Note: This article originally appeared in our digital magazine, The Meaning of Missional.
Scott Boren was sold on missional small groups before they even had a name. But most small-group ministry structures don't have space for missional groups—including the ministry he inherited at Woodland Hills in Minnesota. So he's been on a mission to help churches make space. He serves as a consultant to churches trying to capture the vision for missional small groups and he's written Missional Small Groups and MissioRelate. His third book on the topic is due out in 2013. SmallGroups.com sat down with Scott to learn what it really means to be a missional group.
SmallGroups.com: What experiences made you passionate about missional living?
When I took on the role of small-group pastor at Woodland Hills, there was a guy leading a group of former inmates. Every Tuesday night they'd get together and eat and pray and really connect. But it wasn't an official small group because we didn't have room for a group like that within our system. That's what led me to really recognize that our normal groups were filled with people who just saw small groups as an add-on to their lives. It caused me to realize we were co-opting something that cold be very radical and Americanizing it until it was no longer kingdom-like.
What exactly does it mean to be missional?
We often think of doing something good for people who are under-privileged. But let's pull pack frm the activist point of view It's really about three things. 1) It's about what God is doing to redeem the world—not just people being saved or joining our church or doing nice things for poor people. 2) It's about understanding what's going on in our culture and saying, "God, what are you doing here, and how can we get around that?" 3) It's about asking how we should be the church in this culture in a way that faithfully reflects what it means to be God's people. How do we embody the way of Christ in our local neighborhoods right here, right now in a way that is attractive and beautiful and winsome and demonstrates the kingdom? Not so people will come, but because that's who God has called us to be—whether or not people respond. How do we as teachers, engineers, carpenters, and farmers begin to work with God and move beyond just getting people saved or serving at the homeless shelter? Both are great things, but we need to find out what God is doing in creative improvisational ways and respond accordingly.
What are our small groups currently doing?
Regardless of structure, curriculum, or training, I found four different stories of groups. One was the personal improvement story, in which I come to small group because it is personally beneficial to me.
The second story is lifestyle adjustment, where I actually change up my life (somewhat) to prioritize the small-group meeting. And 90 percent of the churches, pastors, and group leaders I've worked with fall in this category. Let's not beat ourselves up about that. If I'm making a C in math, there's no condemnation, but how do we move beyond that?
The third story is relational revision. This is a group of people who want to learn to be on mission. They're making a C in math, and they don't know how to make an A, but they're ready to learn, work at it, be coached, and see what God can do through them.
The fourth story is missional re-creation. As people learn how to be on mission together, it results in improvisation. As we begin to manifest the kingdom in our local neighborhood, the groups take on the flavor of that neighborhood in how they meet, what they do, and how they do it. It's not one-size-fits-all.