you significant embarrassment. See this list of about two dozen (and let us know if you have updates).
2. Fish from the biggest pool possible.
I’m thinking in terms of organizations and denominations as well as varied styles and approaches. How open you can be will vary depending on a number of factors. And probably if you invite “that” church, that “other” church will refuse to participate. Happily, missions people, perhaps more than any other subset of church people are able to look beyond difference and collaborate for the sake of God’s purposes.
3. Find an anchor church.
It might be your own. Your anchor church should be centrally located, broadly respected, able to seat and feed 50, and have at least one stakeholder who thinks what you’re up to is a good idea!
4. Pick a good time.
Some groups meet for lunch. I like a week day at 6.30 or 7.00am, as this allows participation by people whose bosses actually expect them to show up for work! If you can swing a light breakfast, more or less covered by donations, you’ll help people allocate the time.
5. Invest in invitation.
Visit 20 key people you’d like to see participate. Call another 30. Email 100.
6. Focus on value over size.
A good missions consortium will likely start small, but will grow as people sense value in it.
7. Get a great emcee.
If this isn’t your strong suit, now is not the time to try to grow! If you can find a respected pastor who will agree to emcee for six months, you’ll benefit from name recognition and consistency. All the better if he or she can tell a good joke!
8. Start and end on time.
Nothing encourages people to stay home next time like, “If I could just take a few extra minutes…”
9. Bring in a ringer.
Don’t be afraid to launch on the strength of an outside expert, but build on the value of local connection and collaboration.
» Please take a minute to comment on our website (below) if you have further ideas for these meetups or would like to mention good models you know.
3. Hub Communities
My friend Nate, author of the new book Coffee & Orange Blossoms: 7 Years & 15 Days in Tyre, Lebanon, has given the lion’s share of his attention and ample talent over the past two years to spreading the word about city-based groups that call themselves “hub communities.” These groups are designed to provide mutual support for a small, but beloved set of people: those who are actively pursuing friendship with Muslims. The word “hub” connotes a center or core, plus it’s the Arabic word for love!
Nate has found that often people who have a passion for connecting with Muslims in their town tend to assume they’re the only ones. Maybe they’ve shared their conviction with a pastor or Sunday school class with less than resounding endorsement. Maybe they’ve invited friends to join them, but it just hasn’t happened.
The Hub Community Network aims to gather these people together for ongoing mutual encouragement. The only requirement for joining one is that you have a Muslim friend. That’s the common denominator. The groups are not heavily “led,” nor do they follow a standard curriculum (though they have collected a list of quality resources). Someone simply facilitates the gathering. The group decides what they might like to study together. They share with each other how their relationships are going. And they pray for each other and their Muslim friends. Simple, but life-giving.
While hub communities are specifically being implemented for people befriending Muslims, the idea could certainly apply to people building relationships with other unreached groups.
» Learn more about The Hub Community Network and how to join or start a hub community in your city.