As I started reading Missional Small Groups, my first impression was that it is not at all kitschy, catchy, or faddish. And I was so relieved!
After all, when it comes to Evangelical buzzwords, nothing gets more buzzy these days than "missional." (I think that word has been on the cover of more books this year than "leadership," if you can believe it!) For that reason, I figured it was only a matter of time before publishers began to connect the dots between small groups and the principles and ideas associated with the missional movement.
Really, it was inevitable that a book called Missional Small Groups would be published in 2010. Fortunately, thankfully, this book has been written by Scott Boren—a man who has been living, serving, and leading in missional ways long before the rest of us had any idea what "being missional" actually meant.
The book is divided into two sections: Listening and Practicing. The first section outlines the major ideas and principles behind Boren's vision for small-group life. Most helpful is Chapter 3, which describes four types of small groups that people may find themselves in (Boren refers to these types as "stories"):
- The Story of Personal Improvement. This is a small group at its most basic, where people attend out of a desire to make some friends and learn about God and the Bible. It is a consumer experience, for the most part.
- The Story of Lifestyle Adjustment. This is a continuation of Personal Improvement, where group members have become committed to the group as a major factor in their lives.
- The Story of Relational Revision. This story marks a shift from the first two, with the relationships between group members becoming a major priority, rather than the "group meeting" that happens once a week. Group members are beginning to "do life together," in other words.
- The Story of Missional Re-creation. The group has a mission to impact their community for the Kingdom of God, and that mission becomes a primary influence in the life of each member. This is a full-blown "missional small group."
(Click here to see an excerpt of this chapter on SmallGroups.com.)
Boren presents these four stories in such a way that the first two represent what he calls "normal" small-group life in most churches across the country. The latter two stories represent a new potential for what small groups could achieve in a missional way.
The second section of the book (Practicing) is a more practical exploration of different practices and activities that can help a "normal" small group move in a more missional direction. This includes three "Missional Rhythms," as Boren labels them:
- Missional Communion—practices of presence
- Missional Relating—practices of agape
- Missional Engagement—practices of engaging the community.
Each of these rhythms is given a chapter, and each chapter contains several "practices" of missional life (such as worship, pressing through conflict, speaking peace, and so on).
Many people who have led small groups for a long time can feel like they aren't accomplishing what they are supposed to accomplish—and I count myself as part of that group. We recognize that small groups have the potential for something great and transformational, but we rarely see glimpses of life-change or deep interactions with the Holy Spirit.