July 05, 2019
By Susan Sneed
Missional Communities are described as communities meeting outside the walls of the church without an intention of those persons ever being a formal part of the church. It is being Christ in the community, not bringing or programming Christ in the community.
Much of the missional communities movement has grown out of the lack of people participating in traditional church. For whatever reason many people have rejected the concept of church and have found a new spiritual home outside of the church. These groups are not intended to provide a gateway to the church but to provide a place of gathering and community, spiritual and not, for whomever feels led to participate.
Rev. Winter Hamilton and Nicki Reinhardt-Swierk worked together at Manchester UMC in St. Louis to create Shared Streets. They presented a workshop on the missional community the night before Annual Conference session.
Shared Streets describes itself as a collection of young adults working to create space and connection in south St. Louis City. Through a combination of small groups, classes and outings, Hamilton and Reinhardt-Swierk have created a community that is “… normal, counter-cultural, DIY, non-binary, non-normative, creative and experiential people making space for all those who also feel like they don’t fit.”
Gatherings occur in coffee shops, bars, homes and gardens. Activities range include Bible studies, gardening, art, prayer/meditation, knitting and attending a variety of dramatic and music performances. People who engage have felt not just excluded from church but abandoned and shunned. Shared Streets has been successful in creating a community that knows they are loved and accepted by God, even if they have no faith in God.
There are three main components to creating a missional community: data tracking, leadership development and the determination not to let tokenism and colonialism into the mix.
Data tracking is important to gage the progress of the program, and Shared Streets included tracking deepening involvement. This data becomes critical in raising money. Leadership training creates leaders who work with staff to develop programs/classes that are what the community is asking for. Goals are set, and there is an expectation of meeting those goals.
One of the most important things to remember is that no church should go into this ministry with an attitude of fixing or saving people, Hamilton said. Building relationships with people outside the walls of the church, as Christ in the community is the goal. Not just meeting people where they are but honoring them in their own space, without trying to recreate your space.