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?
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
- cleaning graffiti
- giving away easter eggs, flowers, free bedding plants, free produce
- homemade mothers' day cards
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
- 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.