Aug 28, 2017
Micro-churches and Multiplication on Campus
Mike Filicicchia shares vision and a simple roadmap to seeing micro-churches multiply on campuses and in cities across North America.
Simply put, if we as collegiate leaders are going to raise and send students to plant churches, we need to provide three things:
- A reason to train
- A place to train
- A way to train.
And you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, are going to give that to them. First, you will give them a reason to train. I love John Piper’s classic line, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Your students need to understand deeply how their peers suffer for lack of worship, hear a clear call to arms to reach them, and see a clear picture in their mind’s eye of how they will reach them. This is the beginning of church planting in any context.
It’s crucial for training purposes that the how includes roles and opportunities that effectively train them for church planting. Take this as an opportunity for a ministry structures inventory. Consider the following questions and write down the answers:
- How many students do you aspire to send out from your campus as church plant core team members on a yearly basis?
- What kinds of roles and opportunities need to exist in your ministry to train for every role needed on a church plant team?
- How many of each of the above roles and opportunities will you need to send out the number of students from Question 1?
- What roles do you need to create, delegate, or eliminate in order to structure your ministry for maximum church planting training effectiveness?
While the most important work for you is to answer the above 4 questions for yourself, I want to spend the remainder of this article sharing the lessons I’ve learned as a student and staff member in my present ministry context as we’ve worked at structuring our ministry in order to equip students and recent graduates to plant churches. I have come to a deep appreciation of the micro-church (a.k.a. house church, home group, missional community) model as a means for equipping students to plant churches everywhere.
It’s not that I don’t love a big, attractional gathering with amazing musicians and mind-blowing preaching; I’ve met God more times than I count in environments like that. It’s just that my heart more deeply longs for spontaneous, uncontrollable movements of God that happen person-to-person and anyone can lead; the type of thing we see in the book of Acts where believers compelled by the Holy Spirit share the gospel, multiply disciples, and invade the Roman Empire with small budgets, no facilities, and no professionals. Where small pockets of believers meet daily in homes for prayer, fellowship, teaching, and the breaking of bread, and send out called people from among them to share the gospel and gather the new believers in homes around the Empire for prayer, fellowship, and…you get the idea. Spontaneous, uncontrollable multiplication led by everyday believers, with every believer playing a crucial part in God’s mission!
The church where I serve is as much a single church at two venues as it is a network of eleven micro-churches of 25-60 students each, spread across the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. For years I’ve dreamt of the day when we would be forty micro-churches, and still believe wholeheartedly we can get there by God’s grace. For us, a micro-church (which we locally call a “New Life Team”) is nothing more than a vibrant and reproducing family on mission living a collective lifestyle of Worship (Loving God), Community (Loving One Another), and Mission (Loving Our Neighbors). Each New Life Team has a specific mission focus on campus and is led by a small team (2-5) of some combination of student leaders, volunteers, or full-time staff. As that team shares the gospel in its mission field, baptizes new believers, and trains them to make more disciples, God often puts a new mission field on the heart of some of the leaders, who are then sent out into a new pocket of students on campus. I’ve witnessed first-hand how these communities can impact and multiply on a college campus. If you include our church plants to other campuses, I’ve seen us multiply from 5 micro-churches on 1 campus in Fall 2005 (my freshman year) to 35 micro-churches on 7 campuses in Fall 2016. If that repeated, it would mean 245 micro-churches on 49 campuses in Fall 2027!
As the world continues to urbanize, and the conversation grows around how to effectively reach our urban centers where land is scarce, spaces are tight, and relational proximity is at a premium, I grow increasingly passionate about the potential of the micro-church model. I’ve heard from multiple church leaders in major North American cities that some of the most identifiable, cohesive, and (believe it or not) permanent communities in our cities are college students, and this makes our campuses the perfect laboratories for cracking the code to reach cities in North America and beyond. Perhaps our motto of “Reach the campus, reach the next generation” ought to be amended to “Reach the campus, reach the cities, reach the next generation.”
If this vision of multiplying micro-churches on campus appeals to you, I want to leave you with an exercise that has consistently re-inspired and re-envisioned me over the years:
- Invite your most dedicated student leaders to map out with you every known cohesive affinity group on your campus that you believe could host a micro-church of 25-60 students (for example: Varsity Athletes, Freshmen living in Markley Hall, Greek Life, International Students, the Marching Band, Upperclassmen engineering students, etc.). At U of M, we’ve identified 25 such groups of 400-1500 undergraduate students each.
- Define your character, conviction, and competency criteria for someone to lead or co-lead such a group.
- Identify your top leaders whom you believe meet or are close to meeting these criteria.
- Cast vision to your leaders for the groups on your campus that need a community dedicated to bringing the gospel to them. Invite them to pray and discern whom they feel called to reach.
- Make a plan together with your leaders for when and how you will launch, sustain, and multiply these micro-churches.
If you’re wanting further reading on this topic, I’ve found Mike Breen’s work on launching and leading missional communities (another common phrase for micro-church) to be extremely helpful.
For further reading, check out Mike’s article 3 Obstacles to Empowering Students for Church Planting.