Over the years, I’ve observed that denominational leaders like to group their pastors for some noble purpose—perhaps prayer, fellowship, teaching, training, or a mission project. To the frustration of leaders, these groupings are often short-lived, with a “half- life” of one meeting. Participants are busy enough as it is, with important agendas of their own. Groups gather once, and by the second meeting only half show up, and half again in meetings after that.
Missional networks seem to withstand this half-life phenomenon because, if done right, they weld relationship, spiritual dynamics, and mission into a force that doesn’t easily give up. Begin with a pilot group, and gather your most mission-oriented pastors – probably fewer than six and no more than twelve. Invite them to a free lunch to pitch the idea. We called these LEAD teams. Pull out a map of your region and have the lunch attendees pray over the place. Certainly God has dreams for the people and communities of your area.
The free lunch leads to an invite to an overnight retreat – noon to noon. I will often call this a “Quickstart.” We have participants learn and practice a coaching model with each other, so genuine relationships begin to form. This becomes the glue for doing mission together. The elements of Learning, Encouraging, Achieving, and Dreaming are present at each meeting, including the Quickstart.
- Learning – Members are committed to learning something related to ministry enhancement. For example, the team might agree to read a certain book and be prepared to discuss it when they gather together. Or they might view a helpful video, or review good information on starting new churches.
- Encouraging – Team members are personally encouraged in a number of ways. Each meeting involves doing something fun together: bowling, horseback riding, paint ball, laser tag, fishing…whatever. And there are times of mutual coaching and intercessory prayer, so each member goes away feeling the encouragement of the body of Christ. Always prioritize fun over a big meal. We remember fun; we rarely remember meals.
- Achieving – The team is about doing mission. Each team tries to plant at least one new church each year. Meetings will involve team members reporting on their assignments, relative to the corporate mission.
- Dreaming – We’re about seeing God’s Kingdom advance, so time is allotted at each meeting to dream about the future. We pull out the map again. Where might He be leading us to make a difference together? How can we dream God’s dreams after Him?
At the Quickstart, participants are challenged to meet regularly. I highly recommend continuing with overnight retreats whenever possible. On occasion, a long luncheon will do, but the real payoff happens when fun, relationship, mission, and God’s presence all show up in one place. You will figure out your own cadence, but do not compromise on these overnighters very often. Otherwise you will find yourself back to the “half-life” realities of most gatherings.
Do you have any practical tips for getting your team on mission together? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.