We have been launching and growing missional communities for over 2 decades, both in England and the States. Yet in those early years, we had no idea how important it would be for a missional community to have crystal clear clarity on its mission vision.
However, as we look back, what we have seen is that knowing precisely who you are trying to reach is the #1 step that a leader can take to shape the future growth of a missional community.
This ‘mission vision’ is a WHO rather than a WHAT. You need to focus on who you are trying to reach, over what you will be doing.
And since people matter to Jesus, the leader’s #1 task is to gain great clarity on who your missional community is most called to reach and disciple at this time.
Generally, a mission vision will lean more either towards a ‘neighborhood’ (a specific geographic focus) or a ‘network’ (a set of relationships you have access to). However, every group in reality is shaped by a mix of both (e.g. ‘other young families in our subdivision’, or ‘students in this specific hall of residence’).
The secret sauce for missional communities is a specific mission vision. In the hundreds of groups that we have helped start and coach, we have unfailingly found that the more specific and focused your mission vision, the better your chance of success as a group on mission.
Mission Vision in More Depth…
Missional Communities give a framework to go and reach those far outside the four walls of the church. MCs can go into a crack or crevice of society where the hope of Jesus has faded or maybe never previously existed.
There you will find people who might never darken the doorway of a church building, no matter how many times you invite them. Yet they – every woman, man, girl, or boy – need to hear and experience the good news of new life through Jesus!
The purpose of a mission vision is that it helps define the WHO that your missional community will be focusing their proactive missionary efforts on.
Too often churches grasp the concept of mission (“go wide with the Gospel!”) but miss the incarnational aspect of this commission (“go deep with a few!”). Mission vision enables us to focus both the breadth and depth of our missionary mandate into a specific group of people.
This means that your mission vision is not a ‘what’ but a ‘who’! Here’s the question: Who is God calling you to reach at this time?
One of the beautiful things about this question is that there’s no wrong answer! It can be as unique and specific as you wish, so long as you have the connections, opportunities, and prayerful passion to reach those people.
From that clarity of focus, you are far better able to work out what an authentic and effective expression of a Jesus community should look like to reach these friends of yours. You start looking at the world through their eyes. You imagine walking in their shoes. You begin to incarnate the unchanging message of Jesus into that specific cultural context.
This clarity on the ‘Out’ dimension (your mission vision) enables you to better answer all the varied questions around ‘In’ and ‘Up’. By way of example, when you know who you are trying to reach, that will define when and where you gather, the type of food you share, the sort of music on the sound system, how you will worship, how people celebrate, what kind of societal needs they want to tackle, and so on.
Almost always: The more specific your mission vision, the easier it is to develop your missional community!
As you think about who you would love to see come to Jesus, with your co-leader(s) begin to ask these sorts of questions:
- How does an expression of spiritual family need to be structured to reach these people?
- What would Good News for them sound like? (It might look different for each ‘who’)
- What does fullness of life feel like for these people?
- Who are my People of Peace there?
- How do we become ‘One Of ’ this group of people? (If we aren’t already)
- If the Kingdom was more fully present in this place, with this group of people, what would be different? How can we be present in the gap between what is and what could be?
Examples of Mission Vision in Missional Communities
Practically speaking, here are three of examples to help you see the importance of a Mission Vision.
Example #1: People living in a nursing home
Let’s say your Mission Vision is to make disciples in a nursing home where the majority of people are elderly and can’t leave the facility. While they may have biological family, their day-to-day relational network consists of residents, staff, and regular visitors to the home.
If you would like to gather people together for community worship, and because your mission vision is clear, it probably makes a lot more sense to meet early-ish in the day, worship around a piano in the dining hall singing old hymns, and invite them to serve the wider world through activities that don’t require physical exertion (e.g. knitting gloves for the homeless, praying for the local elementary school, being adopted grandparents to local teens, etc). Why? Because that would have resonance with the people you are trying to reach.
Your hope through it all is to create a community that still feels valued and useful, both to Jesus and to others.
Example #2: Middle schoolers in a low-income neighborhood
Perhaps you are trying to reach middle school teenagers in an under-resourced and low-income neighborhood.
After praying and spending some time there, you notice there’s an opening around basketball. You recognize that through this sport you have an opportunity to build community and extended family. So rather than driving the kids somewhere else, you bring good basketballs and offer pick-up games on their home basketball courts, thus building relationships in their context. The timing might be after school, or on weekend evenings, while music might be hip-hop, and worship might include graffiti art or writing modern-day psalms.
