Leaderless Home Groups

Several months ago I was put in charge of Adult Ministries at my church, and I was very nervous about the prospect. We were planted a little over seven years ago, and during that time our Adult Ministries have been led by five different pastors (I am the fifth). With the lack of stability we have experienced, it almost goes without saying that Adult Ministries, and particularly home groups, has been one of the weaker areas in our church. When I assumed this new role, our weekly Sunday attendance was hovering near 500, but there were only two home groups actively meeting. This lack of activity was certainly a blessing to my efforts, as it has allowed me to begin to pioneer a completely new Home Groups ministry at Our Place, which I have based on two key principles.

1. Home Groups exist to create loving, long-lasting friendships. We don't focus on Bible study or spiritual formation or leadership development or discipleship or any of the many other potential reasons or purposes for Home Groups. Loving, long-lasting friendships. That's it.

2. Home Groups have no formal leadership structure or requirements. We don't do leadership recruiting or training. We don't have teachers or disciple makers. We have people open their homes as hosts, put people together with them, and let them figure it out. They watch DVDs or read books together and then discuss what they watched and/or read. No lesson plans, no teacher/student hierarchy. Just friendships.

In less than four months we now have 12 active groups meeting with 92 adults involved. And we are still growing. I am tentatively hoping to see those numbers double by next summer. Things are still very experimental at this point. I am still a little nervous about attrition and longevity. We are launching more new groups beginning in January, but I want to make sure that the existing groups remain healthy and active.

What do you think of leaderless home groups that aren't focused on discipleship? I'd love to know what your home group experience has been at your church.


D. L. Webster said...

Interesting. It sounds like a good place to start. It reminds me of a good, recent blog post by nakedpastor about not having agendas for people. It does seem that often the tendency and temptation is for the pastor to micro-manage these things, which is inefficient and taxing as he or she spends all their time trying to formalize a leadership plan, create a program, and then try to cram everyone into the mold. On the other hand, I think the challenge will be for these group meetings to develop into something substantive, more than merely "hanging out". I guessing maybe that's already taking place, more so than I can tell from what you've written.

I think what I'm trying to get at is that the idea is to foster authentic Christian community, not just friendships that are no different than those found anywhere else. Related to this is the challenge, as you mention, of establishing some longevity in this quite transitory culture. From my experience, the majority of groups and churches have a high degree of turnover every 2-3 years (maybe that's because I'm relatively young). I think if small groups are just bible studies or just "hang out" groups, people won't feel too committed and will have a "take it or leave it" attitude. On the other hand, if there is something happening spiritually, and people are developing relationships around that, then I think they will be much more committed.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly how that happens. I do think that it's grown more than manufactured though. Or in other words, it's not just a matter of having the right machinery in place (agendas, lesson plans, etc.). Some friends and I kind of accidentally started a "house fellowship" toward the beginning of this year. A lot of what I'm writing here is what I've been thinking about in relation to our group. How do we make it something that's not just hanging out, not just pouring out our dirt, not just praying for sick family members? Right now that kind of describes it. We get together, hang out, talk a while--it may be spiritual or may not be--then share what's going on in life, have prayer requests and then pray and take communion. It's a good start, but still a work in progress.

Anonymous said...

I think that manY home groups that are in existance to begin with, are just that; basically leaderless. I think that they want to be lead, but they can't be lead because people who desire to have leaders are NOT TRAINED. this is the fault of the flocal church having an agenda that is not the agenda of the Lord thy God. We tend to build buildings instead of equipping the people for growth and to then deciple others. We need to correct this or we will run the risk of doing nothing for the lOr dand then we will become lik eth movie - LEFT BEHIND!

Ken said...

Doug, thanks for the great comment! I hope all is well with you and yours.

Anonymous, I'm not totally with you when you say that the agenda of the Lord is to see home group leaders trained. Is that what you mean? I agree that we should "go and make disciples", but I don't think home groups are the best vehicle for that.

Anonymous said...

i think home groups are nothing more than a coofee click, and there are better things to do with your time, i my self spent time with mt kids, and time helpng childern read, and and oregons food bank, i think jesus woud want your time to be more productive

Ken said...

I applaud you for your community service.

Totally, you are right, that is what CAN happen in home groups. Sorry if you had a bad experience in the past. As a "leader" at OP, I don't feel a need to push people into home groups if they are actively serving in some way. I just want people living out their christianity everyday, not just on Sundat. Loving and following Jesus is a daily, minute by minute endeavor. And getting into a home group is a way for some people to begin to experience at least a taste of community as they move away from the bad habit of feeding at church on Sundays only. If someone is already living their faith in service during the week, then they have already taken that step and may not need a home group for that. But many people also do both. They can go hand in hand. Especially when groups do community service together.