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Small Groups

Small groups play a vital role in any church – but they need to be well led! The features in this section will help you along the way in training leaders for the small groups in your church.

A Fresh Approach to Homegroup Bible Study

[Your Name Here]

Written by Bob Grahmann

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Many small groups could discover vast new vistas of the Bible if they discovered Manuscript Bible study!

It’s astonishing how little Manuscript Bible Study is known in Britain - considering how fruitful it’s proved elsewhere in getting people into the Bible in quantity.  So we in Living Leadership are proud to present this introduction, praying that it will empower many homegroups – and even whole churches – to dig into God’s Book in an entirely fresh way…  

So how do you do Manuscript Bible Study?

 

Be Expectant

Let’s start in the right place. The Bible is God’s living Word.  As you approach a manuscript study, pray that God would meet you, so you experience God himself in his Word; speak to you as a friend to a friend; teach you his truth; surprise you with some new insight or discovery; and transform you over time into the image of Jesus.

But then what?

 

Type out or download the passage

Here is the first thing that makes manuscript study distinctive. You’re going to create your own Bible manuscript, which can be marked up freely and colourfully, but with no “helps” such as headings or notes at the bottom of the page.  There is just you, your friends, and God’s Word!

Choose a section of the Bible – a short Bible book for example.  Then you type out or download your chosen passage - but double-spaced; in a block (“justified”); and without any verse numbers, chapter divisions, headings, or paragraph indentations. 

That means that everybody in the group is going to have to explore its sections and flow of thought for themselves. This allows us to see the passage in a very fresh way!  (You might find it helpful when it comes to discussion to have line numbers every five lines in the right hand margin.)  And, give enough white space, and wide margins, for participants to be able to write comments, ideas, questions, observations.

Now the fun starts!  (And by the way you need lots of coloured pencils!)

 

Look closely: take time individually for each of these…

 

  • Read the passage through carefully, a few times, and write down specifics that you see: who is there? what is happening? when is it? where is it? how is it happening?
  • Circle (or highlight in different colours) signs of the passage’s flow of thought - words, phrases or ideas that are emphasized by repetition, or that connect by contrasting, being similar, progressing from the general to the particular, or stating a cause that leads to an effect.  Look out for connections like `Therefore`, `But`, `Then`.
  • Put yourself into the passage.  If it is a narrative, put yourself into the story.  What do you see, smell, taste, and feel?  Choose one of the characters and become them.  If it is a letter or law section, feel what it might have felt to get that letter or hear that law.  If it is poetry, let the power of the poem and its images sweep over you.
  • What responses and questions does the passage raise in your mind?  What words, phrases, or concepts don’t you understand? Does the passage turn in any unexpected ways? What intrigues or puzzles you? Write these questions down too.

 

  

Think Deeply

 

  • See if the passage can be divided into thought units, sections, paragraphs.  Look out for changes of setting or theme.  See what sentences you think add up to a thought unit, and mark that as a paragraph.
  • Now write a brief title for each paragraph.
  • Look at the context of the passage.  What comes before it in the Bible, and after it?
  • Consider the questions you wrote down earlier.  Look hard in the passage for insights into these questions. 
  • One of the best ways to move towards answers to your questions is to look for connections among the paragraphs. Is there a word, phrase or idea that repeats?  Is there a contrast?  Is there a cause in one paragraph and the effect in another; or a string of similar words, phrases, or ideas that run through a few paragraphs? Draw coloured lines between the connected words or phrases to mark them.  What do you think is significant about these connections?  What light do they shed on possible answers to your questions?

 

  

Summarize

Look at your connections, your questions, your points of significance, and the context.  Step back and ask yourself: what are the main points of this passage?  What is the author trying to say?  Why is this passage or story here? Try to write this in an integrative sentence.

 

Hear from God and Act Boldly

Now you’re moving from “What does this passage mean” to applying it -  asking, “What does this passage mean for me, or for us?”

As you ponder your study, do you sense that God is speaking to any part of your life? Is there a promise to trust, a command to obey, or an example to follow or avoid?  Is there a deeper insight into God or your experience with God? What action are you going to take in response to what God is saying to you? Processing and applying the main truths of the passage after they have been discovered is an essential part of manuscript study.

 

The Joy of Community

That’s not the end. Manuscript study at its best is communal, done in a group that discovers and shares together, coming to a common sense of the passage.  So, after you have studied the passage on your own, share it now with your trusted fellow believers, in small groups.  Get their correction, their affirmation, and their insights.  

 

Worship!

Now take the time to pray together about what you’ve discovered.

Worship God and respond to his love for you. Thank him for speaking to you in his living Word.

 

Be warned…!

Manuscript Bible study was developed by Paul Byer of InterVarsity USA in the 1950s, and since then through InterVarsity staff and missionaries it has spread all around the world.  Why?

 

  • It’s fresh
  • It helps one see the themes in a series of chapters or entire Bible book - often as we never have before
  • It’s based in discovery; the learners are not told what the passage says or means, they discover the facts and meanings for themselves, and apply the text to their own situations.  The teacher acts as a facilitator, helping the evening along; learning happens through the group generating questions from the text, seeking to answer them, and then putting these answers together to form the main truths of the passage. 
  • It’s communal - there is a combination of small group, large group, and personal study and interaction.
  • Anyone can learn to do it
  • It’s a guard against heresy and false teaching
  • And it’s interesting and fun!

 

 

Bob Grahmann.

Bob Grahmann is director of InterVarsity Link, which recruits, trains, sends, and helps care for graduates and staff from the US who go overseas to work with the IFES among students. He also serves as worldwide director of the Bible & Life discipleship and Bible study training programme, which is used in the US and many countries around the world.

 

© Bob Grahmann.

Global Vision in the Homegroup

[Your Name Here]

Written by Pete Lowman

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

God is a missionary God; and from its opening pages the Bible shows us his passionate heart for the lost, worldwide.
 

So: we are reflecting his nature, and his Spirit’s control (look at Acts 1:8), in a very thorough way as we care about the lost world in the self-giving way he did (see John 3:16 for that!)  And as our group grows more and more like him, we can expect this nature to be expressed through the contributions of our various members.  


Some things to think about, then:


1. How may the Lord use us as leaders to help our group on into a deeper vision of global mission as the shape within which everything else we do finds its place?


Vision is primarily caught, not taught.  Inspiring stories help! Who do we know in our church (or churches we’re close to) who has such stories, that we can field occasionally in our group?  People who’ve worked for missionary reasons in other parts of the world, or who grew up in another country and can help your group pray about it?


Part of the homegroup’s job is to introduce its members to wider (and more colourful!) issues.  So, a globally oriented event in the homegroup programme twice a year?  What about a creative regional evening - eg on east Asia: Chinese food, Chinese music CD, China prayer issues?  


But it's good too when in an `ordinary` Bible study we can catch at opportunities to pick up on the global and missionary dimensions of the passage we're studying.


Make space also to care and pray about the suffering church abroad, using websites like www.barnabasfund.org .   


Build in chunks of time for returned missionaries who are briefly back home. 


It's good if we can include one global prayer item each meeting - eg from the newspaper (the amazing Operation World book will give us brief supporting information on how the church and the gospel are doing in a country that has just hit the news).   A missionary website can also help;  www.omf.org.uk is great for east Asia, www.latinlink.org for south America, www.arabworldmedia.org  or www.interserve.org.uk for the muslim world.  This gives us the essential big picture - `Yes, our prayers here really can affect Greece!` 


And then PRAY!


2. What creative ideas do we have for enhancing how we relate to the missionary our group supports?


Facebook and Google Earth have shrunk the miles!  Nevertheless, sending a group e mail or letter is still a great idea. But if people in our group are busy, we may find it hard to find someone to actually write it.  So, we can have a laptop at our group meeting and then everyone can contribute to an e mail - or even send a physical letter on which everyone has written or drawn something.  Or, pass around a mike to record an MP3 (or, depending on the missionary, a cassette), on which everyone can speak. Or better still a Skype phonecall where different group members can talk to the missionaries live?  Or our kids to their kids?


