Normally, timeliness is important for showing up to work. Your paycheck depends on timeliness. Timeliness is important if you are going to get married. It’s not a good way to start out marriage by being late to walk down the aisle or keep the bride waiting. Timeliness is also important if you are in a race or game. The whole team depends on you to be timely or your final race time depends on timing. But when it comes to church meetings, some people are more lax. Why is timeliness important for home group? Add these principles to your perspective.
Let people know they are just in time.
The purpose of a home group is to provide a relational environment intentionally to help others grow spiritually to be a spiritual parent. Be excited about people when they arrive at the meeting if they are new, you know they will be late, or they look like they just changed a flat tire in the rain on the way to home group! Most people know they are late and they do not want to be late, but they often are. Tear down their guilt walls by telling them with a light-hearted, “You’re just in time to get into some great discussion.” A relational environment means you care more for the person at this point, than you care about his timeliness.
Timeliness respects those who are timely.
Most people will arrive on time. It’s terrible when the pastor wants people to be on time for church, but then shows up late for home group. Yet even he can make a mistake OR be caught up in traffic. Give people grace. But help people, at a point of non-conflict, that is, when lateness is not an issue, to see that being timely respects those who are timely. When people are consistently late, they are making decisions that focus on themselves rather than respecting (and loving) others.
Meet with people who are consistently late.
This is not a game losing issue, yet it is important for those who are being discipled for leadership. Leaders need to be on time, because timeliness reflects “doing all things decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40) One person once said, “God may wait, but He’s never late.” So talk with those who are late outside of the group that night or on another occasion to help them understand the principles that will bless others regarding timeliness.
Timeliness can become a legalism.
Some leaders can use timeliness as a legalism. It can work from a human perspective on some people, but most, who will see through the legalism, will move on to a different home group. Timeliness does not create spirituality. However, it is way to respect others and demonstrate care for the whole of the group.
Never rebuke in front of everyone else.
When someone is late, never rebuke the person in front of others. Remember this axiom, “Praise in public and rebuke in private.” Unless the person is a leader, he should not be rebuked in public. When someone did something wrong, everyone else knows. Others may make a joke, but not the discussion leader. And the discussion leader or home group leader will not make the late person feel foolish or let others make him feel foolish. Keep it light and approach the person later.
God is a God of order, not confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Some cultures, like in the Philippines, are more focused on the event, than on the clock. When I was to speak at an event, the missionary who was hosting me got us to the site on time, but the rest of the people showed up one hour later. They did not think anything of it. American culture is different, but leaders should be relaxed and more concerned about the person’s heart than concerned with the clock.