Anyone at all who are acquainted with me realizes that when I do anything, I go all in or not at all. When our church decided to launch into a small group ministry, I studied at the feet of the very best. At that moment, it was Rev. Dale Galloway and his 20/20 Life Transforming Small Group ministry program. His flock has figured out a system to do small group ministry in a way to not only enhance the arm of pastoral care and outreach but also to cultivate leaders.
Developing saints is essential to my approach of what a church is called to do. So, when I first discovered this new thing, Missional Communities (MC’s as will call them), I falsely assumed it was just the resurrection of small group ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have concluded that MC’s are small groups on steroids. Join with me as we explore the essential foundational elements of MC’s. It is not my objective to weigh in on whether or not MC’s are good or bad, but to start the conversation. I am by no means a specialist. I have not led one even though I remain fascinated by the potentialities.
Two Central Goals of Missional Communities:
- MC’s regularly engage in a Third Space. A third space is a neutral location. It is an area your group regularly gathers to bask in each other’s company and promote what Hugh Halter, one of the earlier leaders of this movement calls “inclusive community.”
- MC’s seek opportunities for Service. These service opportunities happen when the groups find occasions to meet the needs of and bless people in their enclave or some other neighboring community, the desire to live a Matthew 25:40 life, serving the least of these.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40
Four Key Elements Required:
Two ways MC’s differ from small groups are the size of the group and its desired outcomes. A Missional Community is a group of approximately 18-40 people who are seeking to reach a distinct neighborhood or connect with an individual network of relationships with the good news of the Kingdom of God.
- It is a mid-size group of committed people – Sizes is necessary! Missional communities fit into a place between small groups, but less than a congregation.
“Small enough to nurture and support” – Think of MC’s like a large family. People can come and test out the concept of living life on the mission together. Missional communities also create a welcoming environment. The groups are large enough that there is a sense of anonymity. MC’s allow people to become a part of the team when they are ready while witnessing living out their faith impacting the lives of others.
“Big enough for transformational impact” – Because MC’s are large enough to have the shared resources, they can have a more significant impact in their neighborhoods for causes of Christ. Often these groups raise up leaders and send them out to plant new MC’s.
- Clear Missional Vision– Churches have a tendency to start many projects. While that keeps things exciting, it also can be frustrating. If your church or group of believers start MC’s make sure you have a clear missional focus. Be clear what specific need you want to address. What will be your unique community context? What is the common mission your community will be committed to? Social justice? Poverty? Some have dealt with trafficking of young girls. The vision for your MC’s will help reduce the possibility of your group becoming another social group. Mike Breen, another leader in the missional community movement, says, “Vision is the magnet that draws people to the community and the engine that keeps the community moving” (Mike Breen).
- Question to develop your Missional Focus: Who Is God calling you to love as Jesus loved unconditionally?
- MC’s Are Organic and yet Organized– That may sound counterintuitive. MC’s are organized in that they have weekly gathering times. This is important because that is the foundation for the growth of the depth and trust needed to be a community. That developing community is organic in you can’t plan relationships. Relationships happen organically. Relationships are built over time as you create natural, inclusive, intentional time for people to party together, to eat together and even grieve together. The links are organic; the events are organized.
- MC’s have accountable Leader(s) – One of the fears many have who are opposed to MC’s is that there is no congregational overseer. However, MC’s must have clear facilitators/leaders who help organize and guide the life of the MC. While there is no church board per se, these leaders are accountable to other MC members and should be connected to the larger church.
The lower control allows the vision for each MC to come from the leaders and the group. The MC’s can better adapt to the changing needs of the community they are serving. For high accountability, church leadership should be involved in helping MC leaders carry out the vision that God has given to him/her and their community. The church can assist the leaders by providing on-going training, support, and prayer.
While this is by no means a rigid requirement, it is a starting point to consider if you or your congregation is thinking of dipping your toes in the missional community pool. Come on in the water is warm, the mission opportunities great, the needs many, and workers few.