(If you need any technical help with any of this, don’t be ashamed to ask – someone in your church will be happy to help!)


Maybe you know one of your missionaries abroad well enough to know what hobby magazines they enjoy, and you could arrange a subscription as a birthday present - or for their kids.   Or, maybe, when you see a new book you know they would enjoy, you can send it to them.  And not just spiritual books – indeed with some of these you would need to be careful; it wouldn’t be good at all to send someone working in the Middle East an exciting new book about breakthroughs in muslim evangelism!  But secular books too; funny books; books for their kids.  


If they’re in a place where it’s not easy to download, then perhaps a new CD of their favourite music, or their kids’?  Is there special food we can safely send to our missionary?  Some of us love marmite and you can’t get that in many countries!  And it’s nice (and easy) if their kids get a card from you on their birthday (and is there a game that can be sent them by post?); or indeed perhaps their ageing parents.  (Just why don’t we do that?)  


Missionaries too tend to be very busy, so we want to write to them for prayer news in a way that doesn't increase their workload too much.  In fact there are ways we can pray for them without having to get information from them at all: just think of what’s hard for you, and pray about the same things for them.  Having good times with God, for example; sharing our faith; loneliness; singleness; sexual temptation; marriage tensions; relationships with colleagues; plans for the future - we know how to pray these things for ourselves, and we can be there for them in prayer on exactly the same topics.  Or, for variety, use the prayer topics in Eph 1:15-20, Phil 1:9-11, or Col 1:9-12.  A third alternative to using a missionary's prayer letter is to send them an e mail in which we ask for one-line prayer requests in eight categories. (Afterwards we can use these in eight successive weeks.)  For example ask for prayer requests on:  health issues; adapting to language and culture; the children/family; their outreach plans; people they're discipling; money coming in (and could your homegroup help with this by a fundraising walk or ball?); the missionary's parents.


And of course, find out when the missionaries are home, and plan (and advertise) a lunch with them.


Do check carefully with their sending agency, however, as to whether there any things you shouldn’t mention in communications with your missionary, or particular phrases you should be very careful to use - `talk to Dad` rather than `pray`, for example. 


And: Would it be feasible for your homegroup here to `twin' for a three year period with a homegroup in the church to which your missionary belongs out there?-  link up on Facebook/Skype, exchange messages, photos, postcards, local papers, Google Earth...?  Have your kids be in touch with their kids?)


3. How in our homegroup can we respond to a world event like September 11 that may open up new global evangelism opportunities - or alternatively may close doors for the gospel?


Give space to cope with people's initial reactions.  Help them come round to a positive insight.


Bring the newspaper to the group meeting. Again, Operation World is a great resource for background.


Get people thinking: How will this affect the view that different peoples have of Christians and the gospel? Is Satan trying to close doors - how should we pray?  Is God opening up opportunities - how should we pray? And what will it mean for isolated Christians?  


4. How as a homegroup might we relate to the positive opportunities presented by the many people from hard-to-reach countries who have come to our town?


This is above all a matter of encouraging awareness: that ministries like Friends International exist (www.friendsinternational.org.uk); that there may be many foreign students in your town or one not far away who would love contact with a UK family (even to cook a meal!) – and they may well come from `closed` countries where missionaries are unwelcome.  Christmas especially is a great time to invite international guests who otherwise might be extremely lonely, and show them Jesus.  You will find that any sacrifice involved in this ministry is much more than compensated!


How can we bring out people's fears of the unknown when it comes to making friends cross-culturally? Help them hear that God is interested in our doing what we can do, not what we can't do. Maybe include time in the first week of the month to pray about this ministry. Maybe use the summertime when people are more relaxed anyway.


(We might even end up sending a mission team abroad from our homegroup!)


Obviously we as homegroup leaders aren't going to do all these things; but God will send opportunities  for us to encourage some of these things, and learn together to have God's missionary heart….  `This is our God.  This is what he's like!'



Pete Lowman.

 

A Prayer for the Home Group Leader's Fridge

[Your Name Here]

Written by Pete Lowman

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

 

Sunday: Father, please help me grow as a homegroup leader!

Monday: Father, please grant each of us more vision for what our group can be, and for what you do in us as we meet together.

Tuesday: Father, please speak to us clearly and practically as we read your Word, and as we pray, and worship, together. 

Wednesday: Father, please bless the person leading our next group study, as they prepare and lead.  May everyone contribute helpfully.  And may our group be a safe place where less experienced leaders learn to do it better and better; help us give them the help they need in preparation and leading, and help us help them with encouragement and positive evaluation afterwards.

Thursday: Father, please lead us into a healthy group prayer life.  Help us see the prayer issues arising from the Bible passages we read together; help us pray fruitfully for each other’s needs in life,  work and the family; help us pray wisely for our church, our town, and global mission.  And please help us spot and be encouraged and thankful for the answers!

Friday: Father, please help us learn to be true worshippers, `in Spirit and in truth’.  Please deepen our love for you, and help us develop what we read of you in your Word into heartfelt praise and thanks.

Saturday: Father, please help our group be a place where we genuinely encourage, build up, pray with, and are accountable to each other.

Sunday: Father, please keep us from obstacles to a healthy group life, like grudges, hidden agendas, and insensitivity; and please help me and others to help our group wisely in growing beyond them.

Monday: Father, please help us reach out effectively to our fringe members; to newcomers, to our members who cannot come often, and to those who have grown a bit cold. Help us be creative in texts, phonecalls, cards and visits, and may they not get isolated from the church and from you.

Tuesday: Father, please make our group an encouraging place, in which we each feel safe to participate, and free to make mistakes. And grant us someone in the group good at spotting giftings and finding openings for people to learn to exercise them, in the group and also more widely.

Wednesday: Father, please help us in praying effectively for each other’s specific steps forward in witness; and help us see what bridge-building events we can do with each other’s neighbours and friends.

Thursday: Father, if any of our own group members are not yet your children, please help us help them into full faith and salvation through their relationships with us.

Friday:  Father, please bless our link missionary  ____________________; please help us understand how to be of real support to them, and may they feel genuinely supported by us.

Saturday: Father, please raise up more gifted leaders in our group, to encourage us and move us on in the different parts of our life together!

 

Pete Lowman.

Leaders for Small Groups - the Potential and the Challenge

[Your Name Here]

Written by Gordon Dalzell

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

The Vital Contribution of Small Group Leaders

In evangelical churches across the UK thousands of small groups meet every week to encourage believers in their discipleship with a mixture of reflection on the Bible, prayer and a deep sense of being the family of God together. Small groups are one of the most significant ways many believers learn to apply God’s word to their lives and to be supported in prayer by their friends. Church leaders appreciate the warm pastoral support and the community building that small groups provide.  And many of them long for the groups to become centres of growth and discipleship in an even deeper way.

Group leaders therefore occupy a vital place in the life of our churches.  But our prayer investment, training, development and encouragement of them does not always reflect their importance as leaders. We often pray for our pastors, missionaries, elders and other leaders in our churches and invest in their support and training when the leaders of our small groups rarely get the same attention.  

It is Living Leadership’s deeply-held conviction that this is a critical failure.  If small groups are to bring about, under God, the kind of robust discipleship that we all want to see in our churches then training, supporting and praying for small groups leaders needs to be one of our highest priorities. 

