How Home Groups Work at IMAGINE


(From the wiki page:

NOT HAVING ANY NORMAL kind of weekend services mean that our home groups bear the main responsibility for ministry at Surry Hills Baptist Church. Here’s how we arrange them.

The basic idea: a church can look after itself.

  • For a small church, operating without resources, the preparation of a weekly message or sermon or set of studies is the primary drain on individual time.
  • This can be reduced by utilizing existing material, and presupposing that the whole church is responsible for ministry.
  • There is better material available online than most small churches are able to produce on their own. We use that.
  • This approach is in several respects liberating. It is based on “body ministry” (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12, John 15). Without denying the usefulness of special expertise, a church should be able to look after itself. Over time, this may mean that there are no church attenders, only participants.

We focus on dinner and discussion.

  • We decide at the start of each quarter what study each group would like to pursue: e.g. Psalms, which we studied thematically in late 2014, or John 1-7, James, and Revelation, before that.
    • Everything is open. We organise things using a wiki.
    • Very focused and topical studies should be possible, though they may be better suited to more structured evening courses.
  • We select a podcast or study on the subject each week as we go along, before the weekend. This requires some effort from one individual each week to select a good one; how that task is distributed is up to the group.
    • There are an enormous number of extremely high quality podcasts, MP3s, videos, and so on, online. (See Resources list, below.)
  • This link is sent to the group’s email list by the preceding weekend.
  • The group watches or listens to the podcast before the home group that week.
    • This means there is no material to be covered on the night.
  • Instead, we have dinner and discuss the podcast, as well as whatever else is happening.
  • This has several advantages:
    • Because the material was not prepared by someone in the room, people feel free to say what they really think about it.
    • Because the groups set their own schedules, they can easily reshuffle the weeks around if something comes up.

We tested this in 2014; here’s how it went…

  • No-one had much trouble joining the email group or using the wiki.
  • Pre-homework sounds like a lot of commitment, but in practice, it was rare that anyone missed listening to the podcast before the home group. Listening isn’t difficult.
  • One person borrowed a commentary (Keener’s Gospel of John; — we have a lending library, btw) and then read through that each week — when learning is self-directed, there is scope for each person to pursue the questions that they are most curious about, and learn in the way that best suits them.
  • Hospitality matters! Each week is a meal and discussion. Eating together does a lot for building friendships. One person set themselves a new cooking challenge almost every week of the year. Another person started baking a cake or dessert each week. The standard of food was very good, and this contributed enormously to the atmosphere and the welcoming nature of the meetings. 
  • A lot of time was spent going out to restaurants or movies on weekends, without any formal organisation. Home groups have to be based on friendship and wanting to serve and get to know a bunch of amazing people. There’s no substitute for that.
  • One comment at the end of the year: “Each week’s home group meeting is like going on a journey of culinary and spiritual discovery.” 

Inquiries about home groups:

Image credit: Public domain, 

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