What Does a Microchurch Look Like?
Perhaps the most common question we get when it comes to microchurches is, “What does a microchurch look like?” This question is asked through the filter of the predominant model of the church in the West. We have a framework for that. We know what “church” is supposed to look like because we’ve seen it in action, or we’ve attended a service. Not everyone has a filter for the microchurch so they’re running their question through the only framework they know.
What people are mostly asking is: “What do you do when you get together? Is it just a Sunday morning with fewer people in a living room situation?”
A better framework for microchurches is not about an event or a place, rather, a family on mission, and every family looks different. Some microchurches will see a physical neighborhood as their primary place of sentness. They might indeed meet in a living room sometimes. Yet, some microchurches will emerge in a network of relationships that share a common story, their gathering places might not necessarily converge in living rooms on a regular basis.
Answer: What all microchurches have in common is that they are a family. If you want to have a healthy family, you need healthy rhythms that bind that family together.
Through the years we have primarily coached around three areas of healthy rhythms that foster an environment where extended spiritual families experience the fullness of kingdom life.
The first area is communion, or the ability to connect with God together. Many networks might describe this as an “upward” rhythm. For most Christians, that’s time in Scripture together, praying together, eating together, etc. We see this pattern for the New Testament church, and it’s always marked the family of God. Gathering for a meal and opening the Scripture to understand how we can be more like Jesus is essential to our individual and communal family rhythms.
The second thing we try to have people integrate is what we call mission or blessing, which is just helping people with no strings attached. This rhythm is most often understood as an “outward” rhythm. We coach leaders to ask this question every time they’re together, “Do any of our friends have any needs?” If somebody says, “Yeah,” then you actually go, and you spontaneously meet their needs. This is how we can make the kingdom of God tangible to our believing and non-believing friends.
Every missional context is unique. The mission or blessing will emerge based on that context. In every situation, we are demonstrating good news for the people to whom we’ve been sent.
The third phase is what we call inclusive community where you’re creating a place of belonging for people. While many have assumed “inward rhythms” to mean the time we are together with other believers, we have reframed our understanding to communicate the time we open up our tables to those who are searching for that place of belonging.
The simplest way we coach this is to make sure you throw a party! In the book of Mark, when we see Jesus invite Matthew to follow him, they do not immediately go do work. Instead, they immediately get to partying. Mark 2 says that Jesus, his disciples, and all the “disreputable sinners” that are Matthew’s friends gathered at Matthew’s home for dinner. This is an inclusive environment for those far from God simply to be present together.
For those who are just getting started, dreaming about seeing microchurches in their context, we’ll give them a very basic 2-1-1 grid:
- Twice a month (2): Get together for a meal and spiritual time around Scripture and prayer
- Once a month (1): Go serve people together
- Once a month (1): Throw a party for friends together
Growth and Multiplication
We’ve discovered that these rhythms increase as the family of growing disciples begin practicing the “one-another” commands of Scripture. What might have begun as a twice-a-month gathering to study scripture turns into every week. What started as a once-a-month party turns into happy hours, birthday celebrations, tailgating, and more. A once-a-month opportunity to serve emerges into thousands of little opportunities to bless the specific network of relationships as we begin to see all the ways we can make the Kingdom of God tangible in the everyday stuff of life.
So, it’s really simple. But, we have found that if you don’t coach around all these areas, especially on mission and inclusive community, you won’t see a multiplication of disciple-makers and extended spiritual families…and those are our biggest hope!
Hugh Halter is an Author, Speaker, Consultant, Founder of Post Commons and Lantern Network.
Brian Johnson serves as one of the directors of Leadership Network’s Microchurch NEXT and also serves as one of the founders and directors of the Kansas City Underground, a mission agency and decentralized network of missionaries and microchurches in Kansas City.