 

Christian Leaders’ Enduring Vision for Small Groups

 

In an address on “Body Life” Jim Packer said:

It seems that every time there has been a spiritual quickening anywhere the pattern of Malachi 3:16 has been fulfilled: “Those who feared the LORD talked with each other.”  They got together for this purpose.  I think that the small-group movement of our time if rightly guided by true ideals of church life holds tremendous potential for renewal in the churches.  The fellowship pattern is there, ready made; what it needs is the touch of God. 

 

And George Whitefield:   

If we look into church history we shall find that as the power of God prevails, Christian societies and fellowship meetings prevail proportionately.  My brethren, let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls.  To this end you would do well, as others have done, to form yourselves into little companies of four or five each and meet once a week to tell each other what is in your heart, that you may then also pray for and comfort each other as need will require.  None but those who have experienced it can tell you the unspeakable advantage of such a union and communion of souls.  And none that I think truly loves his own soul, and his brothers as himself, will be shy of opening his heart in order to have the advice, reproof, admonition and prayers of his brethren.  A sincere person will esteem that one of the greatest blessings.

 

In this emphasis we see a vital, but off-neglected, element in the biblical ideal of leadership.  In addition to being teachers of the Bible and preachers of the gospel, leaders must be sources and facilitators of fellowship.  They must be shepherds and counselors who can care for the sheep one-to-one. One test of their work is that wherever they bring the word of life, they gather those who are alive to God and show them how to fellowship together in groups.

Julian Hardyman (Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge) preaching from 1 Thessalonians in 2009 commented:

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  There are two commands: “Encourage one another”, and, “Build each other up”.  What Paul is calling for means deciding to be outward directed and focussed on others.  There is an assumption behind his words: that we are in close community with other believers.  Notice also that what he’s calling for is mutual: one another.  We are both the encouragers and the encouraged. We are both builders and building.   

 

Christian community is like a building project.  Each member is like a wall that needs proper building AND a bricklayer who needs to build the walls well.  This is a privilege for ALL to share in - mutual ministry between all members of the congregation. This is a wonderful invitation to play our part in a Christian fellowship where every person is empowered by the Holy Spirit to encourage and build up others, something that small groups are uniquely equipped to facilitate.

This underlies the crucial importance of such groups.  Each of us needs a smaller setting than a main Sunday meeting where we can share our lives with other Christians, and where the relationships grow through which we develop as Christians. There are some things that can only happen as we seek to live Bible- centred, prayerful lives with a few people, encouraging one another and building one another up.

 

What We Want Small Groups To Be – Abounding in the Grace of God 

 

At Living Leadership we believe that the main purpose of small groups can be summed up in three words: growth in discipleship. We want to see small groups that help people absorb and apply the God’s Word in such a way as it leads to worship, trust in his promises, repentance, encouragement and wholehearted following of Jesus. We long to see more and more groups praying for one another with understanding and sympathy.  Being transparent with one another, sharing the challenges of daily life, family, sickness and the workplace. Becoming centres of mutual support and practical help. We long for the multiplication of groups that are open and honest, where there is no pretence because members share an overwhelming awareness of the love and grace of God.

 

Equipping leaders to lead grace-filled, God-glorifying groups like this means:

 

  • Cultivating in leaders the vision of their group becoming a growth-in- discipleship-group, a far greater vision than just a Bible study
  • Helping them know and receive the grace of God in Christ for their lives and know how to help others do so
  • Encouraging them to pray fervently for the group, love the group well and  not merely settle for being a group organizer
  • Getting good support structures in place for developing and encouraging group leaders in our churches

 

Our contention is that groups grow in discipleship when leaders are growing as disciples. When leaders have little investment tailored specifically to their own spiritual growth and their growth in leadership, it is very unlikely that their groups will grow spiritually.

 

 

Home Group Leaders - One Possible Job Description

[Your Name Here]

Written by Pete Lowman

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

The homegroup leader plays a vital role in God’s work.  She or he seeks to make sure that homegroup happens, and that it encourages all its members and helps them grow towards God and in his will.

BUT: This DOESN’T mean the homegroup leader themselves looks after the group in all the following areas!  In many cases below they may simply identify and encourage someone else who can look after a specific area, and help them find the resources and support they need.

 

So in that sense a good homegroup leader is someone learning to facilitate:

  • Helping group members catch and renew the vision for what they’re doing together (and know exactly when and where it’s taking place)
  • Helping the group grow towards God as they feed on the Bible in well-led discussions together
  • Helping the group grow towards God as they pray together
  • Helping the group grow towards God in worshipping together in a way that suits the group’s character
  • Encouraging an atmosphere of trust and friendship, where group members can share burdens and experience true caring, support and encouragement
  • Praying for the group’s members, and seeing that someone stays aware of each person linked with it and tries to see that they are cared for and feel included and loved.  Also, calling on the church leadership and others with special experience if situations arise beyond the group’s ability to handle.  (The homegroup is the place above all where fringe members and newcomers get looked after; so if care doesn't happen through the homegroup there's really no other `safety net`, and people can get forgotten and lost.)
  • Helping the group to encourage each other in the gifts each of us has, and to find ways of using them
  • Helping the group to encourage each other in growth in witness. (Note: This might mean taking an active role together in something like Alpha.  But it’s primarily about our group life encouraging and supporting each other in witnessing where we are; eg, in praying consistently for small, specific steps forward in the relationships we each have with not-yet-Christians; and arranging bridge-building events as appropriate that can deepen our links with each other's not-yet-Christian friends and neighbours.)
  • Encouraging the sense of being an enthusiastic, contributing part of a larger church family that is going somewhere together.  (This might mean doing something together to help welcome people into the church, eg Sunday morning coffee or cooking, but also simply helping the group stay envisioned and prayerful for where the church is going.) (Note:  Homegroup leaders are normally expected to be church members and to commit themselves to its statement of faith annually.)
  • Encouraging active expression in our group of God’s heart for the whole world; particularly in practical support for the group’s link missionary, and other mission involvements group members may have
  • Attending homegroup leaders’ events as far as possible (and working prayerfully through the notes when it isn’t!); and in general being responsible for the group to the church eldership
  • Encouraging the growth of assistant leaders who share the leader’s ministries and in time will take on leadership responsibilities themselves according to their developing gifts.

 (NB: the best person to look after many of the above aspects in practice may very well not be the actual homegroup leader)

 

Pete Lowman.

 

Fostering Evangelism Through Home Group

[Your Name Here]

Written by Pete Lowman

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

How can we foster evangelism through our homegroup?

 

God so loved the world that he gave the very best thing he had for the sake of the lost world.  So any group that truly reflects his nature is – somehow - going to reflect his profound love for the lost as well.  And that includes our homegroup!

 

There may be huge variety among our groups as to whether actual evangelism can play a part in group life.  Some groups will be made up of people who serve at other times in the week, and come to homegroup tired from work and simply needing input.  And that’s fine.  Yet all our groups can have a big role in our church’s outreach, if part of our group life is to pray regularly (in twos and threes?) for our closest not-yet-Christian contacts, and for the next specific steps forward (developing a genuine friendship?  one good conversation about life? lending a book? bringing them to church?) that we'd like to see with them.  This can help enormously in finding our individual way forward, and in getting real, essential collective prayer behind our individual witness.

But are there other possibilities?  We can start a discussion about this in our own group by asking: From the ideas below, which way of moving forward sounds most like us?

 

Sowing

 

By "sowing" here we mean developing links with people we hardly know or don't know at all.  Which of the following sound most interesting or feasible for us?

One idea might be for some of us to visit the homes around where we usually meet, while others stay behind to pray.

The prime aim of this is to build relationships, not to present the whole gospel; it can take several visits to a home before a safe `bridge' is built for a serious conversation about faith.  But we also need to define our goal, with invitations to something specific, eg an Alpha launch supper.  An interesting spin on this might be if it’s socially-based; we may get to know people better if we are going door to door to raise money for Amnesty International or Christian Aid.

