What if your church has the traditional Sunday School and you’d like to transition to Missional Communities?

What if you don’t have to scrap what you’re currently doing in order to begin something new? Is there a way to move people in a missional lifestyle direction without dismantling current activities and creating chaos among the members? Possibly. Let’s explore.

If you’ve been learning about MC’s and then thinking, That would never work here, maybe this post is for you. Especially if you have a Sunday School ministry in place.

First, let’s think about the rhythms of missional community living.

Family Meal
Having a weekly meal together is a common feature in the life of an MC. It could be potluck, grilling burgers, pitching in to order pizza, or the host preparing something. The act of eating together regularly builds the sense of family. And it’s not just the eating, but the cleanup as well!

Content Time
This is the serious discussion of God’s Word. Setting aside time to dig into the Bible as an MC is central to living gospel-centered lives on mission together.

MC’s regularly practice the rhythm of serving the people or community where they believe God has sent them. It could be occasional larger projects where the whole MC gets together, or smaller groups of MC members serving together on various aspects of the mission throughout the week.

Hang Time
It’s just what you think. Hanging out together. Getting together for fun, going out to eat, movie night, kids’ games, whatever. No agenda other than being together. Don’t think this is frivolous, because often great gospel conversations happen while just hanging out together. This is a natural entry point for your non-believing friends and neighbors.

Most church Sunday School classes have the content time thing down pretty well. They gather to study the Bible regularly. But when it comes to the other MC rhythms, not so much. There may be the occasional party or get-together, but nothing on a more frequent basis.

Next, let’s think about how to incorporate these rhythms into the traditional Sunday School.

Hey, you’ve already got the content time covered! The regular time you gather to study the Bible–usually Sundays–is already built in. One of the challenges of trying to have a serious content time during the week with an MC is figuring out what to do with the kids. Sunday School resolves that concern.

It’s the other rhythms that will now present the big challenge. How will you establish these new rhythms (family meals, serving, and hang time) with your group so that they become normalized? When will you schedule these rhythms for each week? Your group will need to learn a new way of living as most likely they are accustomed to just getting together once a week on Sundays.

They need to really grasp that what you are seeking to establish is a group of people who radically reorient their lives around the gospel and live as a family sent on mission together in the everyday.That will require some time to teach and train them in the MC lifestyle. I don’t have the space here to unpack the steps to beginning an MC, so listen to this podcast to learn the basics of beginning a missional community.

You can use the content time to build the foundation for how you will live as an MC. Take advantage of excellent training tools to teach the why and how of missional living. During your weekly study time you could as a group work through The Tangible Kingdom Primer, or the Gospel Primer, the Saturate Field Guide, or Missional Essentials. All of these are effective interactive training tools that can help transform a class into a family on mission together.

A couples class is ideal for launching into pursuit of becoming an MC. Even if it’s a singles class, or classes where husbands and wives meet separately, this can still work. You simply meet for the content time separately, but you do everything else together as family. You could even include a singles class with married couples to form your MC. The content time happens for each class, but the other rhythms are shared.

One caveat here is that each separate class really needs to be going through the same training at the same time so that everyone is on the same page. This requires that the leaders of those classes really coordinate intentionally and prayerfully together to take each class member on the same track toward MC living. The shared leadership component of MC formation could already exist in the leaders of these separate classes.

The great thing about the above mentioned resources is that you are living out the things you are discussing each week. So you don’t have to wait till you’re done with the book to start living out the other rhythms. You are beginning to build those rhythms over the course of going through the study together. The only way to really learn this lifestyle is to begin doing it.

I see some incredible potential in utilizing your Sunday School to transition into missional communities. You’re taking something that already exists and turning it in a missional direction. You avoid the trauma induced by stopping a current established (perhaps entrenched) ministry and introducing an entirely new one. There will likely be some pushback, but it won’t be to the extent that it would have been by an abrupt change across the board.

Don’t fret about those Sunday School classes that refuse to do anything differently than they always have. Just take the ones who are willing to go and forge ahead into missional territory. Others may see how awesome living that way can be and then ask how they can get in on it. Invest in those who want to reorient their lives around the gospel and experience following Jesus in the everyday.

Let me know your thoughts and share questions about this approach to transitioning to missional communities in a traditional Sunday School setting.

Note that the words in a different color are links to those recommended resources.