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?
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...