On Mission in the Local Community
Another reason we encourage leaders to use the Big Idea Guides is that we're making a missional shift with our groups, and this gives us the ability to build a missional focus in our groups. Study is just a portion of what our groups do to live out the mission of Jesus. It's a good starting place, but we really want to see groups getting out of the living room and into the world together to reach out to others. We are shifting to a more balanced focus that includes study as well as more incarnational living practices. When we create the Big Idea Guides, we're able to include information about being missional individually and as a group right in the handout.
Our groups have always been very missional with a focus on evangelism and reproducing the mission in others, but we haven't always done a great job of engaging issues of compassion and justice in our local community. In recent years, we have expressed the mission of Jesus this way: Reaching people far from God, reproducing the mission in others, and restoring God's dream for the world. To make this practical, we came up with five missional practices (BLESS) that can be done every day:
B—Begin With Prayer
S—Share Your Story
These practices help us get to know the people around us and their real needs. Rather than assume what others want or need, we learn to listen and get to know them by eating together. Then we encourage our groups to regularly ask the question, "Who did you BLESS this week?"
In addition to living out these missional practices on a regular basis, each small group identifies where and who God is calling them to BLESS. Groups may come to a consensus that God is calling them to have a centralized common mission for their group, or groups may choose to remain decentralized and have their group members BLESS others in their individual contexts.
Then, once a year, we have a commissioning service. Each campus gathers all of their small groups during weekend services and commissions them to go and BLESS the world. We call them up to the front, talk about their specific mission, and pray for them. It's a great way to reinforce the fact that we're sent on mission, and it can serve as a starting place for group members to begin intentionally living out their sentness. It's also a great way to inspire our attenders to join a group. When they see the missions that our groups are involved in, they want to join in. They want to help make a difference.
This shift has been challenging for us. It's tough to turn a ship! But it's also been incredibly rewarding. As it has become an important part of our small-group ministry, we're seeing more people find their way back to God, and that's the goal.
—John Wentz serves as Small Group Champion for all 13 campuses of Community Christian Church, and as the Small Group Director for their Yellow Box Campus in Naperville, Illinois.