Below, I have formed a list. Perhaps you’ll be able to add to it. Let’s get started, and I’m sure you’ll be able to gather where I’m going with this…

Growth Groups

Home Groups

Bible Studies

Area Bible Fellowships

Life Groups

Home Fellowships

Cell Groups

Community Groups

Connect Groups

Seriously, what’s different about all of these gatherings? Maybe there are some minute differences, but for the most part they have the same types of people, content, and purpose. Let me be clear – I am not trying to bash these groups. In fact, many of our lives have been richly impacted and even transformed by groups like these. They can be incredibly powerful and have served a good purpose (and will continue to do so) in the church.

The point I am making is that while churches can call “small groups” by many different names, their function remains the same. I know we have changed what we call our small groups several times over the past few years, without altering what actually happens within them.

So here we are, kicking off 2014 and bringing a whole new name to the table: missional communities. Is this really necessary? Is it just another name change? What’s the difference between a missional community and a small group/home group/Bible study/growth group/you-get-the-picture group?

Before we discuss the differences – and clearly there are some – let’s set your mind at ease by highlighting some of the similarities.

Similarities Between Missional Communities and Small Groups

Any time you intentionally bring a group of Christians together in one place at one time, you can assume several things will take place: fellowship, prayer, and Bible study. These are fantastic, God-honoring, Bible-commanded, and life-giving! Both small groups and missional communities include these elements.

Both emphasize fellowship. Human beings crave fellowship because it benefits our well-being. Christians need fellowship to grow spiritually. It’s so cliché, but we must “do life” with other Christians. Jesus’ entire ministry began with recruiting a group of guys with whom He could “do life.” Before the church blossomed in Jerusalem in Acts 2, Jesus was already modeling this way of living for His followers. Thankfully, fellowship is something most of our churches do well, and we definitely want to keep doing it well. Missional communities emphasize fellowship; however, we tweek it (not twerk it) just a tad.

Both strive for spiritual growth. This is obviously something that we do not want to discourage! As the church, we want our members to spur each other on to become more like Jesus. In the case of small groups, this primarily takes place through prayer, discussion, and Bible study. Of course, we want to continue to sharpen one another in these ways. Guess what – in missional communities, we are going to encourage spiritual growth through prayer, discussion, and studying the Bible together!

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?! They sound like the exact same thing! In my next post, I will outline for you why they aren’t the exact same thing. In fact, there are some key differences between missional communities and small groups so check back in a few days.