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Do you remember the arrival of your childhood pets – and the huge debate that took place around what to call them and, more importantly, who had the final decision?!

how to name missional communitiesWhen I was growing up, one of my sisters had two rabbits (whose names I can’t recall because I didn’t name them – and, well, they were rabbits, so they didn’t know either), then along came a cat (which another sister named Socksey, which obviously no self-respecting boy could ever call anything), and then at last, finally, at the age of 11, my turn arrived when I finally received my longed-for Labrador!

As the one tasked with caring for the puppy, I guarded my naming rights with the vigor of a football team selecting a corporate sponsor for it’s new stadium. And after discovering those funny little books full of lists of names, I christened my wonderful new companion Hannah… and 14 years later, I married the only one who could replace my (by then ancient) friend – who, as many of you know, is named Hannah! A psychologist’s dream, which was fully mined in all of the wedding speeches!

How To Name Missional Communities

What you call missional communities is an important step – and there are two levels of choices to be made.

  • At a whole church level, what will be your name for missional communities?
  • At an individual missional community level, what will be your name for your group?
What you call missional communities is an important step—for the church, and for each group: Click To Tweet

The Whole Church: How To Name Missional Communities

While you could chose to call them missional communities when you launch and talk about them publicly, I would encourage you not just to fall into that as your label. When writing books and blogs and talking at conferences, it is a helpful generic term. But for communication to those who don’t engage in those sorts of conversations, it is not the most interesting of titles.

And let’s face it, churches are generally fighting a perception (and often a reality) of dullness, so here’s a chance to try to escape that!

Why not take some time as a leadership team to think what might make more sense in your specific context as a church?

  • In Oklahoma City, we called them House Churches (which was an inherited name into which we could easily inject new meaning)
  • At Rivertree Church in Ohio, we called them GoCommunities, or GoCos for short (because the church’s mission logo included the words Come, Thrive, and Go, so the language of Go was already positive)
  • Here in Long Beach, we call them Villages (in a highly urbanized context, this communicates something almost whimsically wistful about a more peaceful way of living, where relationships are highly valued)

Other churches call them all sorts of things – Clusters, Parishes, Home Churches, MSCs (Mission-Shaped Communities), Gospel-Centered Communities, Community Gatherings, Resource Groups, Call-Out Ministries, Neighborhood Communities, Missional Community Hubs, Canvas Groups, and more besides.

Personally I like giving them a name that doesn’t feel too jargony, and certainly it must be something that you won’t need to feel coy about saying in front of friends who are not Christians (“we have these groups called Turn Or Burn Gatherings…”).

The Individual Group Level: How To Name Missional Communities

When dreaming up a new missional community, we make all our groups leaders write down their mission vision in one or two sentences. This is because we’ve found that the strongest indicator of success for a missional community is how clear the leaders are on their mission vision. By setting something specific, they are able to say no to great ideas that will be a distraction from the group’s core calling.

As part of this process, we ask them to name their group. Like I did with Hannah the Labrador, the leaders have naming rights!

The name could be Biblical, prophetic, descriptive, funny, or simply their location. The only rule is that people can’t use their last name, because that is, well, SUCH a churchy thing to do.

Here are some examples:

Desperate Housewives
We are a group of Moms with kids, who try to learn from Jesus as we seek to raise amazing kids without losing our sanity or idenity

Faith + Family
We are a group of families with tween and teen age children, trying to learn from Jesus in this journey of either going through MS and HS, or trying to be a great parent.

Cancer Warriors
This group is to serve, encourage, and support those who have been affected by cancer. Together we are strong warriors and will put on the full armor of God to serve others during this physical and spiritual battle.

Team ROAM
This group’s focus is to use the love of the outdoors—such as hunting, fishing, camping, shooting, and other activities – to build bonds between men and cultivate these bonds into a closer relationship with God, and to share those bonds with the next generation.

Companions Go!
Our vision is to further God’s kingdom by working within area nursing home communities.

6:1 OPS
Every other Saturday this group of High School guys blesses people anonymously, ding dong ditch-style (police permission). Matthew 6:1 inspires this community to serve undercover!

Jewelry For A Cause
For ladies and girls to come together in fun and friendship to learn how to make two beautiful (and free) pieces of jewelry—one to take home and one for a lady or girl at risk—such as those living in a domestic violence shelter

The strongest indicator of success for a missional community is how clear the leaders are on their… Click To Tweet

 

Respond

Do you need to think more creatively about what to call missional communities in your church context? And how about the naming process for individual groups?

Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences.

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