First impressions count. They are important in a job interview, showing your house when it is for sale or going out for the first time in the courting process (although that wouldn’t be the first time you’ve been with the person). It’s a whole lot easier to maintain a good perspective than to try and recover one that has been damaged. Your welcome to them is important for helping people feel a part of your home group and wanting to return. Consequently a smile, light-hearted welcome and a warm environment is important. Consider these principles for opening your meeting.
The meeting is about helping people know the Lord Jesus Christ.
The meeting is about Jesus Christ. It’s not about the leader, the host/hostess, the church or any political agenda. The meeting is about Jesus Christ. I think of the picture that you would see in Matthew 18 when Jesus called one of the children and set him in the midst of the disciples. The child went to Jesus, because He had the credibility of One who could be trusted and was light-hearted (i.e. not downcast) and authentic. If that is the case, then we should be that way also. You don’t have to run to the people who approach your door and wrap your arms around them like the father did to the prodigal son (Luke 15:20), but shake their hand or give them a hug and tell them you are glad they have come.
The meeting is about helping people grow spiritually.
The meeting is about those who come. Again, it’s not about the leadership team. The leadership team is not there to “talk,” have their opportunity to be “in control,” or “look spiritual.” The meeting is about intentionally helping people grow spiritually and take the next spiritual step in their walk with Jesus. Consequently, it is not content-focused, it is Jesus-oriented to help people see what Jesus is like (Heb. 12:2).
Meetings need a transition.
Meetings need to transition from walking in the world to relating with fellow travelers in their spiritual journey. That is the purpose of the welcome and for asking people how they are doing. The first question is designed so everyone would be able to answer the question. Remember, that first question in the Message Based Discussion Questions is designed to allow everyone a chance to say something. If people say something with the first question, they are far more prone to join the discussion with the rest of the questions and applications.
Use humor when it is relevant.
Use humor in small groups to draw people together. Humor is great in most settings, although not necessary in the large group setting for worship. Do not use humor if there has been a death or significant trial in someone’s life. Humor can rise up and bring people close together, but the leadership ought to be sensitive to those most vulnerable. Humor is one of the best ways to draw people close, but it should not be the humor of making fun of others or making them look foolish. That is a good way to never see people again.
Be transparent about what God is teaching you.
In the opening of the meeting, leadership transparency and authenticity are very helpful to break down walls of those who join the home group. When the leader is willing to be transparent, the discussion becomes more real. It’s like the apostle Paul saying, “I was formally a blasphemer, persecutor of the church and insolent, but I obtained mercy…” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). No life is perfect. People know it, but they often think their life is the worst. Obviously do not share things that would shock people or harm them, but reality may help them know God is working in the leader’s life as well. Transparency and authenticity will be seen in what the leadership is learning as well as what God is convicting.
Leadership should be learning.
Leadership does not need to share what he/she/they is(are) learning every week, but there should be an excitement of what God is teaching the humble leader. Every leader should believe strongly in life-long learning. People don’t want to be around those people who either “know-it-all” or “never-learn-anything.”
Be vulnerable about what God is convicting in you.
The leadership ought to share what they are learning, but also what they are convicted about. You do not need to share every sin or even many sins, in which God convicts, but leadership should have enough humility to admit when it is obvious God has brought him to conviction. Those who might become judgmental will reveal their own self-righteousness.
Try to make the opening related to the topic or the season.
The ice breaker or opening question should be related to the topic or the season of the year, just so that there is a connection. The more the whole evening can demonstrate connection and flow, the more people will sense that leadership has planned, prepared and given purpose for the home group. Intentional discipleship requires foresight. People can tell when the home group leader is “flying by the seat of the pants.”
The preceding principles are designed to help you open your meeting with warmth, authenticity and with a shepherd’s heart. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide your conversation and discussion and you’ll have a great meeting in which people want to return!