Fairly new to the mainstream church—and very attractive to the Millennial generation—is the concept of missional communities. Distinct from a community or small group, a missional community is (according to an article in The Gospel Coalition) “a community of Christians, on mission with God, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, who demonstrate the gospel tangibly and declare the gospel creatively to a pocket of people.”
Here’s an example: Trinity Grace Church in New York City has developed a thriving missional community process. Each of their missional communities consist of about 20–50 people, all living in the same neighborhood, who gather to connect with the heart and mission of the church. According to Trinity Grace: “Missional communities are organized around a shared mission to a neighborhood or industry. They cultivate partnerships with schools, organizations that provide social services, business leaders, activists, community organizers, and anyone else who loves his city and wants to make it a better place to live; they then leverage those partnerships to implement strategic projects aimed at redeeming and renewing that neighborhood.”
Why Missional Communities Appeal to Millennials
For a variety of reasons, from the way they’re organized to the issues they address, missional communities meet the needs and desires this generation holds close. Here are five reasons why I believe this type of organization is particularly compelling to churches wanting to engage Millennials more actively:
1. They are focused on a specific vision
Millennials want to get behind a cause and serve the greater good. Because missional communities are focused on a clearly defined missional vision, meetings go beyond being merely social gatherings. Their point is to accomplish specific goals that will benefit the surrounding community—which offers an important additional benefit to churches, which is that missional communities can appeal to nonbelievers who want to work toward the same goal. They can join in on God’s work and get to know him along the way.
2. They feel like family
Millennials seek opportunities to engage in meaningful work with people they love. A desire to travel and experience the world has meant that many find themselves far from friends and family; others are looking to experience the connectedness and support of a family for the first time. Missional communities are large enough to make a substantial impact (and for new members to join without feeling spotlighted or singled out) but not so large as to be impersonal.
In the words of Daniel Im, Church Multiplication Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources, that missional communities are “small enough to care, but big enough to dare.”
3. They can be really convenient
Millennials are all about convenience and ease of use, and this includes friends and church groups. Often focused on neighborhoods or specific parts of town, missional communities offer a way for people who live, work, or play close by to do life together. Meetings in the neighborhood are fun and easy to attend.
4. They offer opportunities for close connection with the community
Millennials want to make an impact in their own communities. Many enjoy having a community and a place to do ministry simultaneously. Missional communities allow Millennials to be of service at home, helping their neighbors in practical ways and by speaking truth into their lives.
5. They are a gateway to greater involvement
When Millennials set their mind to something, their passion is undefeatable. Churches that invite Millennials to engage in and help shape the church will find them to be enthusiastic participants. They’ll want to serve in other capacities as well, becoming door greeters, parking lot attendants, or daycare volunteers. By creating a culture of serving and missional living, missional communities make a huge impact in the community while also helping to shape the view of the church to the outside world.
6. They are not hierarchical
Missional communities don’t adhere to formal structures outlined by the church; their structure evolves organically. Lay leadership is integral to missional communities, which allows for additional involvement by members. Millennials thrive in less structured groups, allowing their passion and creativity of expression to be the driving forces.
Missional communities are, in many ways, optimal environments for engaging Millennials to maximize their experience with and commitment to a greater good. The heart behind these communities and churches often beats in sync with the heartbeat of Millennials.