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!
Steve and Mandy Briars, Homegroups: the Authentic Guide.