Have you every heard that old song I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch and all I do is cry all day? This little song still goes through my head when I find myself in situations where i feel like I do not belong.
Sometimes small groups or individuals might look around at the small group garden in which they are planted and feel like they are "lonely little petunias in an onion patch". Not that there is anything wrong with onion patches! From what I understand, onion patches are very fertile places in which plants can grow and thrive. But for some groups or individuals, God is stirring up a longing for more than the normal group experience. Learning, caring, praying and building relationships with other church members is great, but not enough. This longing may be the Holy Spirit’s nudging to shape small groups that exist not merely for the sake of experiencing community, but for the sake of participating in God’s redemptive plan. Some have called these missional small groups.
What makes a group missional? A good start might be to add a service project to your calendar. However, the potential is greater than that.
Missional small groups want to do life together in a way that makes a difference in the world around them. These groups listen to God to find direction on how God might move through them in a way that puts love where love is not (St. John of the Cross). Missional Small Groups demonstrate a life together that is unmistakably salt and light in the community in which they live.
So let’s get practical. How can we get started on this journey toward becoming a missional small group? In his soon to be published book, Missional Small Groups (July 2010), Scott Boren writes, "…the missional small group is not simply about meetings and Bible studies. It is about seeing what God wants to do in the neighborhood." He then suggests the group ask two questions:
- What gifts does this community (small group) possess that might be a blessing to the wider community?
- What needs are found in the wider community that we might meet?
An additional question is: With what existing community services could we partner?
Responding to these questions is a great beginning toward becoming a missional small group. God will undoubtedly lead you into unexpected and unpredictable places that may be outside of your present onion patch. As you plan your small group for the coming months, maybe taking a missional step is on God’s agenda for you.