Home Group is a great training center for building disciple-making leaders. It is the place where those who want to become disciple-makers can practice leadership in a safe environment and take the risks of making mistakes. The home group leader has several persons in his group that have potential to lead and he puts them into position to practice leading. The most important ingredient is for the home group leader to be a spiritual parent, through the love of Jesus, who sees every individual as a possible leader and approaches him for the various opportunities to lead. There are several aspects necessary for home group.
The first aspect is the place to meet. The best place is a home where everyone can meet in one room, but a group can meet in an office, church, or even a quiet restaurant. The home is normally a more relaxed place and it is convenient for the host couple to arrange the room and provide a treat. It is best to have a second couple to be responsible to host, although in the beginning the Home Group Leader may have the group meet in his home in order to set the example of what the meeting place should be like. Chairs and couches work best. Metal folding chairs, used to supplement the comfortable chairs, can work as the group expands, although if only metal folding chairs are available, it will not be as comfortable. Have a simple treat, that is normally available after the main study, but can be used as the group is assembling. See the article on “How to host a small group.”
The second aspect is the discussion. Provide ten minutes for the people to arrive and begin discussions about their day, the Lord’s work and reconnecting. The next ten minutes is designed to let everyone say something. I encourage the “Message Based Discussion Questions,” because they have a built in opening question that is related to the subject and is simple enough for everyone to have an opinion and say something. It is key to have everyone say something initially, in order to help everyone identify with the group and take ownership by saying something. Some people, if they do not say something in the beginning, will be quiet the whole evening. Of course, it may be a night when someone needs to be quiet, because of a death in the family or another difficulty. You do not need to force everyone to say something, but do not let two weeks go by without someone saying something. On the other hand, there will be people, who do not realize how much they are talking. See the article “How to handle a controlling talker.”
The next 25 minutes will be for the “Digging Deeper”questions. This is where there are questions related to the main topic of the message. This can also be a time when particular aspects of the message can be discussed, where someone has a question, an insight, or a personal enlightenment about the subject comes up of interest to the group. In fact, home group leader should be flexible enough that what the people want to discuss related to the topic, whether the message itself, particular questions, or a related question, may be where the Holy Spirit is leading that discussion. The “Digging Deeper” questions provided are there as a guide and framework for discussion. The home group leader must love Jesus so much that he is aware of the needs of the people more than getting through the “assigned” questions. The priority is the people, not the questions.
The next 30 minutes is designed for application. This is the most important part, but also the most difficult for people. Most people can academically understand content, but application and implementation is difficult and there can be long pauses. DO NOT FEAR the silent pauses. WAIT and let the people think through the questions and then respond. DO NOT fill the silence with your own application. If you are nervous as a leader, you will tend to want to fill that silence, but that is exactly when the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of His people. Consider follow up questions to a person’s response. Affirm their response with your eyes fixed on them. Make sure they know you are excited about their contribution to the group. Everyone may not contribute, but it is BEST if they do.
The final 15 minutes are best used for caring and prayer support. Ask if there are any prayer requests and concerns. Ask how they can best apply what has been discussed. Have an assistant keep track of these requests as well as the leader and make sure the last person who prays covers anything that was not prayed for by the group. There are many ways the prayer portion can be conducted. You can do “popcorn” prayer where people pray in any order, but this often leaves many people who will choose not to pray. You can create an order of prayer by name, but that is usually too intimidating for people and they may not want to come back. The best way, I have found, that allows people to choose not to pray and yet stretches people to pray is to start with the person to the right or the left of the leader and go around in the circle. The grace aspect is if a person would like to not pray, then he or she can gently tap the next person on the side of the knee to let them know they can pray and the tapping person will not be praying. I have been amazed at how well this has worked in a group!
That encompasses one and one half hours in duration. The home group Leader can adjust this, but do not let the group go much beyond this time. There may be a good discussion, but the leader must be sensitive to people who need to leave, get up early the next morning, pick up children if they are at another location, or the hour and half is enough for them. It is more important to allow those people to leave, than keep them waiting for a release point, because someone is talkative or even if the group is having a good discussion. Flexibility is key, but you want people to come back. You can also continue the discussion over the treats. Sometimes the “treat” discussion can be as valuable as the sitting group discussion.
A third aspect of the home group is follow-up. The leader will do some of the follow-up at the start, but secure another couple to make a call to those who were not at home group. The call is simply, “We missed you. Is everything okay?” Or, “I’m just calling because I noticed you were not there and I wanted to make sure everything was okay.” The purpose is not to pry, but to let the people know you are available and are genuinely concerned. It is not to “guilt” them into coming back or make them explain their absence. That is between them and the Lord, but the leadership team is responsible to let those who missed home group know that they were missed and are loved.
A fourth aspect of the home group is for daily prayer. The leadership team should remember the members of the home group in prayer each week if not daily. Just as parents pray for their biological family every day, so the home group leadership team should be in prayer for his home group members.
A fifth aspect of the home group is training replacements. This is actually the underlying crucial element for the multiplication vision. This must be on the mind of the home group leader as much as anything. God’s kingdom will not be built as God desires, unless multiplication is an important element of home groups. Secure a couple to host the home group so others can practice hospitality. Secure a couple to do the follow-up calls. Additionally secure several men to facilitate the discussion. They do not have to be brains on a stick. They just need to know how to ask the questions, be winsome in personality and learn how to affirm and draw people out to develop them as disciples and disciple-making people.
Do not try to make home group any more complicated than this. Make it simple, fun and relationship oriented. When the invisible reality of Jesus is more real than anything else to the leader, then the home group will flourish!