When it comes to Small Town USA, one of our church planting strategies is to use a variety of models and approaches. We believe this will help us effectively accomplish our goal of planting hundreds of healthy churches throughout rural America! One of the models, which may become our bread and butter, is what we’re calling Missional Communities. Some of you may wonder what a Missiona Community is. Here’s an attempt to define:
In the Vineyard, a Missional Community is a smaller group of Jesus followers who are focused on God’s mission with the intent of multiplying quickly.
Picture the town of Marengo in Northern Wisconsin. Located on Highway 13 in Ashland County, Marengo has a population of approximately 390 people. Some people might not think that’s enough people to call for a church plant. And honestly, Marengo may never have a building with pews and a pulpit and a sign on the front door saying, “Marengo Vineyard Church” (although it might!). But guess what? God deeply loves the people living in Marengo and Jesus has called us to make disciples everywhere, including towns of 390 people!
So how can Multiply Vineyard approach a town like Marengo? What’s a viable model? How can we plant a church in towns like that? We believe that an effective way to make disciples in small towns is by planting Missional Communities.
Imagine a husband and wife, living in Denver, who God has recently spoken to about planting a church. As they have prayed about where to go, the Holy Spirit keeps whispering, “Montana.” As that couple begins to explore what God’s doing in the Vineyard with rural church planting, they connect with the Small Town USA partnership and learn about these Missional Communities. Sensing that God’s asking them to move to Montana, get a job, and start making disciples, they say “Yes!” So they pack up their U-Haul and move their two children to the great state of Montana, home of amazing trout streams, beautiful mountains, and small towns everywhere!
Upon arriving in Montana, our couple starts working hard to build relationships with people (attending town events, shopping local, etc.). Because the husband works at a local grocery store, and the wife teaches second grade in the local elementary school, they quickly form friendships with people in the community. As they meet these people, they share the story of Jesus and before long, they start leading people into a relationship with God. Many of the locals grew up attending church, but the town is so small, the one church they had actually closed! So it’s been a long time since the community had any “religion.” That’s all beginning to change.
Slowly, this Missional Community grows from three to seven… from seven to nine… from nine to eighteen. Two years later, there are fifty-eight people meeting in the local Elk Lodge for a time of worship. One of the members of this Missional Community brings a visitor, someone who happens to live in another small town located a couple hours away. As the Holy Spirit moves, that visitor comes know Jesus and is so excited about meeting Jesus that they ask, “How can I get something like this going on back home?”
What just happened? The Missional Communities first church plant (and possibly new pastor, ha ha!). This, in turn, is how the Vineyard movement begins to multiply in small towns all over the United States. Oh, and what I just described is very similar to how churches were planted in the New Testament.
A Missional Community is committed to making disciples and multiplying churches regardless of population size. Many of these Missional Communities will actually be, proportionally speaking, mega-churches! After all, in a town with a population of seventy-nine, a Missional Community that has twenty-six people has nearly 33% of the population! Some of these Missional Communities will meet in homes, others in coffee shops, and some may gather in local spaces like the Elk Lodge. Each Missional Community is a group of Jesus followers who are intentional in how they partner with God—they want to make disciples! Some of them may remain small, meeting in a person’s home, and others may grow and end up finding a permanent location like a church building. Whatever the Father’s doing, they want to bless it and be a part of it!
Small Town USA needs Missional Communities. Rural America is ripe with locations for people to either move to and plant or for existing followers of Jesus to join God’s mission and start making disciples that form into these Missional Communities.
So what’s stopping you from joining us to either plant one or help others plant them? If you are interested in more information, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!
About the author
Luke Geraty is a young budding pastor/theologian who serves at Trinity Christian Fellowship. Husband of one, father of five, and deeply committed to proclaiming Jesus and the kingdom, Luke contributes regularly to ThinkTheology.org, VineyardScholars.org, and Multiply Vineyard. Follow Luke on Twitter, Facebook, or send him an email.