Just want everyone to know that I love my new pastor, Fred Nelson who leads Antioch Houston. He is equipping and releasing saints for the work of their ministry!

Hosting a Small Group in Your Home

Hosting a small group of people in your home each week is a powerful way to serve others, and there’s numerous blessings that come from it. This brief guide will help you understand your role in the life of your group and provide practical tips for making the small group that meets in your home a time of experiencing Christ’s presence, power, and purposes.

The Role of the Host
Hosting a group in your home is a bit more than tidying up and vacuuming the floors, although the time required for this is a great way to prepare for having people in your home for worship, discussion, laughter, tears, and times of intense prayer. Hosting models servanthood. It also demonstrates a willingness to let others, even total strangers, into your world.

When my wife and I host meetings in our home, we will often use the cleaning time to pray for the meeting and each person we think may show up that night. We play worship music as we work, and the preparation of our home is considered an act of worship to our Lord and servanthood to our group. People will confess sin, find healing, discover giftings, and pray for lost friends in this room tonight. And we’re privileged to be a part of that!

Share the joys of hosting
Now we don’t keep all the blessings of preparation to ourselves… if our small group is meeting at our home for an extended period of time—more than a few weeks—we will ask individuals (usually people without kids) to come a bit early and help us. Just a few weeks ago, I asked a younger single guy to help out before our meeting and I introduced him to my vacuum cleaner and showed him how to use it effectively. This may seem odd to you, but most people are anxious to serve in some way. He was helpful that night, and even stayed after the meeting to put all the dining room chairs back in the dining room and washed a few dishes.

The next day he called me to thank me for asking him to help us get ready for the meeting. Imagine that!

The Opportunity of Hosting
When your small group meets in your home, they will get to know you really well. People will ask about pictures on your fridge, play with your kids, pets, and your remotes if you leave them out. Hosting is a great way to increase your level of community and build friendships with other small group members.

But this is just the beginning! Truth be told, walking into a church building the first time is not nearly as scary as walking into a stranger’s home. We have found that when our group meets at our home, our unchurched friends, neighbors, and family members are far more willing to visit a small group meeting compared to when we invite them to go with us to a meeting at another member’s home. For this reason, our small group moves the group from home to home for a calendar month if we find out that a member has invited an unchurched friend to come and they make a lot of excuses.

Is Your Home Right for Hosting?
Years ago our small group met at a relatively large home for our area, decorated beautifully and with ample area for the men and women to meet separately and for the kids to have their own space. We also enjoyed the sauna, hot tub, and outdoor pool after meetings.

One might think this would be an ideal place for a small group, and you’d be right! The problem is that no one would host the meeting at their “normal” home after going to this house for a meeting. And to make matters worse, the couple bought a ton of amazing prepared food for everyone for the first few weeks. Meetings in their home was good, but rarely powerful. And in small groups, we’re not attempting to entertain people in our home, but to help them encounter Christ.

Contrast their lavish home with a second story apartment with no furniture in the living area where a different group of ours met for a month. The member told us she would gladly open her apartment for our meeting because her friends were comfortable going there, but we would certainly not be comfortable unless we brought a pillow.

Those weeks were jaw-droppingly powerful, even though most of us sat on a dirty hardwood floor. God showed up in a very powerful way, and words of encouragement and revelation flowed from member to member, even though and the member’s roommate was smoking marijuana in the next room that first night.

I share these contrasting stories of hosting for one reason. Your home is probably not lavish and it’s probably not bare floors either. The fact that you’re willing to open your home and invite people to experience Christ’s presence is the most important thing to remember.

Preparing your Home
It was mentioned earlier, but praying for the meeting and the people who will be arriving shortly is the very best preparation. However, you can multitask. As you’re praying and worshipping, here’s a few tips to make your home ready for small group:

-          Tidy up the room(s) where you’ll be meeting. A deep clean isn’t necessary, but you don’t want piles of papers, dishes, and junk on flat surfaces, dog hair on the couch, and someone’s socks left under the coffee table.

-          Weapons and medicine should be in a locked room or locked cabinet.

