A Missional Strategy for Small Group Ministry

Over the past 4 years the Lord has been teaching me a lot about missional living by interacting with church planters and thinking through small group ministry as it relates to reaching the unchurched and unbelievers in our community. The church planting network (Pillar Network) that I have the opportunity to interact with has taught me that as a member of a church I still need to live like a church planter. It has challenged me spiritually to recognize that if I’m not using the gifts God has given me to live on mission by building relationships with unchurched and unbelieving people then I am not doing the work of a missionary. It’s my hope that as we discuss what it means to be on mission within the context of small group ministry there will be some key takeaways that we can be challenged by. I also believe there are some potential red flags for us to be aware of that may keep us from being missional in our lives and our small group. Potential Red Flags:

  1. Small Group ministry can provide an atmosphere for great intimacy to take place. However, if we are not careful there can be a desire to keep others from entering into this intimate time together. If you feel like you can’t invite someone into your group/life then this should cause concern.
  2. Small Group ministry can provide an atmosphere for great accountability to take place. But, if we’re not careful the small group time can very easily turn into a focused discussion of one another’s perceived sins. This often looks like a group of people sitting around in a circle where it feels as if you don’t share some type of sin struggle then you are not doing your job as a care group member. I personally believe if this is a pattern then it becomes hard for your group to focus outward if there is so much focus inwardly. If you feel like your group’s primary purpose throughout the week when gathering is based on accountability then this should cause concern.
  3. Small Group ministry can provide an atmosphere for relationships to thrive. However, if we’re not careful the only friendships we will have will be with our Christian brothers and sisters. If your group’s growth does not include unchurched and unbelievers being invited in to enjoy these friendships then this should cause concern.

I think the first thing that each of us needs to do when we develop a missional strategy for our life is to recognize what God has called us to as followers of Jesus.

  1. We have been called to leave our former life (old-self) and to follow after Jesus Christ (new creation). Our calling and our identity are bound up in Jesus Christ. We are to love him and cherish him above all things. This is our primary purpose in life. As we faithfully give ourselves to knowing and loving our God it will produce the Spiritual Fruit of Righteousness!
  2. We have been called to go and make disciples. I have found that disciple-making is flat out hard. In some ways it is even hard to define because there are so many elements that go into making a disciple and it seems to be a task that is best suited within the context of the church over an expanded period of time, rather than the responsibility of an individual in a designated period of time. For example, when I take someone through a 9-week study that may be a part of disciple making, but if I limit my disciple making to 9 weeks and base it solely on my relationship with an individual then I think I’m missing the point of what it means to make a disciple.
  3. We have been called to be missionaries/sent out ones (John 17). All followers of Christ are “sent out ones” who live for Jesus in a world that is filled with darkness. It is our responsibility to shine brightly and to bring the truth of God’s word to bear on the hearts and minds of those that are walking in darkness. God is responsible for opening the eyes and the heart of the blind, but it is our job to develop loving relationships with those in our community that God is ultimately seeking to save. We must never forget that we were lost and God’s mission was to seek and to save us.
  4. We have been called to be good and faithful stewards of the gifts and resources the Lord has given each of us. Each one of us has specific gifts and strengths that God has uniquely gifted us with in order to benefit the church at large and effectively help us to fulfill the mission that we have been called to as his disciples. God has given us unique personalities, relationships, networks, jobs, abilities, demeanors, finances, wisdom, social aptitudes, and so much more. He has given some to the specific role of elders and some to the role of evangelists to best serve the church. He has brought order to the church by electing some to be elders/overseers and some to be deacons in the church. All roles must work together for the building up of the saints and for the fulfillment of the strategy of making disciples and seeing those baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  5. We have been called to be ministers of the word (believers are being equipped to know and speak the truth of the word in all contexts and situations in life. As ministers of the Gospel that bear witness to the transformation that has already and is continuing to take place in our life, we must be compelled to live in such a way that we are faithfully knowing and speaking the truth of God’s word in all contexts and situations that God opens up for our life. We must seek these out and pray passionately that God would use us for his kingdom despite the thorns in our flesh and our weaknesses.
MissionZach Nelson