(An unusual and helpful book on this is Justyn Rees’ Love Your Neighbour for God’s Sake.)

 

Another sowing idea is "servant evangelism": What can we do that creatively shows our neighbourhood Christ's love?  For example:

 

  • carrying shopping to cars at a local supermarket
  • car washing
  • compiling and distributing local information
  • gardening
  • cleaning graffiti
  • giving away easter eggs, flowers, free bedding plants, free produce
  • homemade mothers' day cards
  • and...?

 

 

Principles for servant evangelism activities:

 

  • make it family-friendly and get the kids involved
  • do a quality job
  • no charge for the service
  • not obviously a pretext for a message
  • rather, the aim is to surprise and challenge people’s preconceptions of Christians
  • creating relationships rather than talking at people
  • generating questions
  • non-threatening
  • not competing with local business

 

(For more about this see Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness.)

We need a long term project of shifting people's perceptions so that they associate events they enjoy, and people they get on with and who cared about them, with the church…  so that they see the gospel…

 

Bridge-building as a homegroup

 

Here we’re talking about building closer friendships with people we already know.

Which of these sound like us? Which could we invite our friends to?

 

  • A barbecue (maybe in a series of homes, where each time the host family invite their particular neighbours?)
  • A picnic
  • A family day (as a homegroup, or in partnership with 2-3 other homegroups)
  • A walk
  • Charter a barge
  • Classical music evening
  • Introduction to jazz or Indian music evening
  • Idiot's-guide-to-using-a-computer evening
  • Invite friends (both Christian and non-) to tea before going together to a carol service
  • Simpsons evening
  • Friends (the TV programme!) evening
  • Cooking: Use your culture – eg Caribbean or Chinese or Polish food. (But keep it non-stressful - it doesn’t imply an ornate meal!)
  • Joint project doing something for others (eg gardening makeover, DIY, wallpapering)
  • Birthday party
  • Colour Me Beautiful
  • Watching Six Nations rugby together

 

… or anything else (what ideas do we have?) that brings people into our homes… that gives us opportunities to talk together, get to know each other...  and builds friendships that will  find further expression outside group meetings… The aim of the first contacts to lead into the next contact: `Keep it coming'….

(An especially helpful book full of ideas of this kind is Paul Mogford, 50 Easy Outreach Ideas.)

Which of these could we do this summer - either on our own or in partnership with 1-2 other housegroups?

 

A Step Further

 

Finally we can think and pray together about activities like Alpha and Christianity Explored, where people can learn about Jesus and the basics of Christian faith…

Realistic dream: An Alpha for every 2-3 homegroups in our church!  Is it realistic? What would we have to do to make it happen?

 

Principles of good small-group activities like this:

 

  • Base them on friendship - bring friends (neighbours, colleagues); prepare everybody to come and make new friends
  • Home-based, therefore welcoming and natural
  • Social element - leisure - especially food (very important as a barrier-breaker)
  • Any such event needs a welcomer
  • Really aim to get to know about each other
  • Table football helps (sometimes the competitiveness and ritualized banter are the base of much male bonding, where for women it might be conversational intimacy??)
  • Not pressurized: you can pull out whenever you want
  • A place where you can ask anything
  • A leader is needed who can set the right atmosphere: build the self-confidence of participants… create a sense of acceptance…  create a sense of normality…  not use jargon… ask questions rather than having all the answers (`a humble Bible scholar who however waits to be asked')
  • Encourage and pray for those who do have the gift of talking naturally about Jesus to look for chances to do so, and pray together for those conversations afterwards

 

 

Five final thoughts...

We want to be people who take time to listen, time to get past barriers, to hear where people really are.  And provoking questions can be as important as giving answers.

Maybe plan five minutes during a social event to explain to our neighbour-guests just what our group is for - `putting you at your ease so you know we’re not doing something weird’ (one response was `Oh, so that’s what you do every Thursday with all those cars coming’)

Everything we do in this should be marked by joy that displays the nature of the Kingdom.  (Smiles! Humour!)

This is spiritual warfare and nothing will be gained without very serious, sustained prayer for specific steps forward in the lives of specific individuals and for defences to come down – so, serious dependence on the Holy Spirit.

We're called to live by faith.  So, expect an element of risk, of going beyond our comfort zones, of adventure, if we're really headed where the Lord wants us to be...

 

Collated by Pete Lowman, with thanks especially to Simon Hodgson.

Vision Review Questions

[Your Name Here]

Written by Pete Lowman

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Every homegroup needs a vision review occasionally.  If we lose our grasp of God’s vision for our group - why it's important, where we're going together – we’ll lose the sense of why it matters that we’re here.  And then, not only will we be much the poorer ourselves, but our whole homegroup may start to lack cohesion and commitment and even fall apart.

So, what questions can help us focus on where we're going, and why it matters so much?

 

FIRST: WHY DOES HOMEGROUP MATTER?

 

A starting question for the group:  We meet with God in our personal quiet times; in our homegroups; and together on Sundays.  What does someone lose who is never present at a large-group, Sunday event?

Our answers may include: the worship, the teaching that is different from what happens in a small-group context, the sense of being part of a large community going somewhere together.

But then what are the things that we miss if we miss out on homegroup?

The answers may include:

 

  • Support, relationships, friendships. (And relationships are at the heart of the Christian life - loving God and loving your neighbour.)
  • Learning that impacts us specifically and personally - the opportunity for real growth.  (Application can't often be so personally practical when the larger group meets.  And, this is doubly important for eg youth group leaders who may be missing out on the teaching on Sundays anyway.)
  • Release of our gifts, and opportunities to learn to exercise them in a context in which we feel safe if we make mistakes and freer to fail
  • The chance to ask the real questions we have
  • A place where we can be vulnerable and enjoy a measure of accountability
  • A place where we can share burdens and experience true caring
  • Real, specific prayer, and the chance to watch specific prayers being answered

 

SO WHAT THEN IS OUR HOMEGROUP VISION?

 

One way of looking at this is to take four central aspects of church life  - worship, mission, maturity and fellowship – and ask: How do we hope - or, how are we called - to `be church' in this respect in our homegroup? 

Perhaps we could pencil in some time in our group over a month to look at each of these values briefly together (one value a week?)?  Or, we could take a whole week's session in December to look back over the year and prayerfully reflect?- and then make a list of the ways which we hope to grow between then and June?

Also, for ourselves as homegroup leaders it may be good to have a list of prayer issues to pray through over the year; perhaps where we take each one of the questions below in succession, and pray around it for two weeks....?

 

WORSHIP IN THE HOMEGROUP:

 

Question for the group:  Lord: how as a homegroup can we grow in worshipping you better in our time together?

(Three notes first: (a) A reassurance for you and the group(!):  The homegroup leader doesn't need to be `the worship leader'.  In fact it will probably be better if they aren't the same person. Or, different people can lead worship each week; perhaps planning a Bible passage, or a piece of music or poetry or tape or video, to lead us into worship.

(b) Also, the group may need to be reassured that we really don't have to force ourselves into singing!  This can easily make us feel failures if we just aren't that good at it, and/or if we haven't got a skilled guitarist or pianist.

Instead, we can slow down and prepare our hearts for worship using a tape or CD (and this can also be secular music), or simply stillness and silence.  Likewise, we can use instrumental versions of worship songs, where we aren't forced to sing along although we can if we wish.

(c) There are lots of good ideas here

In what ways would we like to see worship expressed in our group?....  How might we better express....  joy, reverence, the Word of God, prayer, praise, creativity, music, silence, changed lives, communion (why not?), silence... How?

Another question for the group: `Worship` also refers to our service and devotion to God 24/7, living by his presence in everything we do.  (Work, home, relaxation...)  So then Lord:  how in our homegroup can we better express that vision of our whole lives, 24/7, as lives of worship?

