There are four ingredients to the philosophy of ministry for home groups at Grace. The four ingredients are Biblical Foundation, Relational Environment, Intentional Discipleship and Reproducible Process. Everything about the home group must be derived from the Bible and the environment must emphasize relationships. The following guidelines establish why a Relational Environment is essential.
A strong factor in having small home groups is to demonstrate caring relationships. It’s difficult to be transparent and maintain intimate relationships when there are more than 20 in the group. The whole local church body is designed to function as a body in its care for one another, and the home group can show an especially good picture of that fulfillment. Paul wrote,
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:20-25 NKJ)
The home group should be able to highlight a special care for each other that may not exist in a larger group. The home group has a great opportunity to show caring, sharing, meeting together and unity.
Genuine Fellowship from the shed blood of Jesus
The greatest commonality Christians have is the sharing in the shed blood of Jesus. That overshadows every other difference, which means Christians should be able to get along with each other better than anyone else! John wrote,
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7 NKJ)
As those in the home group walk in the light, they will have genuine fellowship built on Jesus, rather than just worldly interests like sports or hunting.
Shepherding in the flock
In any home group there will be people in different stages of spiritual growth. You’ll have spiritual infants alongside of spiritual young adults. Each must be cared for and challenged individually. The home group leadership should consider Jesus’ words,
14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 NKJ)
Home group leaders are shepherds of their home group. Shepherds feed, guide, lead, affirm, hold accountable and rejoice with the sheep (Ps. 23). They are like elders in the church (1 Pet. 5:1-5). There are times when home group leaders will need to be ready to sacrifice their own interests on behalf of the flock.
Loving by our Actions
Home group is certainly about discipling Truth to participants. But discipleship is far more than book knowledge – it is Truth put into action. It includes caring for the physical, emotional and relational needs. John wrote,
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know1 that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. (1 John 3:16-19 NKJ)
Home group is a great microcosm of the church to put caring into action in a relational environment. Below are several principles of how to make the environment warm and friendly. Demonstrate the relational environment with:
As you welcome people into your home group, look them in the eye and give them a genuine welcome. It’s easy as a home group leader to be so content-focused that you forget, “It’s really about the people.”
Interest in their lives
Take an active interest in the lives of the people. Home group is about the people, not everything going on in the home group leader’s life. It’s great to be authentic and transparent about issues in the leader’s life, but that should not be the focus. The people should sense the leader is interested in their lives.
Face to face interaction
A home group is always set up in a circle, so there can be face to face interaction. When someone is talking, give them your full face view and eye to eye contact. If you are listening, but not looking, the participants will wonder if you are engaged with them.
Affirm the responses
Acknowledge and affirm the responses of participants. You do not need to affirm every response, but affirm often, so they know you are engaged, tracking and want them to be a part of your group. Even if the thought is a little “off the wall,” you can always say, “That’s an interesting thought. What do the rest of you think?”
When someone is not there, make a follow-up call. That demonstrates he matters and his presence was missed. In our society, people are not committed like they used to be and that discipling follow-up call can make a difference to increase his level of commitment to the group.
These may seem very basic, but they are important in creating the Relational Environment you want in a home group. They may sound easy and academic, but making them second nature and real takes quite a bit of practice and review. The stronger the relational environment, the better the home group will solidify and become disciples.