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Millennial Perspectives on the Purpose of Small Groups

The purpose of small groups through community is vital

It’s hard to miss the recurring theme of mission in these students’ comments. Yet it’s not just about mission in the sense of serving our communities and evangelism. It’s broader than that; it’s small groups being the church, being the body of Christ inside and outside of themselves. I asked students to formulate their own definitions of the purpose of small groups as part of their philosophy of small group ministry. Here are three of their definitions:

  • A small group is a group that intentionally lives life together building meaningful relationships in order to help each other grow in Christ, worship together, serve others and care for others in and out of the group context.
  • A small group is a group of people who meet weekly with the desire and commitment to growing closer to Christ and each other, thus creating an overflow of Christ that pours out into the people they encounter in everyday life.
  • A small group is a gathering of individuals intentionally participating in the life of Christ in a visible way in order to advance God’s Kingdom in the world.

The idea of small groups being “kingdom outposts,” verbiage that reminds me of some of Scott Boren’s books, was discussed. One Millennial student, particularly, has latched onto that vision:

In Christ’s Kingdom, every believer [is] tasked with taking the Gospel of Jesus out into uncharted terrain, pushing the frontier of God’s Kingdom forward, and bringing new territory under His Lordship. Small groups serve as outposts in this pioneering mission. As believers journey out into unknown land, they establish outposts; hubs and gathering places where fellow pioneers can come together to refuel, restock and be equipped with what they need to carry the mission onward.

That student wrote in his Small Group Ministry Action Plan paper,

Our goal is that our baseline groups [more “traditional” small groups that meet in community to grow spiritually together and care for each other’s’ needs] would eventually mature and grow into innovation groups [more missional, organic types of groups]. This occurs when leaders and group members take ownership for the direction and form of their group, and start to think creatively about how to engage Christ’s mission together. The result is that the structure of their group adapts and changes into new and innovative forms that engage people in Kingdom community in nontraditional ways.

The truth is, none of this is about Millennials. And I believe my Millennial students would confirm that. The mission of the church is not to please the current generation. One day, not too far away, Millennial pastors will be wondering what post-Millennials think, and so on. At the same time, we who are older must learn to listen to the generations that preceded us as well as those who will succeed us.

Mostly, of course, we listen to the One who has always been and always will be. He calls us not to specific forms of ministry but to an entirely different way of approaching life: to live in communion with God and community with one another in such a way that advances the frontiers of God’s kingdom, just as the early church experienced!

This article originally appeared here.