 

MISSION IN THE HOMEGROUP:

 

For the group: Lord: how as a homegroup can we grow in outward mission, and so together reflect your nature, our God who loves the lost world so expensively?

Reassurance again; This does not mean `How can we run a homegroup Alpha', or even `How as a homegroup can we take an active role in the church Alpha, eg booking a table together' (though it might!- could it?)  It could also mean:

  • How can we be more deliberate in praying consistently for small, specific steps forward for each of us (one good conversation with a workmate... one good conversation with them about Jesus... one step forward in developing a friendship... one book lent? )
  • And how can we be better at looking out for answers as we pray these things for those around us?- an `answers to prayer' book to record God’s interventions and encourage our faith?
  • If our homegroup is a fairly localized one: What might we do to better reach out to new neighbours as they move into our area?
  • What might we do as bridgebuilding events - maybe twice a year? - that will deepen our links with each other's not-yet-Christian friends and neighbours? Check here for ideas
  • The Lord's desire is for us to grow and indeed multiply. How eventually can we imagine that happening to our group?
  • And also pray: Lord, how as a homegroup can we grow in actively expressing Your heart for global mission?

 

MATURITY IN THE HOMEGROUP:

 

For the group: Lord: how in our homegroup can we grow together in maturity?- to know you more, and to grow more like you?

For example: How can we grow better in our Bible study together? Within this, how can we become better at leading Bible studies? (NB: The best person to look after this aspect of things may again not be the actual group leader.)

 

  • How can we be better at responding to what we read, eg with prayer for each other?  And, how can we become better at putting into practice what we learn?
  • How can we develop greater reality in our prayer together?
  • How can we spot and encourage each other's gifts in the safer context of our homegroup?  And how can we affirm these gifts?- eg by `Gift Lists`, sharing and writing down encouragements about what we see in each other?  (One group did this in the style of a "Consequences" game, with notes of affirmation stuck on people's backs!)
  • How can we see more in our homegroup of.... encouragement; deepening Christlikeness; deepening surrender to God; mutual challenge; learning; cultivating the expectancy of God really at work within our group.... ?

 

FELLOWSHIP IN THE HOMEGROUP:

 

For the group: Lord: how can we build more genuine love and community in our group?

 

  • What fosters the kind of atmosphere where we are able to pray with each other, and feel encouraged and safe in participation?-  the atmosphere of trust and friendship in which we share with each other, and can really encourage each other in a maturer obedience to the Lord?
  • What are the obstacles to this? and how do we grow around them? - eg grudges, hidden agendas?
  • How can we really help each other grow?- meaning, how would I like to be helped to grow by a fellow group member?
  • How can we grow in mutual hospitality? (Once again though: the homegroup leader quite possibly shouldn’t double too often as host; it’s not that easy to multitask, caring both for hospitality issues and also looking after the meeting.  Our role may well be mobilizing other people's gifts in the group - what one of our own church’s leaders referred to as `holding a halo over somebody'.)
  • How can we ensure that everyone feels included, and supported as need be (eg organising meals for families with a new baby?), avoiding any situation where individuals feel isolated?
  • And how can we reach out most effectively (by texts, phonecalls, postcards etc) to the fringe members in our group, or to members who are unable to come often?  (But again: the best person to look after this may well not be the actual homegroup leader; but as leaders we encourage the person who is gifted this way and see they have the resources they need.)  The homegroup is the means above all in our church through which fringe members can be shown love and care in one way or another; if care doesn't happen there, then there's probably no other "safety net" – and if it’s a medium-to-large church, people can easily be forgotten and lost.
  • So how could we see more in our homegroup of.....   real prayer; making time in which we share each other's stories and learn more about where each of us is at in our pilgrimage with God;    mutual commitment; hospitality; LOVE?

 See here for more on building community

 

CONCLUSION

 

So then: when and how might we help our group to reflect on these questions?

They can also be prayer topics for us as individual leaders, helping us to focus our direction - perhaps praying around one of these questions per fortnight.

But hopefully they can also form a basis for our group reflecting together on where we're going, as a homegroup, in each of these four aspects; for taking ownership together of going forward; for developing a sense of the qualities we want to develop together (eg mutual prayerfulness... openness... confidentiality... commitment to being in contact...etc??), and a sense of what we each hope to bring to the group's growth, and what we hope to receive from it; and for evaluating prayerfully how we're doing, and how by God's grace we want to grow...

 

Pete Lowman

 

Vision-Building in Home Group

[Your Name Here]

By Pete Lowman

 

The crucial starting-point for vision in our homegroup is our own vision for God and what he is doing in our group.

Which is a problem when we are as tired by work, family issues etc as everyone else!  We need to pray for a lot of grace from God.

 

Question: So what are we trying to produce in our vision-building?

 

A sense of commitment and enthusiasm among group members for the group's purposes

Vision is a vital issue when so many of our group members are so very busy. If they aren't helped to keep hold of the vision for our group (that is, if they don't keep hold of (a) why it's important, and (b) where it's going), they won't feel it's a priority to come; and then regular attendance overall may drop, and the group may start to lack cohesion and commitment and even fall apart.  So, we want to think how best to keep focus on where we're going, and on why it matters so much...

 

Why should our members care about their home group? 

 

Because a healthy spiritual life is like a three-legged stool. It has three dimensions, and will be seriously weakened if any of the three is lacking: (i) personal times with God, (ii) close fellowship in a small-group context, (iii) worship and teaching in a large-group context.

 

A question to discuss: What does someone lose who is seldom present at the church’s large-group, Sunday event?

 

We know the answers to this - the worship, the sense of being part of a large community of believers going somewhere together, the power in preaching that is different from what happens in a small-group context.

But then comes another question we can ask: 

 

So what are the things that people will lack if they miss out on small-group/homegroup?

 

Hopefully(!) our answers will include: 

  • Relationships/friendship. (And relationships are at the heart of Christian life - loving God and loving your neighbour.)
  • Learning that impacts us specifically and personally – ie, the opportunity for real growth.  (Application can't often be so personally practical in the larger group. Note: This is doubly important for eg children’s teachers who may be missing out on the teaching on Sundays anyway.)
  • Release of our gifts, and opportunity to learn to exercise them; a context in which we feel safe if we make mistakes and freer to fail
  • The chance to ask the real questions we have
  • A place where we can be vulnerable and enjoy a measure of accountability
  • A place where we can share burdens and experience true caring
  • Real, specific prayer, and the chance to watch specific prayers being answered

All these are things we can help our group see as what they will miss if they miss out on homegroup. Without these, Sunday-only attendance can mean just being part of a crowd, just being a passenger.  We need both Sundays and homegroup.

(NB also: seeing how important homegroup life is, underlines for ourselves how significant the homegroup leaders' contribution is…!)

 

How can we summarize our group's purposes in a way that people can remember (and so be enthusiastic about)?

 

One simple approach is to think of it as three-way: the group helps us in our relationships with God; with each other; and with others outside the church. One homegroup had an abbreviated version of its mission statement as `Without Walls': without walls towards God, towards each other, and towards the outside world.

Three-way directions are easy to remember, though they need unpacking a bit…

  • Relationship with God includes Bible learning, and prayer, and worship
  • Relationship with each other includes community-building, and caring
  • Relationship with others outside includes evangelism, and world mission

(It is this third category, seeing our relationships with others outside as a goal of the homegroup itself, which some of our group members may find difficult.  How can we help them?  It’s essential if we want to grow like God together.  God is love, and loved the lost world so much that he gave the greatest thing he could give for it (John 3:16); so any expression of authentic discipleship must have that same vision for the lost world; it can't be (collectively) selfish or (collectively) totally self-centred.  This certainly isn't to say that every homegroup needs to run an evangelistic activity (eg Alpha or doorknocking in the neighbourhood - though some hopefully may); but rather that every homegroup should have a very conscious, intentional, practically-expressed desire to ensure that its life results in some kind of real impact on those outside (eg by praying very specifically for the not-yet-Christians we know).)