-          Minimize distractions. We turn off radios, TVs, the land line’s ringer, and computer screens. If a TV will be used for DVD curriculum, it should be in the DVD player and tested to make sure it works prior to the meeting, but not playing.

-          The bathroom. Clean it and put an extra roll of toilet paper in plain sight and within reach of the potential user. Remove anything from the medicine cabinet you don’t want fiddled with, ingested or used for grooming and hygiene by unauthorized users.

-          Give your home a good sniff. That commercial about going “nose blind” is spot on, especially when Spot has left numerous spots on your carpet and you’ve grown accustomed to it. Fabric deodorizer is amazing stuff and you should use it about an hour before anyone arrives if necessary to give it time to work and wear off a bit.

-          Pets: Just before the first guest arrives, our golden retrievers go in their crates until after the meeting. People either adore our dogs or they wish we didn’t have animals our home when they are visiting. Either way, the pets must not be a distraction or nuisance to the people coming over to experience Christ in their midst.

-          We set out little bottles of water, purchased by the case, for people to drink during meetings. Since we are hosting the meeting, we expect other members to bring snacks and this is made clear when no one brings snacks and all we have is little bottles of water! If someone makes a snarky comment, make them the snack captain for the next six weeks.

-          Speaking of snacks, we keep all snacks in the kitchen and ask parents to supervise their children.

The Kid’s Area
We have children in our group. They stay with us for worship, then go out with an adult or two for their own age-appropriate time. Make sure that you have an appropriate area for the kids, and insure it’s free from distractions, dangerous, or embarrassing items, even those that may be tucked away in drawers.

We always let the kids and all the adults know that they should feel comfortable in our home, but they are not permitted to open drawers, go into rooms without permission, let the dogs out, run with scissors, make a mess and not clean it up, etc.

The Small Group Meeting Area
Before I forget, there’s something a host can do to foster a sense of belonging and promote participation during the meetings in their home. Arranging the furniture in a circle so no one sits behind someone or in another room is the key. If you have to move a recliner to accomplish this, it’s worth it. Ask someone from the group to arrive early and help you accomplish this.

When the meeting concludes…
Finally, when your meeting is over and everyone is chatting, ask a couple of people to help you put the chairs back in place. Ask different people to clean up the kitchen. Ask parents to find their children and not “accidentally” leave them at your home (you think I’m kidding but I’m not!)

We also do something very important after everyone has left our home: Prayer walk through each room of our house and ask the Holy Spirit to fill up the rooms with Christ’s love and leave no room for anything that doesn’t belong in our home. Small group is a wonderful time of personal confession and healing. We know we are victorious over sin and not scared one bit, but we are aware of the spiritual realm and the evil that exists.

Should you open your home for small group?
Absolutely! I’m not a big fan of a permanent host home for a small group because moving the group around to other member’s homes is powerful. Plus, hosting weekly for months on end can be laborious or exhausting, even with help from group members. But it’s totally worth hosting your group in your home for all the benefits YOU will receive, including having a moderately cleaner home after the meeting!

Five Reasons Small Group Launches/Transitions Fail

Thousands of churches have launched small group ministries in the last decade or two. And in my opinion, most of their groups are failing to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission to a point of growing organically (seeing conversion growth occur from relationships between group members and lost, unchurched persons). Here's five basic reasons why small group launches fail:

1. Groups were launched to support the weekend large group gathering. The stated purpose of launching groups may be to help people experience missional living, but the reality is the groups were formed for visitor and member retention. If groups are constantly being retooled or relaunched to fit the latest sermon series, they're just another supportive program for the pulpit ministry.

2. Potential members were not told that groups are, by design, to experience Christ's presence, power and help them fulfill their purpose in life, which is to be salt and light to the world. If groups are formed for one of many areas of self-improvement without including a purposeful development of a passion for reaching unchurched people for Christ through relational evangelism, it's going to fail.

3. Member-to-convert discipleship was never considered before groups were launched. I consult lots of churches who call me and say, "We have ten groups now, the leaders are burned out, and the members have lost interest. What should we do?" This is a clear sign that helping group members become self-feeding, passionate ambassadors for Christ in their neighborhoods and workplaces was not engineered into the vision for groups and not prototyped to success before groups were launched.

