Honestly, I am just a little worried that many are calling groups “missional communities” when they are not missional at all (by Campus Renewal Ministries’s definition at least). I’m concerned that many churches and ministries have slapped the term “missional communities” on their traditional small groups and are calling them what they are not.
In the next few weeks I hope to clarify what CRM calls “missional communities.” Certainly, it’s just our definition and perspective. There is much being written about on this subject from many perspectives. We work with many ministries at the University of Texas who see things slightly differently than us. So this is just CRM’s understanding of what really defines a missional community.
A Common People Group/Mission
This, more than anything else, radically defines CRM’s view of missional communities. Many small group Bible studies claim to be missional communities, but they do not share a common mission. If the group does not have the same mission, CRM does not call this a missional community.
Look, I am part of a small group with my church and I see this as vitally important for me and for the spiritual development of the friends in my group. But I never call this my missional community because we do not share the same mission. I hope that some day we will find a common mission, but for now it is not likely because we all live, work, and play in different places in Austin.
This is why we believe it is hard to start missional communities (as we define them) by church assimilation. A church can’t just group together students who are free on Tuesday nights to meet together and be a missional community. Folks who can meet on Tuesday nights may all live, work, and play in different parts of the campus. Thus, they don’t share life together beyond Sundays and Tuesdays.
Church assimilation can be the start of missional communities if their assimilation is much more refined. What if students who visit a church are asked to fill in data about where they live, what clubs they are a part of, what they are studying, and where they spend time off campus? Then groups could be coordinated based on common people groups. Engineers could be asked to join together. Students who are part of the Texas Spirits club could be asked to form a group. Students who live in the same dorm could be asked to start a missional community in that dorm.
This is why Campus Renewal Ministries believes the Body of Christ should work together on the missional community movement. We believe missional communities, more than anything else, require the Body of Christ working together because missional communities are best birthed from within a common community not from within a common church. Thus, they start with students from different churches who live, work, or play in the same part of campus.
Two students from one ministry may have a heart to reach their fraternity, but there are likely believers from two to three other campus ministries who are part of the same fraternity. The basis for their missional community is the shared people group (the fraternity), not the same church or campus ministry.
This, quite simply, is a vastly different view of missional communities. It assumes that there is one Body of Christ on a campus, and building the Body of Christ on campus is more important than building any single church or ministry.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission.He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.