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.
Present in the Community
Missional Communities exist for the people group they are trying to demonstrate and declare the gospel among. Therefore, they need to readjust their lives to spend time with their people.
More than Service Projects
I have seen small groups attempted to become a missional community by simply doing some service project once in awhile (soup kitchen, nursing home, disaster relief, home repair, etc). This is a wonderful thing to do and a great place to start but it does not make your small group a missional community.
Missional communities do serve people in many ways, but the people they serve are in the community they are trying to reach, not just random communities outside of their daily lives. Missional communities in dorms take out trash, host parties, clean up after parties, start IM sports teams, and more. Missional communities in college departments join clubs within their school, start study groups, invite friends to lunch after class, and more.
They do these things to get time with those in their people group.
It’s About Time
Missional community leaders make it their intent to get outside of the “Christian Bubble.” They join clubs together. They choose to live near their people group. The study, eat, and drink at the places their friends do. They host parties and attend parties. They spend time with their people group because the key to missional communities is building relationships.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us (I Thessalonians 2:8).”
It’s About Incarnation
Jesus prayed, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18).”
As Jesus was sent, so are we. Jesus left “The Holy Huddle” to dwell with sinful man. He was the “friend of sinners.” He is our example. Missional communities “incarnate” their lives within their people groups. They live among them, eat with them, party with them, and love them like Jesus did.
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.