Stages of Missional Community Development – Small Group

As we have led missional communities at The Austin Stone, we’ve found there are some common transitions in the life of our communities, and this series is discussing those four stages. They are:

  1. Community Group
  2. Small Group
  3. Team of Missionaries
  4. Missionary Team


Stage 2 – Small Group


As a Community Group begins to have a heart change, a Small Group emerges.  This is a community where people have a desire to make disciples but don’t quite know how.  Rather than needing a change of heart, these kinds of groups need to work through a host of practical challenges.

Often times Small Groups still have relationships that are newly forming, but they have gone through a significant experience together (a training that casts compelling vision, a crisis in the group, etc.) or there are very few natural barriers to their community (the groups that just “click”).

Main Obstacle to Mission

Whereas a Community Group has a “want to” problem, a Small Group has a “how to” problem when it comes to mission. Generally, they want to make disciples but have never seen it modeled and are not sure what it actually looks like.

Often times the biggest hurdle to cross in this stage is helping them understand when they gather in different ways, not every person in the community needs to participate.  Attempting to align 12 to 15 schedules together is nearly impossible, so our best coaching is to try and think differently about gatherings and to redefine success for them.  

Main Coaching Point

A Small Group needs to be given practices and rhythms that facilitate a life of intentionally making disciples. Practically as a community, they need to spend time walking through how Third Place, The Family Meal and LTG’s would happen each month so they can start putting their desires into action.

We coach Small Groups to find places where 2 to 4 people can gather, and occasionally try to gather everyone in the community at more convenient times.

We have also found that often times a group will try different gatherings a couple times, then abandon them because they “didn’t work”.  We work very hard to teach them that these practices are not a magic bullet, but healthy rhythms that will produce more faithful communities over time.

Key Transition Point To “Teams Of Missionaries”

This group begins to shift as people start to put into practice rhythms that enable them to hang out with their friends far from God in natural ways. When a Small Group has actual names of people to pray for and ask God to save, and those people start to show up in places with the community, they are headed in the right direction!

What are some ways that you have helped a group of people with a desire for common mission practically? Share in the comments!


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