Leading a Home Group: Small Group Definition
The early church followed the small group model. Acts 2:41-47 describes how they enjoyed fellowship from house to house and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. There were churches that met in the homes of Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3-5) and Philemon (Phm 1:2). House churches were not the option, but the norm. In fact house churches were most common, until Constantine became emperor in 274-337 A.D. as the first Christian emperor of Rome. Then church buildings, basilicas, cathedrals, replaced house churches. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the world and Christians, the church became the building rather than the body of Christ. Small groups continue to be crucial to the mission of building the kingdom. Let’s make a definition of a small group.
What is a small group (home group)? It is a voluntary gathering of five to fifteen people invited together within the church structure, built upon God’s Word in a relational environment with intentional discipleship that regularly meets to reach out to people and help all grow spiritually so that people desire to reproduce.
Let’s break that down in parts:
· Voluntary invitation – Small group leaders invite people to gather, rather than coerce them. Small groups are not put together by guilt, duty or pestering. People join small groups, because they want to join a real and transparent setting. They see small groups as a place they can grow biblically, spiritually and relationally.
· Five to Fifteen – A small group is small by number, normally about twelve people, but can be five to fifteen. Fewer than five people can make discussions difficult, especially when a few get sick. More means that people are less likely to be transparent or ask questions. Small groups often have co-leaders, so with their spouses and one additional person, you have the minimum of five. Fifteen allows the number twelve Jesus worked with plus a few additional people who may join until another group is formed. If a small group is larger than fifteen, the transparency fades as walls and a lack of trust often form. In larger groups, more time is necessary for interaction and discussion. A smaller group allows for easier trust development and openness. A small group means that people are more willing to ask questions.
· Within the Church structure – This means the small group is connected to the church and the small group leadership is under the Church’s spiritual coaching staff. Therefore, the small group is not independent from the church. This is why the vision and purpose of the small group should be established under the larger Church’s vision and purpose. Small groups can have a unique statement related to Matthew 28:19-20, however.
· Built upon God’s Word– There is one foundation for the Church and small groups – God’s Word. Everything else is sinking sand. The people and the small group will not grow spiritually, unless they are built on God’s Word.
· Relational environment– Small groups provide the relational environment where people develop trust, enjoy fellowship and care for one another. It is the ideal place where the “one anothers” can be practiced. The relational environment is also where the wisest accountability, encouragement and unity of the Spirit will be experienced.
· Intentional discipleship – Small groups gather to have fun in encouraging others to grow. But they do not allow the growth to happen by chance. Individuals are asked to try opportunities of leading in hosting, prayer, facilitating questions and follow-up. The leadership develops a plan of helping those who are willing to take greater responsibility and to learn how to focus on the needs of others, rather than only their own. Eventually, many of the people will be offered the opportunity to lead their own small group.
· Regularly meets – Each small group decides how often it will meet. Normally they will meet weekly or even biweekly and meet for one and a half hours. Sometimes people stay later talking about the lesson or personal things. The group can meet in a home, restaurant, office, or church, but the home probably provides the most relaxed setting for interaction and warmth.
· Reach out to new people– Small groups are designed to invite new people to them. They may be closed in some cases, but most should be open to expand the small group ministry. There are many people who will not darken the threshold of a church, but will easily join a group in a home. Some small groups may be very evangelistic and have open doors to hungry souls.
· Help all grow spiritually– When the main focus is helping people grow spiritually, they will become transformed by the renewing of their mind and they will reach out to others. The fact that there are a variety of people (and not all older, sage Owls) allows new people to realize they can fit in also and not feel like they have to put on a spiritual front. Small groups are excellent training and proving grounds to let people move through the spiritual stages of spirituality.
· Desire to reproduce– While the comfort of trusted people gather because they enjoy each other, the leadership must continue to cast the vision of reproduction. Small groups provide the environment as a great tool in the fulfillment of the Great Commission to multiply disciples. Spiritual parents lead small groups with the desire that disciples will rise up out of the group to go lead other groups.
Let’s build on that definition and watch the Holy Spirit build a magnificent local body of mobilized Christians hungry for truth, dependent on God’s Spirit and trusting in their heart to reach new people.