If We Are the Church, Where Are the Disciples? Part 4: Retaining Youth After High School, Building Extended Families

Picture: (VincentFunaro:ChristianPost)A 3DM 'Missional Community' meeting held in a local's home.

With church attendance dropping and the youth losing interest in faith, leaders from all over the world are scrambling to find ways to better engage those who are disillusioned. British-born ministry 3DM proposes an interesting solution to that very problem and already saw great success in the European Union, planting over 500 churches in just five years.

More about its Huddles, Missional Communities and Shape Language can be read about in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The Christian Post had the opportunity to sit and speak with 3DM Central members Eric Pfeiffer and Kristine Blaess.

Why is 3DM not just another gimmick for the Christian community?

Pfeiffer: We don't try and convince people that this isn't a gimmick. With the way we function at 3DM, people have to see the fruit of all our [teachings] in our lives and in our teams. ... This is what Jesus did. When he came along he said I'm living this life and then he offered [to disciple those] who wanted to follow. But he was going to [live that way] whether they came along with him or not. He wasn't waiting for somebody to join him to start a church.

We are also constantly reminding people that it's a process and that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you get better.

How long have you been committed to 3DM and its resources?

Blaess: Five years.

Pfeiffer: It's an interesting question you're asking. We can tell you when we started with 3DM that only started as an organization five years ago. [The creator] Mike Breen has been in the country 10 years and I met him when he first came to the country so we've been living this stuff out before there was even an organization. Even before he came, I was already living like this, but [Breen showed me the language to communicate it better].

Mike Breen started this model in Europe. What fruit came from the ministry and its resources there?

Pfeiffer: Breen started with a small church where he introduced the ideas. He got to the point where he raised up so many leaders that he worked himself out of a job. He empowered them and then came to the U.S. Breen [thought] that the end of his life was not to pastor a church, but to make more disciples. The church in Britain has grown incredibly. The leaders say its better now that Mike's gone.

Blaess: I think St. Thomas in Sheffield (Breen's original church) is now the biggest church in Europe. It has had around 50 mission plants in Europe.

Is it true that Breen came up with his Shape Language as a result of reading the Bible with dyslexia?

More on the Shape Language.

Pfeiffer: For him, the way he remembers and puts things in place is, he has to create a visual image of where it belongs and then [illustrate] everything so he can remember the words. He did that and found that it was really helpful for the congregation back in England. With a team, he developed many of the tools in England and since he's been here [in the U.S.], we've made even more.

Would you create age specific Huddles or Missional Communities to draw people in?

Pfeiffer: Yes. The purpose of a Huddle is to disciple people and pass on your spiritual DNA. I might do that with a group of 7 or 8 guys and I might also do it with a group of 6 or 8 couples. Gender and age are not an issue. Missional Community is family, but in different seasons like when a young adult goes off to college, their family looks a little bit different. We make room for Missional Communities to be primarily made up of young kids or adults that are being trained by other adults.

Blaess: There's a Missional Community in Phoenix at Hope Church, and it's a Lego one lead by a 7-year old. He's the primary leader. Isn't that awesome?

So Missional Communties function as social gatherings?

Pfeiffer: Family. Its social gathering, learning training, encouraging, financial and relational. It's all of those things. That's what an extended family provides. It provides a large enough number of people so there's enough support at all those different levels. There's also enough accountability so it's not like everyone is off doing their own thing.

Do you think a Missional Community could solve the churches problem of losing young adults after they finish high school and age out of their youth group?

Pfeiffer: Absolutely. We don't want to make it like Missional Community is the only vehicle. We also believe in Sunday service, small groups and youth group. The way that people are wired to grow, requires that they be a part of a social community or extended family as well as regular things churches do. Sociology points to this. See The Search to Belong by Joseph Myers.

He says there's four groups that human beings need to experience in order to experience health. There's the public space which consists of 70 people or more (church service), social space which consists of 20 to 30 (Missional Community), personal space which is Huddle or small group size, and then there's intimate space which is two or three people. The church does some of these right, but normally has nothing for social space. Christians have to find that somewhere else. (This is why we lose so many.)

For teenagers, Christians teach them that the only people they have something important to say to is their friends. We tell them you have no value until you're married with kids. So, the Missional Community becomes a space where all the age groups have an opportunity to learn the value of being in a family and also contribute to it. Teenagers have to learn that they could hear from God and speak about these things. There's no other context that provides that within the church right now.