You are hoping that these early teens begin to experience the hope for a better future that Jesus brings, and consequently make better decisions that lead them down a path of life, in every sense of that term.
Example #3: Four nearby streets
Maybe your Mission Vision is to reach a specific four streets in a middle class neighborhood.
Living on these streets are a group of people who, by and large, are pretty cynical about church. What they long for, however, is to have a deeper sense of community with those who live close by. So rather than inviting them to a church service, you invite them to a weekly cook out and block party that’s opened to everyone in those four streets, where you will be exploring Jesus can help us to live a life of greater purpose and legacy.
- The kids go door-to-door each week inviting people to the Friday night cookout.
- The core of the missional community gathers to pray for the evening before people get there.
- All of the strategy is focused on seeing the Kingdom come to bear on these four streets.
- The doorway into worship might be inviting people to share one thing from the past week for which they are thankful to God, or using creation as a platform for considering the nature of God.
- Neighbors could be invited to join you in serving vulnerable downtown communities through clothing drives, fund-raising, or once a month together serving a meal at a homeless shelter.
You are aiming to demonstrate that, even in the midst relative affluence and success, Jesus can offer a deeper and more satisfying sense of purpose and significance.
Some General Mission Vision Thoughts
If you have a bunch of options that you can’t choose between (e.g. your neighbors, the friends at the gym, your son’s soccer team families, your work colleagues, your spouse’s extended family, etc), remember these things:
- Prayer is the foundation. As you pray, where do you sense the Lord leading?
- You have freedom to experiment. It’s all good! In the absence of a word from God, whoever you choose to focus your missional efforts on is a great choice. God desires that every person is saved and walking in relationship with Him. He is so happy when we try in any way to actively join Him in this great task!
- Be pragmatic – don’t try to be more spiritual than Jesus! Where would make sense to be on mission? Who would you have most fun reaching? The Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16 reminds us that it’s not wrong to make a shrewd decision. Specifically, in most cases it’s fine to decide your focused based on balancing your limited resources (especially time and energy).
- Your mission vision will probably evolve over time, so picking something now doesn’t mean it can’t shift as relationships develop.
- Remember that people aren’t robots, which means you can’t control their responses. Sometimes you make the right choice but they don’t respond as you would hope. That is not failure on your part.
- Get in the game. Sometimes the issue is your skill set is lacking. But that will improve over time – but that can only happen when you get in the game
- God’s will sometimes is a specific target (“This is the target I’m showing you. Go hit the target”) and sometimes His will is a meadow to play in (“This is my meadow. Play in it. You choose what to do within it”). Your call might be different from someone else’s. Your task is to be faithful to what you sense Jesus is saying to you, as best you can discern that.
- Again, pick something good and go for it. Don’t be frozen into inaction. Get going!
- Write down your missional community mission vision in 1 or 2 sentences. It should be written in a way that plenty of people won’t be able to join the group! It should be pointed enough that it will enable you to say no to worthy ideas that are outside of your specific focus (for instance when your group is considering options on how to serve your wider community).
- Now show it to a mature believer and ask if it is clear and specific enough.
- Remember: Your mission vision is not your life calling! Instead it is a declaration about who your group will focus most of its proactive energies on for the next season of time.
It’s well worth taking the time to nail your mission vision – this will pay off with dividends in the months and years ahead!
With love & blessings,
Alex and Hannah
PS Would you like our feedback on your mission vision?
We’d love to see what you come up with! If you would like our feedback on your mission vision, just post it below👇 (in the comments) and we will share our thoughts!
To take this topic further…
Equipping for Mission Coaching Cohort
You are invited to be part of a small group of like-minded leaders who are determined to consistently live on mission and equip others to do the same.
- Over a 12 month process we will pour into you a custom mix of theological, philosophical, and practical training.
- The focus throughout will be on building a robust missional mindset alongside personal experience of everyday missionary practices.
- You will develop your own back-catalog of stories and experiences, so that you can better train and equip others in these vital skills and practices.
A Missional Job We’ve Heard About…
A friend has told us about a church in Concord, New Hampshire, that is looking to hire an Adult Ministries Pastor whose role will be anchored around missional communities. While we don’t know the church or team (= DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE!!), we love to encourage churches that are going in this direction! If you, or someone you know, want to find out more, here’s the link: https://nlmoore.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Opportunity-Snapshot-CenterPoint-Church-Adult-Ministries-Pastor.pdf