As I look back at all the groups I've visited in 2009, the host homes that stand out were the ones where the host was given no guidance. These were also the groups I never wanted to go back and visit because of the distractions or poor room setup.
If only our church had created a simple brochure entitled, "Tips for Hosting a Small Group in Your Home." The meetings would have been so much better! Plus, the hosts would not have to be taken aside and told about a foul odor, a bad room setup, or a barking dog or ringing phone.
If your church doesn't have one, make one today and distribute it to every group leader and each host as a "brush up" on the do's and don't of hosting a small group meeting....
• Pick up dirty dishes, clothing, and stray pairs of shoes from the room where the group will meet.
• Vacuum/sweep the floors if needed.
• Pray for the meeting and the members by name as you clean up in the meeting room.
• Before anyone arrives, bring in chairs from your dining room so everyone has a place to sit, and arrange the chairs in a circle.
• If the meeting room is really large for the size of the group, move furniture in so everyone is sitting closer to one another.
• Post your group's Blessing List on the wall in a prominent place before anyone arrives.
• Turn off the TV or stereo before anyone arrives and leave it off, even if the big game isn't over or about to begin.
• Remove pets from the room for the entire evening. My golden retriever is sure that everyone has arrived to give her their full attention throughout the evening. So she goes into a crate for the night so as not to pester everyone (even though we love her more than some of the group members to be completely honest with you).
• Refuse to answer the phone if it rings during the meeting, and turn off ringers in the room where you are meeting.
• Ask people in the group to give you a hand putting the room back in order after the meeting.
• Ask others to bring the snacks and be 10 minutes early as well. You have enough to mess with hosting the meeting!
• Make sure the guest bathroom has an extra roll of toilet paper in plain sight and that you remove all matches, candles, toothbrushes, and prescription medicines. People have done stupid and crazy things in my bathroom on group night.
• Before you turn the lights out and head to your bed after the meeting, pray through the room and thank God for all he did during the meeting and ask him to fill your home with his love and not allow anything ungodly to remain in your home. After all, people confessed sin in your house!
• A healthy small group doesn't meet in the same home month after month, year after year. Move the meeting around a little by informing the leader you cannot host for a month here and there or more than three times per month.
• Invite and expect other group members to help you host the meeting. Be humble enough to ask others to show up early and stay late to clean up your house.
• You don't have to have a big fancy house to host a small group. Smallish, humble homes work best if you must know the truth.
• It's fun to have a meal or pot luck now and then, but don't do it every week. The focus should be on Christ in your midst, not the food in your belly.
• Expect visitors who've never been to your home. Be sure to greet them, shake their hand, show them where the kitchen and restroom are located, and make them feel at home in your home.
• When it's time for everyone to leave, tell everyone it's time to go and you look forward to seeing them next week. Don't be shy about politely running off the lonely souls who haven't a clue that it's past your bedtime.
• Don't assume your house doesn't smell like a wet dog, a fish market, or a litter box. Ask someone in the group that you know well to tell you if the house stinks so you can do something about it. Keep deodorizer on hand so you can do something about it immediately.
• Don't assume the temperature and lighting in the room is good for everyone because you're comfortable. Ask and you shall receive clear signs that the room is too cold, hot, or dark for everyone.
Feel free to use these points in your brochure. If I've left any out, do comment and add your do's and don'ts! Just remember this is a list for the host, not the meeting facilitator. He or she should be starting and ending the meetings on time, keeping talkers from over-talking, and so forth.