In many of the times I address groups of church leaders, I recommend that they invest at least 20% of their time in sponsoring and supporting missional ministries and pilot projects. If leaders agree to do that, the most common question then is how—how do you start? You can’t do it all, so how do you decide where and how to invest?

Here’s an exercise I call “sorting the soils” based on the parable of the sower. We assess our groups, determining their readiness and receptivity, and sort them by category. In his explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus determined the various levels of receptivity, the blockages, and what was needed. This process is much the same.

Sort the groups you oversee into the following six columns, left to right:

  • Hostile: actively blocking movement toward becoming more missional
  • Resistant:  don’t make me (digging in heels)
  • Passive:  ignoring all attempts to interest them in the missional journey
  • Cultivatable:  if you work with them for 2-3 years, they could eventually move in a more missional direction, but not in this next wave.
  • Receptive:  conceptually embrace the missional journey, but may need help to figure out timing, ownership, and how to go about it. Not ready yet, but could be in a year or so.
  • Ready: want to commit, buy in. If resourced well, is ready to embark on the missional journey.

This exercise can be an eye-opening experience, and taking some time to reflect on where each of your groups are at can help you better prioritize how to invest your energy to increase missional ministry.