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Small/Home Groups

As local church communities grow into large congregations it gets harder for the church leadership to address all the needs of the larger growing congregation.   Creating small groups / home groups is a strategy to help fulfill the material and spiritual needs.  There are advantages in this strategy.  In this article we will address the strategy in a biblical way and discuss how to form a plan and execute it.  We will lay out the who, what, when, where, how, and why of small/house groups.


Are Small Groups/Home Groups biblical?

This is a very simple answer.  Yes.  Jesus regularly met with all his apostles, shared meals with them, and taught them a way from all the teaching he was doing in the temple.  The Apostles would do the same.  Justin Martyr and other early church leaders record the same. 

Acts 2:46
"46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them[a] those who were being saved."
Not only did the 1st generation of Christians go to the temple to worship, they also continued their worship and fellowship at each of their houses.  Being over hundreds in number, they broke up into small groups and met every day.

Acts 20:20
"20 and that I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching it to you in public and from house to house."
We begin to see two forms of the Christian Community; public and in the house.  The house time was where they did communion ("broke bread").  Why did they not do communion in the Temple?  At that time it would not have been permitted.  Thus we see that the home meetings were more private and special in nature.

The house meetings DID NOT replace public/community wide meetings.  We see that the Apostles would teach in the temple AND in the house.  Thus the teachings in the home and public were the same but in a more personal way.

Hebrews 3:12-13
"12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception."
See a meeting pattern?  Meet and encourage daily.  Church is not a business where you just meet with your leader once a week or when ever the 'project manager' schedules a specified meeting time.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ!  They are family!  Not business partners and class mates.  In other words a house group and small group is bigger than just people you meet with once a week for the scheduled 'small group' time.  This this how we treat our mother and best friends?

Hebrews 13:1-3
"Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
Meeting as a small house group is more of an intimate and personal setting that fosters the deeper love and purpose which builds each other up very efficiency and effectively.

Also read our Healthy Church Test

WHO - The Set Up

Keeping up with all those who meet in the small group is the key.  If the Elder or Deacon or chosen small group leader by a Elder or Deacon is unable to keep up with all their regular attendees than clearly it is too big and becoming inefficient.  Using the model that Jesus used we can safely say this:

12 total members with 3 close members and 1 leader.

The leader delegates the planning and communication with the 3 close members for the other 9.

The Leadership Role

The leader is not an authoritative dictator to demands people to do what he says but the leader leads by example and humble service.  Again, we see Christ as the prime example.  He gave simple instruction to the apostles in some cases and in others he did the tasks himself and explained to them why he did it.  His group was in mind when he did what he did and said what he said.  He lead by example.

This role does however require an individual who is spiritually matured enough to be a leading wise humble servant.  Leaders who are rash, less wise, some times selfish and prideful who give commands more than serve are not fit to lead small/house groups. 

These leaders need to know and understand the gospel message to such a degree they can show their group how to give the gospel to others.  They need to understand how to make disciples and teach the gospel message in a clear manner.  The gospel is the primary message of all Christianity; thus a essential for anyone who is shepherding any amount of the flock.


WHEN AND WHERE

The leader would discuss with all the group what day is best to meet regularly.  This way all the group attendees can plan and prepare for each meeting as needed.  The location would also be decided as a group with the final decision by the leader.  

As daily communication with the group is highly important; the leader would setup the means of constant communication by what ever means is the most effective for the entire group.  Group texts, email chain, facebook group, and/or messenger apps.
  • A location and time most convenient and closest for majority of attendees.
  • Public facilities:
    • Starbucks (any coffee house)
    • Library
    • McDonald's
  • Private facilities:
    • House
    • YMCA 
    • Local church
WHAT

What the house/small group does is very important as well.  To neglect to meet and show hospitality is self defeating for a small group.  These meetings are intimate and personal which have a much deeper unique impact than corporate/public worship.
  • Have dinner together
  • Discuss the weeks events
  • Sing hymns and songs to the Lord together
  • Study God's Word 
  • Pray for each other
  • Confess to each other sin
  • Encourage each other to focus on the Lord and be thankful
  • Discuss ways to serve the Lord in public/plan public service events with each other.
For an outline of conducting a small group in detail, please check out our Small Group Format page
 
WHY

Doing all these things as a small intimate group will stir up holy living through loving accountability and confession and spur spiritual growth through sound teaching and gospel focused encouragement.  Love for one another is why. 

