Missional Communities: Clarifying Terms

Missional communities are foundational to the ministry of InterVarsity, but what do we mean when we use this term? Currently the key words that describe our initiatives in Planting, Growth, Evangelism, and Discipleship may vary between different areas, regions or leaders of these national initiatives. This document will clarify some of our key vocabulary and provide common language for national use.


InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is a missional organization, sent into the university world to form missional leaders and communities of members that witness to the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. There are many words that could describe our posture and style, and this introductory paper describes our missional nature.

Missional communities are incarnationalevangelistic, and apostolic. These three characteristics are defined in depth in the following pages, along with implications for InterVarsity leaders and chapters.

  • Incarnationalliving out the gospel in the world around us to reveal God’s power and love

  • Evangelistichelping skeptics and seekers begin to follow Jesus

  • Apostolicsending out people and communities to plant the gospel in unengaged areas


Missional communities form as groups of students or faculty members recognize that they are on campus for a reason. They band together, motivated by their relationship with Jesus to participate in God’s mission for the campus, welcoming the incoming kingdom of God through both internal transformation and external work toward reconciliation, justice, and healing.

Why is this important?

Students and faculty in missional communities realize that they are on campus not only to gain a degree for a career, but also to seek the good of the campus and the glory of God. They long to see the gospel advance among their peers and within university structures and cultures. Missional communities help leaders and fellowships to grow holistically. Members grow in Christ: in intimacy with God and others, like Christ in character, and with Christ in his mission.

These communities are not hidden, but actively exist on campus to create new opportunities for demonstrating and communicating the Good News of Jesus. A missional community is sent by God’s Spirit. Scripture describes a variety of ways that God’s people are sent out for his redemptive purposes in the world. These biblical stories may resonate with our experiences today. Sometimes a missional community may feel like God is sending them into barren exile, or sent for a particular work, or perhaps sent into the Promised Land of fruitfulness. Regardless of outcome or circumstances, experiencing a missional community sent by God is an opportunity to embrace with joyful obedience.

--by Jeff Yourison and Bret Staudt Willet