If you’ve been following the conversation, you know that one of the most important current grouplife trends is the idea of missional small groups. I’ve interviewed a number of small group pastors in well-known churches making the move (Josh Walters, Mike Breen, and Todd Engstrom). I’ve also reviewed a couple of the key books on the concept (Missional Small Groups and Launching Missional Communities).
I had an opportunity earlier this year to review the final draft of MissioRelate, a new book from Scott Boren. I said then and I’ll repeat it here, “If you’re looking for a way to move your small group ministry from “connecting in community” to “impacting communities,” MissioRelate is a must read. If you’re like me, you will be challenged by Part 2. Trust me…it’s worth a very careful read. With that foundation, Part 3 will get a lot of use as all of us move in the missional direction.”
Written in three parts, MissioRelate looks at a vision that changes everything, what we can do to change everything, and a process for changing everything.
In part one, Scott lays out a very compelling argument that there are four stories, four experiences, within the small group community experience. Taken from an idea in Craig Van Gelder’s The Ministry of the Missional Church, he points out that the initial small group experience is about personal improvement. There’s an upside to just being connected. The second experience has to do with lifestyle adjustment. Beyond attending when convenient, the group’s members begin to shift priorities to connect on a regular basis. Note: these first two experience levels are very focused on improving the lives of the members.
Which brings us to the second two stories or experiences…and the spot where MissioRelate becomes both a challenge and a game-breaking grouplife manual. The third experience/story is relational revision. Beyond simple connection or even lifestyle adjustment to prioritize attendance, relational revision is about an intentional practice of mutual love and self-sacrifice. The fourth story/experience is about missional re-creation. Beyond caring for each other, the group begins to “engage the neighborhood and determine needs, meet those needs, and as a result…[their] experience will change how they exist as a group (p. 39).
Can You See Where This Is Going?
Part Two: What We Can Do to Change Everything? is about practical ways to move from one story to the next. What I found very helpful throughout is that MissioRelate is never a criticism of existing forms (or the stories that inform them). Rather, it is very practical, almost taking a field guide approach. For example, chapter 5 is all about asking different questions when evaluating grouplife. Where the questions asked by many small group champions settle for “How many groups does your church have?” and “How many of your groups multiplied last year?”, Boren suggests an entirely different set. “How frequently are people within groups sharing a meal together outside of official meetings?” and “How are groups being led to minister outside of predetermined expectations and meet needs spontaneously?” take grouplife far beyond familiar territory.
This is a very dense section. At over 120 pages, it is packed with aha moments, ideas and exercises you’ll use in your own implementation. It’s worth noting here that MissioRelate doesn’t have the ring of untested theory. These chapters are all about real world application.
Part Three: A Process for Changing Everything lays out the process nature of moving beyond the ordinary experience and all the way to the fourth story. Wrestling with worship services, connecting experiences and crafting a customized pathway that leads to missiorelate, there is a lot of meat here. The chapters that make up part three will become the battle plan for implementation.
If you’re serious about building a grouplife system that goes beyond connecting and moves to impacting communities, MissioRelate is a must read. Note: Excellent price break on purchases at Touch Publishers. Order here.