I understand the vision, and I understand the principles of missional communities. I’m bought in! But what is my scope and sequence I need to work through to transition our small groups into missional communities?

With so many resources, primers, ideas, concepts, and “must do’s,” it’s hard not only to know where to start but also where to go after that. We get this questions so often that we decided to share my response.

There are three simultaneous spheres that need to be transformed. Notice that I say transformed and not transitioned. Transformation is the result of many changes and a period of transition. You are seeking to make disciples who make disciples within your church in a way that transforms the place God has put your disciples and your church. Gospel renewal! Pretty exciting. Hopefully that’s encouraging for you: God’s called you to a bigger vision than increasing the effectiveness of small groups. God is likely calling you to seek transformation in three simultaneous spheres:

  1. Church. The local church has to renew or awaken itself to its identity as a common people saved by God and sent by God for His purpose of restoring all people and all places. 
  2. People. Each disciple needs to be equipped and rooted in the gospel of Jesus in such a way they can articulate the gospel to friends and family and intentionally love their fellow disciples in community and engage the mission of God by the power of the Spirit. 
  3. Place. That every workplace, school, recreational area, club, government agency, hospital, etc., would have a daily presence of God’s people and hear the gospel from them and see the implications of the gospel through their lives. 

Holistic Equipping Happens in Diverse Environments

All people learn through a variety of settings. Learning (or equipping) hasn’t happened until we’ve exposed our people to each of those arenas. In the church I lead, we organize all equipping objectives around these four areas. Briefly: 

  • The campfire or classroom—where people are orally taught the material. This is where we hear the dominant story and way in which we operate in the world. This gives us the theory and the big picture. These moments are also catalyzing, encouraging, and vision-casting. (This would be sermons, traditional training, curriculum, books, etc.)
  • The watering hole or relational peer groups—where people discuss how life is really going, ask what they perceive are “dumb” questions, and get to practice or attempt to articulate what they are learning. All learning happens in relationship. We need these times. The Apostle Paul went “house to house” and had, as one commenter writes, “a ministry of intentional leisure time.” (This would be planned times where nothing is planned other than the sharing of life, lessons, and a few good questions).
  • The cave or self-reflection—where individuals make content their own through study, reflection, meditation, and personal wrestling. This is one we miss all the time! You can’t be equipped until you’ve made it your own. (This would be giving people Scriptures to read, questions to process, and time to be by themselves).
  • Life or experience—we have to leave the classroom and the cave and enter life where we learn how things works by trial, error, and seeing what happens. We often miss this, too, especially when we’re trying to implement something new in our churches. We don’t expose people to the reality of life; we expose people to the strategy for life. 

Those are the four “environments” we’ve seen as crucial to the transformation of our church, our people, and our place. These, by the way, are also the environments most people need as they come to faith in the gospel of Jesus. They need the “traditional” classroom-type environment of someone teaching the gospel and a safe community to ask questions, learn, and grow in. They also need time to evaluate the gospel on their own and with their Bibles and with prayer, and they need to see the gospel lived out in life and applied to their lives.

Any effective equipping or living out any of this missional community stuff requires an approach that works within those three spheres (church, people, and place) and utilizes those four learning environments (Campfire, Watering Hole, Cave, and Life).

Scope and Sequence for Small Groups

Here’s the scope and sequence I would suggest as you work this out with the communities or small groups in your church. There are other things to add if you were also to include things with your church and your place. (We will get to that scope and sequence and see wisdom from Todd Engstrom in a new blog series starting next week).

Campfire/Curriculum —> 1.  The Story of God  or StoryFormed Way —> 2. The Saturate Field Guide —> 3. Covenant Creation (also start DNA Groups after this process working through the D-N-A process) —> 4. 4Gs or Gospel Fluency —>  5. Evaluate and Listen to the Spirit on where to go from there.

Watering Hole —> From the very beginning make space for people to interact with the gospel during informal times. At the beginning this might just be you and a few people at your dinner table. My wife and I have always given one meal a week to a person, couple, or family in our MC just to come and be and share the stuff of life. If we don’t know them, we ask them their story or pull it out of them through listening and blessing them. This creates a culture of this happening. Also, as you complete the Covenant process, start DNA groups to do that. You don’t need a big curriculum for that, either. 

Cave —> I love how the Saturate Field Guide and the Gospel Primer have “homework” for people to do on their own. Never stop giving people those handles to push them to quiet, prayerful, and reflective spaces to internalize the gospel. This may mean giving people a question to answer each week or simply asking people when they experience solitude, silence, etc. As your community matures, you might consider creating a reading plan for the entire group to be reading the same Scripture, or use a reading plan someone else has created.

Life —> We don’t have a scope and sequence for this other than giving people challenges and encouragement to live the gospel in the places God has sent them. Common Mission is our real approach to this. Engage people together, talk about how it went, how people felt, and what they learned, and do it again. Keep trying and keep demonstrating it.

Are you ready to transform your small group into a missional community? Let us know in the comments below so we can pray for you!

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