The differences between house groups and missional communities

I had a question recently on the difference between missional communities and small group Bible studies or house groups …

House groups often tend to be a weekly meeting. People talk about ‘house group night’ – the evening in which they ‘do’ house group by attending a meeting. A missional community is about a shared life, a network of relationships, a genuine community of people.

House groups are often centred around a Bible study. The Bible is central to the life of a missional community, but the Bible is read, discussed and lived throughout the week in the context of a shared life.

House groups are often insular and focused on the mutual care of their members. Pastoral care is a feature of missional communities, but they are also groups with a strong sense of mission. They can articulate their vision for mission and identify the specific people they are trying to reach.

House groups are normally managed centrally by the church leadership. Leaders are often fearful of house groups becoming independent. Missional communities are given a mandate to reproduce organically or spin off into church plants.


11 thoughts on “The differences between house groups and missional communities

  1. Pingback: Difference Between House Churches and Missional Communities « Church Planting Novice

  2. Tim, very good observation! We are an organic house church attempting to get away from being a ‘house group’ and being more missional. Just finished Steve Timmis’ series at MHC, and was wondering if you had any advice on how we could make the transition? Thank you beforehand for your time in stewarding this request…

  3. Pingback: House Groups vs. Missional Communities « God in the Wasteland

  4. Pingback: Bible study/small group vs. a gospel/missional community « God is Better than All

  5. Tim, I am really fascinated by this, and have just encountered your blog for the first time fairly recently (will be back!). We are in an NFI church with a distinct cell structure (the famous four Ws – though I prefer [vastly!] your three Bs!). Trouble is, nobody much gets pastored, or if they do, it is because of the strength and love of our cell leader and those who watch out for each other. It is not inherent in the structure.

    The reason I mention it here is that IF you take a view of cell, house group, missional community that derives firstly from a theological – biblical perspective, rather than from PEOPLE, their relationships and needs, you can easily miss this, and end up “imposing” a conceptual structure, rather than beginning, as Jesus mostly did, with the people he met! I love your idea of missional community precisely because it has the power to reach people with what I would call pastoral evangelism – doing good works that provoke comment, that include everyone in the “mission”. I suppose my cry is that we need people in leadership who care about people first and have a deep enough understanding of the Bible and especially the gospels to relate God’s daily truth to the “plod of God” that most people are in, in difficult marriages, work situations, etc.

    Example – a leader develops a view of healing in a charismatic church that means that faith rises in the church for physical healing of long term ailments and sicknesses. Some get healed. What is undermined precisely at that point, unwittingly, is the patience and perseverance required to support, pastor, not get frustrated with, give to, accept that person who will be feeling that s/he does not belong because she has not received the favour of healing and has to live with the long term effects of whatever s/he suffers from.

    I am not against theological approaches (they are essential for clear thinking, apart from anything else) BUT am massively in favour of starting with accepting and making people know they belong. This is why your missional community will always (for me) outscore a cell model.



  6. Hi Huw

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The easiest way for me to respond is to point you to a couple of old posts. The first is just a confirmation of what you;re saying. the second begins to spell out something that is central to what we are trying to do: to create a culture in which everyone is pastoring one another with the gospel with an understanding of how the gospel offers good news in place of the lies and self-worship that underlie our sinful behaviour.

  7. thanks for this Tim. Its a question I keep getting asked, especially when I was over in SA last week. The thing that really stands out for me as different is the mission aspect – and the intentional decision for that group to be the community I expose my non-Christian friends to (rather than simply being the group who put on evangelistic events with me).

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