 

Some Practical Aspects of Vision-Building

 

  • At least once a year (January?) it’s good to have a time of creative evaluation of these purposes, to plan how we can be more fruitful in each, and to pray for our growth in each.  It may be best if someone else in the group anchors this session rather than you, so that it is not always you who is banging on about these things.
  • See here for helpful vision review questions.  (These may also offer good issues for regular review for when two of you who are co-leaders are meeting together.)  
  • This may also be a good time to underline what membership in the group involves: commitment and openness to each other, confidentiality regarding what is shared, etc.
  • Again, it may be a good idea every two months for someone in the group (again, perhaps ideally not yourself) to lead the group in thinking and praying for 10-15 minutes about one of our purposes, how fruitfully we feel it’s being fulfilled, what we can do better.
  • Similarly it can be good to have a Bible study on the nature and purpose of our group life.  For example, on the `one anothers' of the new testament: love one another, pray for one another, speak the truth to one another, forgiving one another, live in harmony with one another, forbear one another, instruct one another, be subject to one another, be kind to one another, bear one another's burdens (and others you can find in a Bible concordance…)
  • It is important to give a sense of direction: that it may not be now, it may not be this calendar year, but if our church is growing, and since not all of its members are currently in homegroups, we will need our homegroups to grow in number - and the new homegroup leaders will have to come from among those who have learnt to lead in our present groups……  In other words, God's will must be that eventually our group will grow and split - or (more happily worded), multiply. Keeping that goal on our horizon will help us stay focused - and feeling we're going somewhere.
  • Pray personally for your members' vision!  Your life will be much easier if others in the group are also focusing the group on its goals. So pray for God to give them (and yourself!) that freshness of vision.
  • Be intentional about occasionally sharing a little about the group's purposes in personal conversations.  Just as in evangelism: gently `drip-feed' it in!

 

 

Pete Lowman.

 

RECOMMENDED READING:

Steve and Mandy Briars, Homegroups: the Authentic Guide.

Prayer in the Home Group

[Your Name Here]

Written by Andrew Waugh

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Leading Homegroup Prayer - a Checklist

 

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF PRAYER IN HOME GROUPS?

 

  • It brings us closer together
  • It releases God's power
  • It brings us closer to God
  • Dutch Sheets says in Intercessory Prayer: It's at least arguable that God doesn't do anything apart from us

 

 WHAT ABOUT FORMAT FOR PRAYER IN SMALL GROUPS?

 

  • All together?  (Then restrict the length of individual contributions by asking everyone clearly to make it only one sentence long?)
  • In pairs or triplets?  With the same personnel each week if possible; and with a notebook to record answers to prayer
  • Everyone simultaneously? Can be exciting, or intimidating for some...
  • Silence can be helpful if it's positive and prepared for.  Sometimes intimacy with God means `come and rest awhile', and we need to be able to lead people into that

 

LEAD!

  • Start (`Lord, we know you're here') and end (`Thank you for hearing us/keep us watchful for the answers') positively
  • Give a clear `Amen' during prayer
  • Keep an eye on the time
  • Give clear instructions
  • Remind of confidentiality regarding what is shared
  • Model vulnerability and dependence.  (E.g., that you too have difficulties - though without it turning into a therapy session; to imply `I have no problems' is to act as if we're independent of God)
  • Maintain balance: of content (personal, local, church, world...); sense of mission as against self-oriented needs; right view of God; no one person to dominate
  • Delegate

Shirley Lees says God has five answers to prayer: `Yes', `No', `Wait', `I will if you will', `Mind your own business!'

David Hein says: `Every prayer is answered', ie pray expectantly but not necessarily expecting to get what we want. (NB the implications of that for keeping a prayer journal in the group)

 

BE IMAGINATIVE

  • Making a pile of pebbles with each person contributing, to remember what God has done for us (compare Joshua 4)
  • Prayer journey: going round your home with Christ - or walking down our town’s main street with Christ
  • Prayer walk around your area (`virtual' or actual)
  • Use of images, printed or on a laptop
  • When praying for Alpha, assemble `props' to focus group's minds on how the evening goes

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT

We're in God's presence, so listen - intuitions we receive here are probably worth listening to!

 

NOTES EDITED BY PETE LOWMAN; INPUT PRIMARILY FROM ANDREW WAUGH.

 

Pastoring in Home Group 101

[Your Name Here]

Written by Andrew Waugh

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Ask for his help; without that you’re in trouble; and he does want to help

LEARN TO LISTEN

Nod and grunt; reflect back what they’re saying, especially the ‘feeling’ words; NEVER say “I know just how you feel”; resist the urge to tell a long, similar story of your own

KNOW YOURSELF

… and what pushes your own Big Red Buttons; this helps you not to overreact

THERE ARE 3 SIDES TO ANY STORY

… the first side you hear isn’t always the truth. The third side is GOD’s version of events

CONFIDENTIALITY & PROMISES

…..NEVER promise total confidentiality. This is one of the few non-negotiables

SPIRITUAL < > PHYSICAL

When someone turns up with a spiritual problem, consider it possible there’s a physical cause; and vice versa

ALL CHANGE IS BEREAVEMENT

… so go gently with the ones who aren’t keen on the changes you’re introducing

GRIEF TAKES TIME

…eg the loss of a close family member; 18–24 months is the earliest you can expect them to get back on an even keel; dissuade them from making major decisions too early. See this article for further help

KNOW THE BIBLE

…. eg before you counsel against sex outside marriage… `where’s that in the Bible, eh?`- are you ready for that reaction?

BOUNDARIES

…are you on call 24hours a day?  would you drop everything for their emergency? Say “let’s meet for an hour”. Sit where you can see a clock.

SUICIDE

If someone mentions thoughts of suicide, gauge the real risk by asking how often they think about it and whether they’ve thought of a method.  Don’t worry; these questions will not encourage suicide. See this article for further help

GET HELP IF NECESSARY

You don’t have to be omni-competent or able to cope with every problem

CULTURAL ISSUES

…be aware of possible offence or misunderstanding when cultures collide

MAINTENANCE IS BETTER THAN REPAIR

A regular, genuine ‘how are you?’ or ‘sorry’ may save hours of repair work later

REBUKE QUICKLY…

Don’t let bad feeling fester for long, and get someone else to pray while you’re confronting anyone

THEY NEED TO KNOW YOU KNOW

Remember personal details, and find ways to communicate “I know the contribution you’re making”

ANSWERS & ADVICE…?

You might genuinely have some, but, bottom line, it’s not your responsibility to have all the answers. Ask them to suggest bible verses that speak into their situation. If none are forthcoming, ask God for some.

TWO USEFUL QUESTIONS NEAR THE END OF YOUR TIME TOGETHER:

‘What do you think is the most important thing you’ve told me?’, and ‘Is there anything you think you should you do as a result of what you’ve told me?

LOVE IS SPELLED T,I,M,E

80% of success is turning up (quote from Woody Allen) We often don’t know what to say or how to help, but turn up anyway and so give the Holy Spirit something to work with.

Andrew Waugh.

 

Group question: In a 1-on-1, How do you know when you’re not being listened to?

A previous group’s answers included….

  • Snoring
  • Wrong responses
  • Looking at watch
  • Interrupting
  • Answering too early
  • Diversion
  • They finish your sentences
  • Looking elsewhere
  • Reading the newspaper
  • Body language
  • Restlessness
  • Inappropriate eye contact
  • No questions
  • No follow up
  • Memory failure

    Building Community in Home Group

    [Your Name Here]

    Written by Pete Lowman

    You can download the PDF of this resource here

    How can we foster warmer fellowship and deeper community in our homegroup?

