Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders Is Your Small Group "On Mission" or "Missional"?

Is Your Small Group "On Mission" or "Missional"?

When it comes to small groups, there’s a difference between being on mission and being missional. Which better defines your group? And why does it matter?

The group “on mission”

In most instances, when a small group is on mission, it’s because the church leadership finds a people group or region that needs assistance, and then enlists individuals with the spiritual gifts of administration and leadership to head up a group of church members in the endeavor. These gifted leaders create a mission plan, set a date on the church calendar, and establish a goal to raise funds for supporting the ministry. The leaders also must determine how many volunteers will be needed to support the mission. It’s then that they begin the process of filling these positions.

The pastor or evangelism minister promotes this amazing opportunity from the pulpit and other communication channels. Those interested in being involved sign up in the church lobby or through a Sunday school class. In many cases a small group collectively decides to answer this call. Thus, the group at this point is “on mission.” These volunteers are expected to attend organizational meetings, devote themselves daily to spiritual exercises in preparation for the experience, and typically must commit to multiple training sessions. When the work is completed, the small group a report must be turned in.

The “missional” group

Being a group of people who are missional is quite different. A small group or Sunday school class that is missional is made up of individuals who are constantly on mission. These people don’t wait for an event to be calendared and announced; they are watch for an opportunity to be merciful. Most everyone in the missional group is sensitive to the needs of people around them. They notice when a single mom is exhausted and needs a break. They are concerned when the widow down the street hasn’t been seen for a few days. Their hearts are heavy when someone at work mentions that their children will be disappointed at Christmas.

Groups that are missional find themselves coming to their meeting prayings for and discussing needs of people at work, in their neighborhoods, and anywhere else they come in contact with persons in need. And then, God’s part in the process takes place: He inspires them with ideas to meet those needs. Missional groups made up of missional people don’t wait for permission or direction or funding; they step up and meet the need in the name of – and with the attitude of – Jesus. They are willing to use their own incomes, over and above their tithes. They choose to sacrifice their free time. They depend on God’s provision and use their resourcefulness to minister.

As a Sunday school teacher or small group leader, you can guide your group to become missional by

  • Modeling missional living by seeing needs, meeting them personally, and then sharing with the group how it blessed you.
  • Bringing missional opportunities to your group and allowing them to join you in ministry.
  • Pointing out to your group members when gathered for Bible study that this is how the early church, and Jesus Himself, lived life.
  • Inviting those transformed through contact with missional people or groups to share their testimonies in your group meetings.

Show Christ to others by modeling missional living, and guiding your group members to do the same. Do this without expecting the church to organize or pay for it. I promise that you’ll be blessed, your class will experience a deeper sense of community, and God’s kingdom will be seen and known in and through you.

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Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.