Shared Leadership in Missional Communities

The following post was written by Nate Navarro, Director of Missional Community for Austin City Life.

Too Busy to Lead

If you lead a missional community then chances are you are tired. You are doing your best to be a pastor and friend to your community, a missionary in your neighborhood and workplace, lead your family in a steady state of community and mission, and praying your community will grow in their understanding of the Gospel, all while struggling to believe the good news yourself.

While youre at it, don’t forget the never ending task list. I mean, who is gonna bring the main dish and the desert on Wednesday night?”, where are we serving our neighborhood this month?, who is lining up childcare this week?, who is keeping track of the prayer requests? It goes on, and on, and on, and on.

Oh yes, did I mention you probably have a job. In Austin you most likely are holding down a high stress gig putting in about 50 hours a week. Oh wait, you have a family too! That’s right, your son wants a ride to soccer practice and is secretly hoping you volunteer to coach the team. Your daughter would like you to read 15 princess books to her before bedtime, and your wife actually wants to go out to dinner and talk about something other than your ministry. Imagine that!

Reasons We Lead

If you are a leader chances are you do too much. Some of your reasons are good: you love God; you love the church; you’re a natural leader. Leading is a way for you to serve the Body and build the Kingdom. Some of your reasons are not so good: you love being heard, love feeling important, and you’re identity is so wrapped up in what you do as opposed to who you are that you simply cannot stop working and leading. In all of this, we desperately need the Gospel, and the gospel is probably telling us we need to lead less. Lead less for more ministry.

Rethinking Missional Community Leadership

Two years and 8 missional communities since our very first City Group (Core Team), Austin City Life is revamping our City Group leadership structure. Previously, we had a CG leader responsible for the pastoral and missional leadership of the group. We told them to share leadership, get a leader in training for multiplication, and rely on Jesus and the Spirit for strength. Now, we are moving towards appointing 5 leaders, not one. They are:

  1. CITY GROUP LEADER-facilitates a community that is growing in Gospel, Community, and Mission.
  2. MISSIONAL LEADER- We serve our neighborhoods together monthly. This leader takes the lead on all the details: the when, where, and how of the monthly service project.
  3. PRAYER LEADER- This person records all the prayer requests and sends out a weekly update, reminding the community to pray for one another and the city.
  4. HOST LEADER- This leader opens their home/apartment/dorm room to be an inviting place for the community to share meals, discuss life and truth, and to pray for one another and the city.
  5. HOSPITALITY LEADER – We eat together. This leader coordinates the meal schedule and the who is bringing what?

Benefits of Shared Leadership

This new model of shared leadership in our missional communities will produce healthier communities and leaders, and ultimately will be good for our church, our city, and the kingdom. How?

  1. Fewer leaders will become casualties of burnout.
  2. Five leaders gives your group more people, with more buy in, creating a stronger core.
  3. New Christians can begin to serve right away. Last I checked, your theology doesn’t have to be nails to be in charge of the meal schedule. New Christians can become involved in leadership early on, and can grow along the way, instead of standing on the sidelines watching all the tired people lead.
  4. Future City Group leaders emerge as they thrive in their roles leading MISSION and PRAYER.
  5. We avoid the personality-driven City Group. Gospel Community is center and forefront in our groups, rather than the talent, charisma, and drive of a leader.

Let’s get honest, tired leaders are not attractive. Even the most gifted, charismatic, God and people loving leaders can lose the vision of what it means to lead a missional community under the burden of too many responsibilities and a never ending to do list. Sadly, this leads to duty driven (rather than joy filled) leadership, and when that happens, we are in danger of leading already busy Austinites in more busyness , while creating a new legalism called Missional Community.

More Leaders; Less Work. Share Leadership; Grow in Community. Strengthen Mission; Advance the Gospel.