     

    We can reflect on this in our own group, starting with two questions:

     

    • What characterises our time with people we like?, and
    • What has characterised groups we've enjoyed being part of?

     

     

    1. What characterises our time with people we like?

     Answers from one gathering of homegroup leaders included…

     

     

    • activities where we can talk together
    • shared interests (grandchildren… hobbies… shared history and memories… shared passion for God's kingdom)
    • food
    • coffee…

     

    And:

    gym, fishing, boating, playing badminton, listening to music, TV, making people smile, bowling, walking , social evenings, jazz café , watching videos, going to the pub together, quizzes, games…

    How many of these could be adapted to help in building relationships with each other in our homegroup?  (and, with people God is beginning to draw into his family?)

     

     

    2. Then: what has characterised groups we've enjoyed being part of? 

     Answers from the same group included…

     

    • going through experiences or even suffering together
    • having the same challenges and concerns
    • lots of time together
    • planning together
    • laughing together
    • mutual commitment (trust that everybody is wanted)
    • intimacy
    • honesty
    • humour
    • feeling a significant sense of being needed by each other
    • openness

     

     

    3. What activities could we do together to build our sense of homegroup community?

     

    • An evening when we're just meeting to eat a take away meal and chat
    • cook together
    • walk or barge trip
    • games evening
    • night out together
    • bring & share night where everyone brings a favourite record or poem
    • cooking or washing up for Alpha
    • joint project, working together, doing something for others (eg gardening makeover, DIY, wallpapering)
    • watching a film together (whether `big-content', for discussion, or brainless, for amusement)
    • picnic, barbecue, hiring a patisserie
    • birthday parties
    • going dancing together
    • game with questions: eg What is your earliest memory? What are you proud of from your schooldays?
    • And...?

     

    Which of these would our group like to do in the next four months?

     

    4.  What other ideas can build fellowship in our homegroup? 

     Answers included:

     

    • Address/phone/e mail lists (NB be sensitive to the `digital divide'; not everyone loves the computer!); texting each other; lists of birthdays; map of where people live...
    • Breaking up a large meeting into smaller subgroups can help everybody belong (but you don't want to have two subgroups in the same room - you need one or at least three)...
    • Are there diverse personalities in your group? The prize is bigger in terms of what you can learn from each other, but the journey's harder...
    • We need God's guidance to find our way consciously through the tension of intimacy (deepening relationships) over against openness to newcomers; and, meeting mainly in the same house gives continuity, but moving round enables more spouses to come…
    • Like in a party, getting to know each other can work better if sometimes we’re all standing up and more likely to mill around...
    • A good group embodies the sense that anyone can be used by God to bless others.  It’s a vital ability in the leader to underline this, to spot people’s strengths and help them grow with what they’ve got....

    The very existence of a homegroup is a witness in a culture hungry for true community!

     

    Collated by Pete Lowman, with thanks especially to Simon Hodgson.

    Bible Study in Home Group

    [Your Name Here]

    Written by Andrew Waugh

    You can download the PDF of this resource here. 

    What makes a good Bible study?  Some collected wisdom from home group leaders

     

    Before the Meeting - Leader's Preparation

     

    Prayer:

    • for faithfulness to the Bible
    • for wisdom and understanding
    • personal learning for the leader 
    • enthusiasm
    • good questions
    • head and heart involvement
    • something fresh for even the most mature 

    Selection of material - awareness of the group’s issues

    Writing / editing of questions

    • Their questions, not yours; what’s on their hearts and minds?
    • Open questions, not closed; closed questions produce yes/no answers and no discussion. If the question is “Was Jesus a good person?”, rewrite it as “What kind of person was Jesus?”
    • Decide which ones to skip
    • Highlight the application questions
    • Make sure a relevant application-question comes up early

    Plan to involve each person

    Imagination / nonverbals; consider fresh ways of getting involvement in the Bible passage; illustration from a DVD? something more practical and hands on?

    Background research if most in the group won’t be familiar with something cultural/historical

    Members’ prior knowledge: do they share your culture / presuppositions / understanding? maybe not!

    Expectation that the Holy Spirit will enable; he wants it to go well more than you do

    Clear communication: place, start time of meeting!

    What can I delegate? Maybe you can ask another group member ahead of time (eg) to make with the books and the internet in order to be ready to speak for 2-3 minutes on some background information for the passage (eg who WERE the Sadducees really?)

    Room environment: work with the host to make the room as conducive as possible; chair placement, heating, lighting, disability considerations

     

    During the Study

    Who-sits-where can help or hinder a meeting

    • Bear in mind hearing issues
    • The leader needs to see everyone
    • If there’s a real rebel, then leader-sitting-opposite makes it harder for the rebel to wrest control

    Prayer together to start

    Listening to God during the study; is this hitting the spot? Is this pleasing him?

    Clear leadership; people like to be led (not the same as bossed) so don’t be scared to clearly say “let’s begin, let’s move on, let’s split into pairs (and point out the first pair)”, etc etc.

    Encouragement of the shy: direct a non-threatening question at a shy person; subdivide the group to give each person more chance to speak; keep in mind that a few quiet people aren’t frustrated but are genuinely happy to say nothing

    Restraint of the garrulous: cut across them if necessary; if they interrupt someone else, don’t immediately shift your gaze away from the person who was interrupted; privately ask the talkative person for their help in bringing out the quiet ones, by not jumping in with answers all the time!  One of our groups actually has  written ‘ground rules’ for this

    Allow silence: resist the urge to answer your own question; maybe rephrase it after a     while; silence always seems longer to the leader than to the others

    Awareness of mixed ability and maturity and the tensions that can bring; reading ability, readiness to read aloud, Bible knowledge etc may all be on different levels and some may feel inferior. A positive aspect is that the ‘younger’ ones can be motivated to feel free to ask the ‘older’ ones for help

    Recognition of gift: take note if (eg) someone demonstrates real pastoral care for another group member by, say, helping them past an embarrassing ‘wrong’ answer, or if (eg) someone shows a gift for explaining things well

    Environment: is the room getting too warm?

    Timing: have we gone on long enough, or are we going to finish the notes come hell or high water?

    Steady progress through the passage: it’s not encouraging if we’ve been discussing for an hour and we’re visibly only 10% of the way through the material

    Dealing with tangents - stay with it for a while if the tangent is helping more than half the people, but assuming the Holy Spirit was also involved in the original planning, get back to the plan eventually. If you know straight away that you don’t want to go there, ask “where’s that in the passage?” To cut it off after a few minutes say, “Maybe we can look at that more over coffee at the end”, or privately “Y’know, Jim, trade justice IS important, but not every verse in the Bible is about that, so please don’t bring it up all the time, eh?”

    Working toward application; we’re not just here for head knowledge; if time runs short make sure you go for the (highlighted) application questions

    Pray together at the end

     

    Afterwards (maybe the following day)

     

    Keep a prayer diary

    Evaluate the discussion

    • Quantity; was the length OK? were the questions too closed?
    • Quality; were people helped?

    Members’ gifts revealed

    • Who’s going to lead this group when I leave? 
    • Or who’s going to lead the other half when it grows and divides?

    Pastoral follow-up?

    • The garrulous - to ask them to cool it
    • The upset - do they need a call tomorrow to check they’re OK?
    • The heretic - to gently point out they’re repeatedly misquoting the same scripture or getting something wrong which could mislead others
    • The rebel - someone who is always playing devil’s advocate in an unhelpful way or who seeks to control too much

    Impact on next meeting: anything I need to change?

    Long term - maybe over 6 or 12 months - are we growing/maturing as we should?

     

    Notes by Andrew Waugh; big thanks to Steve, Canun, Jan and John, Henry, Bill, Shirley, Grace, Liz, Peter and Alan for coming and contributing

    Worship in the Home Group

    [Your Name Here]

    Written by Andrew Waugh

    You can download the PDF of this resource here.