4. Groups are perceived by the membership as optional, and the weekend services are more important. If the lead pastor is unwilling to publicly say, "If you only have time for one meeting right now, go to your small group" it's a clear sign this is the case.

5. Leaders are appointed to leadership because they are willing to host a meeting in their home and faithful to participation, not because they see group leadership as a passion to help others discover and live out their spiritual potential.

A healthy small group-based church is characterized by:

1. Small groups are not seen as a ministry of the church, but the actual church. Small group participation and leadership do not compete with other ministries and volunteer positions. In fact, every ministry of the church (including the pulpit ministry) is geared to equip and release the group members for the work of their ministry.

2. Relational evangelism and discipleship were a significant part of the planning process for the launch of groups. These two things create organic growth that grows like a wildfire and takes on a life of its own.

3. Leadership in a group is earned, meaning new groups are launched as members have earned the trust of others and who become followers.

4. Group members understand their goal is to reach friends for Christ and start a group of their own sooner than later, and they're passionately pursuing it. Even very hurting people or those bound up by addiction see a leadership reason to get set free and remain free.

5. Health is most easily seen when a church has a waiting list of eager members who want to become leaders when they have completed the training and have overcome obstacles to leadership. Yes, there are many healthy small group-based churches around the world with waiting lists of people who want to become leaders!

I hope this helps you determine where your church may be failing in your small group transition or launch.

Gathered then Scattered - Observations about the church of Antioch

Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

Being gathered by God for strengthening, equipping and encouragement feels great. We gain a strong sense of unity from it, but it's not always designed to be a place where we remain.

In order for the name of God to be heard by every person on earth, scattering is required. We can do it voluntarily, knowing God will go with us and create community where we go as led by the Spirit. Or, we are scattered with persecution! Our Lord allows this so we can become salt and light to millions of people who have never heard the amazing news of our Savior.

So resist the devil when you're scattered and feel as if you've been torn away from your community for no good reason. What the evil one crafts to divide us, God will use to increase his reach in our world!

When your small group grows and you're challenged to form a new group by planting or multiplication, rejoice in the fact that community is created by God for a purpose, and the next group will experience a strong sense of belonging and mission as well.

Fruits of the Spirit. Want a particular one? Sorry, it may not work that way.

Galatians 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I know a couple of things from just buying fruit from the grocery store:

  • Some fruits ripen very quickly and others take much longer on or off the vine or tree.
  • When you put a piece of ripe fruit in a bag with unripe fruit it accelerates the ripening process.

I just had a couple of revelations surrounding this verse to share:

Revelation #1: These are the fruits of the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man or the flesh. You can bite your tongue, shield your eyes, raise your hands in praise, and serve others selflessly in the flesh and appear to have the fruits of the Spirit to others and maybe even yourself, but it’s a farce. The fruits are present when we walk in God’s Spirit and allow the Spirit to guide our hearts and minds with consistency.

Revelation #2: While a Greek scholar might argue with me, I think I’ve stumbled upon something important. Look at the fruits. Look at the order of the fruits. And then start looking at the fruits as foundational for the next fruits in the sentence. For example:

We know God is Love. So the first fruit of the Spirit is naturally Love.

When we truly experience God’s love, it produces the next fruit, Joy!

When we are experiencing God’s love and joy, it produces peace.

When we are experiencing God’s love, joy, and peace, we gain patience.

See where I’m going with this? We will see the next fruit in our lives when we are currently enjoying all the fruits stated prior to it as a firm foundation.

The fruits aren’t a la carte like the grocery store. We can’t pick and choose which one we want the most in our character at the moment. The good thing is that the fruits of the Spirit are always in God’s grocery store if we’re using our Spirit card with which to purchase them, and they’re given to us as a fruit basket of sorts.

So today, ask for God’s Spirit to permeate you to a depth where you experience his incredible love for you. When you stop crying, you’ll realize those are tears of joy and you’ll begin to feel at peace inside about all the stuff you cannot control…. And in short order you’ll be revealing all nine of the Spirit’s fruits in your life, mind, and heart.