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!

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