    Before we talk about what we do when we worship God in homegroups, it’s worth reflecting on the meanings of the word ‘worship’.It means giving God his worth; putting him in his proper place in our lives; serving him in everything we do (Rom 12:1).The NT Greek word can convey the meaning ‘to draw near to kiss’.

    The place of small group worship in church life

    This sits in the gap between individual worship (worship as a way of life, including personal devotions), and congregational worship (all together on Sundays). `Cell church` writers have reminded us in recent years that those who experience the presence of Christ in the small group will then be better prepared to celebrate him and minister to others when they come together in larger groups, and indeed vice versa. This, they rightly say, should be the rhythm of worship between cell and celebration. (It's certainly a burden on congregational worship-leaders when they feel like they're trying to lead people into the presence of God but most of them have had little or no experience of worship since the previous congregational meeting!)

    Cell church philosophy can sometimes come with a very stylised, prefabricated template for how to run a group meeting; but they do make the valid point that to miss out on worship, or to plan it badly, has a negative effects on the dynamic of the whole meeting. I reckon an investment of (say) ten minutes at the start of an evening will repay itself in terms of more fruitful Bible study and deeper sharing.

    Cell meetings (within one branch of cell church philosophy) do these four W’s in this order:

    Cellprinciples.jpg

    Resources for homegroup worship

    We don’t have to sing to be worshipping, and worship is more than praise!

    Your first resource for worship is the Holy Spirit himself.Behind him, and biblical truth (John 4:24), I reckon your most important resource is a gifted worship leader. He/she doesn’t have to be a musician, nor must he/she be the homegroup leader. But discerning this gift is vital for the group life, and indeed for the life of the church as a whole. Other resources include:

    • Bible readings
    • Music resources - song/hymn books, especially scripture and subject indexes; live musician (don’t have one? Pray and/or ask for one; a melody-only instrument can work fine, eg violin, flute); worship tapes/CDs, including instrumentals - good for reflection and setting atmosphere
    • Prayer – worship, intercession, formal
    • Communion – I think groups with a shared life ought to be taking bread and wine together in a meaningful, joyful, non-trivial way.
    • Liturgy - Anglican prayer book, Northumbrian or Celtic materials
    • Visuals - DVD/video/computer graphics; the Jesus film, The Miracle Maker, Ben Hur...,; worship song set to pictures from YouTube…; drawings
    • Drama
    • Poetry - for reflection or for group reading
    • Scent (smells do communicate something...! With a Bible context we can show this was biblical, way before it was new-age)
    • What everybody brings - ...from their personal worship, see 1 Cor 14:26, Col 3:16; thankful hearts
    • Exercise of spiritual gifts - tongues, prophecy, wisdom...
    • Silence - not the ‘what are we doing next’ silence, but the silence of reflection on something meaty that’s gone before, or simply because of the realisation that we’re meeting with God

    Strengths of small group worship 

    • Flexibility
    • Easier for shy ones to make a contribution
    • Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world! (Specially good for encouraging prophecy etc)

     ... and weaknesses 

    • Fewer resource-people
    • Discomfort - everyone’s voice is audible including the off-key singers; fear of being ‘picked on’ to share; fear of emotional display (one’s own or someone else’s); sitting in a circle and so looking at the rest of the group...

    (But imagine if most of us could get used to this, what it would do to our meeting on Sundays....!)

    Planning

    • Pray, pray, pray
    • Pick a worship theme that relates to the study theme or Bible passage
    • Make a note of what works - what songs go well together, psalm selections etc - and use it again and/or share it with another housegroup
    • Take into account the different learning styles and temperaments of the group members. Even in a group of ten you can’t please everyone all the time, but everyone should be accommodated some of the time

     Some worship-leading do's and don'ts

    DO...

    • Have a theme and a direction. Typical themes: God’s greatness in himself; his goodness toward us; his justice; his return; his faithfulness; creation...Direction: Worship needs to go somewhere. I like to move from big to small, mighty to intimate, transcendent to immanent...
    • Start with objective truth - that anyone can affirm no matter how cruddy their day has been
    • Give the kind of lead that ensures people feel secure - you don’t want to be a control freak but you do want to give the impression you’re confident, knowing roughly what you’re doing and where this session is going
    • Make any instructions concise and clear
    • If you’re asking the group to do something unusual, give them time to take it in
    • Switch off phone ringers, answering machine loudspeakers, mobile phones
    • Ensure any song words can be seen - buy a set of songbooks, or make use of the Songs of Fellowship disc of lyrics (or Soul Survivor) and make your own sheet (but check your church’s CCL licence to make sure you’re allowed to do this). Or use YouTube videos with subtitles.
    • Have some songs familiar to the group
    • Have unfamiliar songs well led
    • Pick songs according to musical sense as well as the meaning of the words - and ask your musician beforehand what’s going to work and what will make for an awkward musical gear-change. Maybe the muso him/herself can be trusted to pick songs which are appropriate...
    • For open prayer, give guidelines for length and don’t be afraid to repeat them - so if you ask for short prayers of thanks and Fred goes on for a few minutes, keep your head down and say ‘thanks for that Fred - folks, let’s keep these prayers short’
    • Listen for what the Holy Spirit is saying - as he has the right to redirect anything we do; not the same as letting the strongest personality set the agenda or abandoning responsibility for actually leading
    • Have a varied diet of praise, confession, intercession, communion.... you don’t have to do it all every time, but it should all appear, say, in a month
    • Use inclusive language(`Let’s do this`,`I think we should stay on that theme for a while`… NOT `I want you to do this…`)
    • Keep track of time
    • Go for it - people want and need to be led! Some ‘leaders’ imagine that simply asking ‘What would we like to sing now?’ is going to produce something more spiritual than spending time prayerfully preparing. But that’s a faulty understanding of what inspiration is about. By all means ask for ‘requests’ but there are no guarantees that this will produce a coherent worship time. However it’s a different matter if many of the group members have a personal habit of worshipping and seeking the Lord on their own during the rest of the week (great!- can I come to your group?)

     DON’T...

    • Use the same pattern every time
    • Make it the same length every time... however a worshipping group will develop some patterns which are born of the group’s own identity and character and that’s ok
    • Turn it into a ritual
    • Allow one person to dominate... as with group Bible study, sometimes we need to take someone aside.The classic approach is to say you need their help...‘Look Kevin, you may have noticed that Kim never says anything... I need your help in drawing her out - can you help me in that? It’ll mean you’ll be saying less yourself...`
    • Start with lots of feeling-related content... most people need to ‘approach’ God, rather than jump straight into whispers of intimate love
    • Neglect the feelings aspects
    • Talk too much as leader... as with leading a group Bible study, the skilled leader actually talks less than the average group member. If the resources are well-chosen, their content and flow won’t need too much of arunning commentary; if a song needs a full explanation, it might not be the right song…
    • Waste time and lose ‘flow’ through not having resources ready... There are minute-long gaps which ruin continuity but are avoidable. Bookmark your Bible passages. Have the felt-tip pens and paper to hand. Tell the musician what we’re probably going to sing. Check they’re fairly confident in playing it, have the music bookmarked, have the keyboard (eg) plugged in, the guitar tuned...
    • Try anything technological without a run-through beforehand. You KNOW what I mean.
    • Sing songs that go too high. Sitting down, we can’t sing nearly as high as when we stand up. Someone could get hurt. Get a musician to advise. Many keyboards have a ‘transpose’ button...
    • Panic... The Lord is more concerned than we are that these things go well and build us up in our relationship with him, so go forward in faith that he’s helping!

    These notes by Andrew Waugh with big thanks to the homegroup leaders’ meeting who took his draft notes, made major additions, and turned a mere skeleton outline into something useful!