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.
Prayers Are Focused Outward
One of the easiest ways to determine if you are really is a missional community is to listen to how you and your friends pray and with what frequency you pray. Campus Renewal Ministries believes that you are not a missional community until your group has committed to a weekly time of outwardly focused prayer.
Missional communities meet together weekly to pray for their community. Prayer is the most important thing that the group does together. Missional communities recognize that nothing will happen in their community unless God does the work. Therefore, they have to pray. They meet together weekly to ask God to move among their people group.
These weekly times of prayer are used by God to not only change the community, but to do something more important: Change you. Praying together weekly serves as a point of accountability to the vision, and while praying for your people group God gives you His heart for your people group.
These weekly times of prayer are different from the prayers experienced in most small groups. Most small groups close their hour-long meeting with five to ten minutes of prayer mostly focused on praying for each other. Missional communities spend forty to fifty minutes of their hour-long meeting praying for the people in their community. This is not to say that they do not pray for each other. They do that too, but most of their time is spent praying outwardly focused prayers for their peers and their people group as a whole.
What you pray toward is a direct indication of what you exist for. Groups that mostly pray for each other prove that they mostly exist for each other. Missional communities pray mostly for the lost which proves that they exist mostly for the lost. This is why a group that focuses most of their prayers toward each other, by CRM’s definition, is simply not a missional community.
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.