Mission in Small Groups
Last week I blogged about adding mission and service to your small group. We reviewed some of the benefits that an infusion of mission can provide your group. These benefits included a deeper level of community (communitas) and opportunities for many different gifts and abilities to be used within the group. This week I’d like to look at some specific ways to add the missional ingredient to your group.
After nearly ten years in ministry I’ve found good news in that most Christians want to live missional lives. This varies by degree, but the desire to impact the world for the kingdom of God is almost always present in God’s children. The bad news is that we have a very difficult time being intentional with this desire. We’re challenged to be witnesses on Sunday but when it hits the fan on Monday it’s easy to lose our resolve. I’ve also seen how nearly every Christian I know has very little mission accountability in their lives. That’s where a small group comes in.
A small group can be a place where people state the specific places where they have been called to make a difference. Members of the group can identify specific individuals to whom they feel called. The group can then encourage them and be a source of accountability as they live out the mission of God in those places and to those people. Group meetings can be structured around a time for sharing struggles and successes on the missional journey. Members of the small group can pray for each other on mission - both at group meetings and throughout the week.
Different small groups have developed their own rhythms of accountability. Author and pastor Michael Frost’s community uses the acronym BELLS. B - bless three people each week with a simple act of kindness. E - eat three meals each week with someone not in your family. L - listen to God in prayer. L - learn from God’s word. S - “sent-ness” as our defining identity. Each week the group gathers to share their BELLS. Be creative in your group. The point is to keep mission on the radar. This kind of accountability helps keep mission at the forefront of our lives individually.
Another way that a small group can add the missional ingredient is by focusing on a context as a group. Rather than an individual sense of call, the group as a whole agrees upon a context where they feel led to serve. While missional accountability addresses our lack of resolve, a missional focus deals with our fear and inertia. We can be willing and resolute in our desire to reach out and live missionally. However, fear and a lack of ideas can keep us stuck. These things are overcome by a group of people who have identified a neighborhood or people group to serve.
Within each small group is all the courage and creativity necessary. There really is strength in numbers. Something you would never do by yourself can be done in community without a huge sense of risk or danger. Serving and blessing a neighborhood requires a wide range of skills. One person doesn’t have the brute force or the gifts necessary to do it alone. But a group does. For example, some groups in our congregation have led worship services at a local nursing home. I’m guessing no single individual within these groups would dream of leading worship and preaching by themselves. As a group they were able to do it. It wasn’t as scary when ten or twelve people were joining you.
Soma Communities, based in Tacoma, WA, has their small groups (they call them Missional Communities) choose a missional focus each year. It could be a neighborhood or a school or an age group in their city. Together they commit themselves to finding ways to be Christ’s love in those places. I think a missional focus is the better way to gain the benefits of mission in your small group. It has the potential to do more good in your community because it leverages the strength of a group where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Which of these options seems more feasible to you? How is your group already leaning in one of these directions? What would it take to move into deeper missional waters?