John 13:35
"35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
John makes it clear that 'love' is not a feeling; it is an action which includes the gospel message!  Your small group will be known by its message (or lack of) and how they live by that message.  Small house groups who are Jesus' disciples, proclaim the gospel message through how they speak and why they serve.  Service and Love without the gospel message; is not true love.

1 John 4:7-12
"Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us."
As John states, "love was revealed" in the gospel message and "love consists" of the gospel message.  A small group that does not proclaim the gospel message is a clanging dong and just spends vain time together.

1 Cor 13:1
"If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
(please understand Tongues of Angels of 1 Corinthians 13)

It does not matter if you can effectively communicate or and use super awesome language that incites people to follow you; without love, its pointless.  The sweetest words or gritty truth is just worldly noise without the gospel message.
  • It is a model Jesus, The Apostles, and their disciples used
  • It is a more personal, and intimate setting
  • It provides better opportunities for direct encouragement and support
  • It is a more private atmosphere allowing more serious and 'close to home' discussions
  • It allows for all participates to ask questions and understand more clearly
  • It ensures that all attendees can hear and understand The Gospel Message
 Also read: More Valuable than Money | The Satisfaction of Christ Jesus | The Self and The Center of Everything

HOW

Get involved in your church!  Join small group or a home group and learn to serve. As you grow and the spirit leads you into serving as a leader, you then pursue the process in your corporate church on how to become a small house group leader.  

If you are not part of a church, yet have a couple close friends who know the Lord than just take them out to lunch or dinner and ask them if they want to start something.  Then have them reach out to other friends and get others involved.  Over time, some may fall away, but those who are lead by the spirit and hungry will remain.
  1. Join a local church to begin serving that community.
  2. Participate in their small/home groups to learn beginning group skills.
  3. Join the small/home group leadership team
  4. (without a local church) List close friends who would be willing to meet regularly for fellowship and worship
  5. Meet personally with each person who is joining the small/home group before they attend to assess their schedule, willingness to participate, and where they are in their faith.
  6. Determine the best time and place based on the closest persons schedule and location.
  7. Be consistent and reliable.
Also read Your Personal Ministry and Missions

Toxic Small/House Groups

The value and opportunities in small/house group is clear but that does not mean that every small/house group is beneficial or function properly.

Leadership

A leader that is not a good communicator or is a poor scheduler, technically does not disqualify them from leading a small/house group.  This is where the other close members step in and serve.  As Christians, we all are called to serve where there is a need.  What makes a leader toxic depends on what is taught and encouraged.  Complacency in Sin, Hyper-grace, Health, wealth, and happiness are all toxic teachings that begin people down a road that leads them away from God's truths and a different more carnal way of living.

It stems from the leadership.  The attendees will struggle; this is almost expected.  The leadership should be spiritual mature enough to address the struggles as they arise as teachable moments to foster growth in each individual.   

The questions you ask your self about your small/house group are:
  1. Do we serve the community?
  2. Do we share The Gospel Message to each other and the community? 
  3. What makes our small/house group different from a group of atheist or Muslim small groups?
  4. Do we continually challenge each other to grow and trust God more? 
Summery:

Small/house groups have been a highly effective strategy since the foundation of the Church.  It allows for a much deeper and meaningful fellowship and worship which serves as a unique tool for the corporate local church.  It grows individuals and matures them.  It fosters future leadership.  It is fairly simple and inexpensive to do and maintain but like all things God gives us, they can be used for toxic reasons.  Please join a local small/house group and serve the Lord through it.

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