From Small Group to Missional Community: Part 1

Is it possible to transition from a traditional small group to a vision led Missional Community? 

This question is one many of us have had to address as we have sought to develop Missional Communities. My experience says that the simple answer is yes. However experience also shows that it requires careful preparation and work. It isn’t something that can happen overnight. Of course with God nothing is impossible and there are examples of small groups becoming Missional Communities without any apparent effort. For the majority it will require careful preparation and a great deal of prayer.

small groupSo where should you start? First of all it is important to be clear that this is something that God is calling you to do. This may seem obvious, but we do need to be aware that when making this transition we are changing the fundamental basis of the group. This is especially so if it is a more traditional small group. You are asking the members to move from one that is generally self-contained, often long standing, to a group that is more open.

It is helpful if yours isn’t the only group in your church making this transition. If it is, and you see it as acting as a pioneer group, then you do need to consider every aspect of the change and the impact it will have.

Having decided that this is what God is leading you in – the next step is for the group leaders to meet to discern the vision for the Missional Community. It is important that the vision is clear and easily explained and understood. Alongside this it is helpful to begin the process of discussing and praying with the group about the difference having a Missional vision will make. The more traditional the group the longer this will take.

My experience is that some quickly and easily understand what is being asked of them. Others don’t! When we launched Missional Communities we began by talking to each small group about the overall vision and challenged them, gently, to respond. Many did and we began helping them discover the Missional vision for their group. Those that didn’t we left and let them carry on as before. However over time some of them began to move towards becoming Missional Communities as they saw others getting on with it.

It is important to begin by explaining what you are seeking to do and the direction you see them going in. This whole process needs to be clear and provide plenty of opportunity for people to ask questions. It is quite likely that some will ask ‘what will it be like when we get there?’ You won’t necessarily be able to answer with details but with a clear vision you can begin to provide confidence.

Here is a brief, not exhaustive, check list of things to consider:

Be sure: Know that this is a God idea not just a good idea.

Vision: Seek and clarify a clear vision for the proposed Missional Community. First with the leaders of the group then with the members.

Explain: Clearly set out the idea and the vision.

Be patient: Not everyone will get it straight away. Don’t rush, take your time.

Room for everyone: Allow everyone in the group to contribute to the discussion.

Space: Allow space for reflection and prayer. Encourage each member of the group to listen to God and each other.

Opportunity to contribute to the vision: Allow everyone in the group to discuss and contribute to the vision. However don’t be sidetracked away from the core vision God has given you as leaders.

Opportunity to say no and move to a different group: Create a culture that allows people to move on positively and with dignity.

Trust: Trust the group, trust the vision, trust the process.

Pray: Lots and lots of prayer!!


There will be a follow-up post to this one next week with some tips on how to help those who don’t want to be part of the new thing.

david and jenny rosser


David Rosser lives in Durham with his wife Jenny. They have been involved in the development and implementation of missional communities for the past 12 years.