As a Christian, is your home open?
Having spent some time studying the early church and in particular, those great chapters in The Acts of the Apostles, there is something that really excites me about how the development of the early church was borne out of ordinary people’s homes. Yes, there was still worship in the temples of those times. Yes, there was still enormous reverence to be paid to great gatherings in the temple courts and sanctuary. But if we look at those infant times of the Church, we’ll see that intimate growth, facing the challenges of the times, sharing one’s life as a Christian, all took place in their homes.
I’m writing about these things, in a very excited manner, because on two evenings this month, the church we as a family attend, are going to make a complete review of their Home Groups. Part of me is nervously excited about the outcome of those two occasions. Part of me is apprehensive, with many questions as to what, if any, will the changes look like.
Let me paint the scene, as a family, we have reunited with the church which I was a member at for 17 years, and the same church which my wife and I were married in 10 years ago. During the 17 years I was privileged to be a member, I also had opportunity to lead two separate Home Groups. The church at that time had six Home Groups which met once a month, in place of a corporate prayer meeting, which took place on a weekly basis. The number of Home Groups has stayed consistently at that number, almost since their inception. What has changed is the frequency of Home Group meetings. They now happen twice each month. In terms of numbers attending the Home Groups, it amounts to approximately eighty people across the six Home Groups. The corporate prayer meeting attracts about sixty to seventy people. The church has a membership of a little under two hundred people. The church is situated in the very heart of a busy town centre, where parking is at a premium, and if one is not able to get one of the few free parking spaces, those attending the meetings, will need to pay for two to three hours for parking fees.
In setting that scene, it appears to be quite logical to argue that Home Groups for those who are members or who regularly attend the church, would be a much more viable option to attending a mid-week meeting. However, when less that half of the members actually attend the Home Groups, one is left to ask the question, what will attract more people to the Home Groups? Could it be to do with the format of the Home Group meeting? Could it be to do with the limited number of groups? Could it even be to do with those who lead the groups? I’m merely posing the questions, not necessarily having any or all the answers to such questions.
What drives me to ask the questions is directly linked to strongly desiring growth in the church, both numerically and in spiritual depth. I have written in a previous blog about the lack of growth in the Churches across the UK, over the past twenty-five years, plus. With those same thoughts in mind, i.e. how does the church attract the un-churched? In my personal experience, it is far easier to invite and attract a non-believer to a person’s home, than trying to encourage them through the doors of a church. We all have neighbours who are not Christians. We’ve possibly had those same neighbours either on our doorstep or better still actually in our homes. So, the next step is to have a regular event in our homes that attracts the neighbours, that has an evangelistic tone and that encourages the neighbours to know that as Christians, we are really concerned for them as individuals, and particularly their spiritual welfare. This does not have to be seen as something that threatens the neighbour, threatens the church leadership, could be seen as a breakaway church meeting in someone’s home, or becomes so cultish that it seems to the neighbourhood like there are some really crazy people living close by.
My heart cry, is that we will be so concerned for our neighbours, that the most natural thing to do, will be to invite the neighbours around for a coffee and discuss some of life’s most important questions. I’m reminded of Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” series, where in the introduction, Rick lays out the requirements for being able to run a Home Group (He calls them Small Groups). Rick asks the question, “Can you make a pot of coffee? If you answered ‘Yes’ then you can host a Home Group.” I, too, see it as simply as that. You don’t have to be some gourmet chef to host a Home Group. A few cups, a kettle and a jar of coffee, will suffice. If you have concerns about leading a Home Group, here again, you don’t have to be a deep theologian to lead. The key to leading is simply in being prepared. So that might mean reading a little bit more ahead of the time when you lead the Home Group. Anticipation is something that is worthwhile having in your key skills for leading. If you are just a little bit ready for leading and anticipating possible questions, then that will go along way to being confident as a leader. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to answer every question, just because you ‘have’ to give an answer. Far rather be honest enough to say you don’t have an answer, that you will look into finding answers, and then agree to come back with what you might have found in terms of answers.
So to draw this to a conclusion, I’m anticipating some exciting times ahead in the life of the church we’re involved with, and we’re praying and hoping that through Home Groups, we can become closer to the mission of the church. I would love to see growth in the church through a strong development in the Home Groups, as I firmly believe that as with the Early Church, when major growth took place, there is great opportunity to be seized as the church looks to change and grow.
If you want opportunity to discuss this further, please get in contact with me. I would love to talk through the ideas and thoughts with those who have similar concerns and excitement for Home Group development.