Missional Learning Communities (MLCs) follow a three-year path that gives churches a framework and resources to help them listen attentively to God and their community and decide what God might be calling them to be and do.
The combination of commitment, spiritual disciplines and practical tools make MLCs a powerful process. The evidence is that this kind of process can lead to profound and positive change.
To listen to Steve Coneys and Ian Parrish recounting a story from our diocese of what can happen see the Stories section below
What we do over the three years
- Listen – to God and to the community to see where God is already at work inside and outside our church.
- Experiment – based on our listening, we try things out with people in the local community, to see and learn from what works and what doesn’t.
- Focus – based on what we have learned from our experiments, we articulate God’s future for our churches. The experimenting can continue too.
The Six Spiritual Practices
What distinguishes MLCs is that alongside doing things, all those involved commit to spiritual practices. The spiritual practices are ‘faithfully disruptive’ – we can expect to experience positive change.
- Dwelling in the Word - A distinctive way of listening to God, Scripture and each other, to discern God’s leading in the ‘here and now’ of each reading. In this way, God challenges, encourages and changes us.
- Dwelling in the World - Having conversations with people who are not members of our church to discover what they are passionate about, to get to know them better, and to see if they are people we might be able to join with.
- Announcing the Kingdom - Watching out for what we think God might be doing around us, and being bold enough to take the risk of talking about God, and saying what we think we see God doing around us, so that other people can notice it too.
- Hospitality - Taking time to welcome people and, perhaps even more importantly, to be welcomed by other people so that we make friends with people who are not members of our church.
- Corporate Spiritual Discernment - Paying attention to what is going on among us and in our local community, and what our faith teaches us, so that we can find our way into what God is doing in us and around us.
- Focus for Missional Action - Working towards a clear sense of who God is sending us to. So that we can make one thing ‘the main thing’, and stick to it. This can mean saying ‘no’ to some good things that are not at the centre of what we think God is calling us to.
We share the MLC journey with other churches making the same journey by joining with them at two facilitated gatherings in each of three years. The process is led in each church by its MLC team – a group of lay people, supported and cared for by the ‘Spiritual Leaders’, usually the Vicar with another lay leader.
Overview, Theory and Finding out more
- Missional Learning Communities - An Overview
- Missional Learning Communities - Going Deeper - the theory underpinning the practice of local culture change
Branching Out - Listen to Steve Coneys and Ian Parrish talk at Diocesan Synod in March 2022 about the effect MLC is having in one of Ian’s parishes followed by some questions to stimulate thinking:
If missional church is what happens when the local church forms relationship around God’s activity in God’s world, what are the key moments in the story you just heard?
- What allowed things to happen (‘made the story live’)?
- What could have stopped it (‘killed it’)?
For more stories read previous issues of Detectives of Divinity below.