Keeping Things New
Vegetables & churches are better if they’re fresh
One of the challenges of being the church together in a small, relational group is that we actually start liking each other. So what could be so bad about that? Nothing, except that we can sometimes like each other so much that we forget to connect outside of our merry little band. In a short time we’ve gone from an open to a closed group. Moreover, we begin losing our creativity; the sharpening quality of relationships begins to fade because we aren’t getting input from others.
This process of growing stale is a strong argument, I believe, for networking with other groups of similar focus and nature. Freestanding home fellowships aren’t necessarily bad, but the dangers of becoming over familiar with one another-becoming a clique-looms ever present. Here are some suggestions for avoiding that pitfall of small group life.
1. Seek other small groups with whom to share a potluck supper. Just bringing two small groups together for an informal meal and a time of singing together may help shake loose the staleness of a group that senses it is becoming too narrow in focus. After supper, a time of sharing the history of the respective groups can be entertaining and inspiring. What if you don’t know of any other groups nearby? One possibility is the Worldwide House Church Directory. This resource may be able to locate other fellowships in your area. The web address is in the Links section.
2. Go as a small group to a local traditional church program or church service. Many home churches don’t meet on Sunday morning, so they can get together and, for a change, “go to church.” Often, such excursions have the effect of making the group thankful for their more intimate church life. The problem with an actual service is that there usually isn’t time for any real interpersonal sharing and contact with new people. For that reason, programs or special events work better for that kind of interaction.
3. New believers or unbelievers can add a fresh dimension to a small group gathering. Make special plans to invite unsaved friends to a video night. Group members bring chips, salsa, soft drinks and pizza to be eaten during a video of the host church’s choice. After, the movie everyone discusses it, giving the believers present a chance to present thoughts from a Christian worldview. Films such as The Matrix have spiritual overtones that are thought provoking and readily applicable to a Christian point of view. Other good films, which are not overtly Christian but lend themselves to a Christian perspective, include Schindler’s List, The Mission, Groundhog Day, and Contact.
4. The act of working together is helpful to add variety to relationships.. The Salmon Creek Christian Community in Vancouver, Washington works together to prepare a group holiday presentation for friends and family. They invited members of other small group churches to help them plan their an annual resurrection pageant. They prepared the presentation, then, in a rented facility (a grange hall, or church basement) performed it for a group of invited friends. A potluck dessert followed where everyone enjoyed cheesecake, cookies and coffee while discussing the presentation.
5. Attend a retreat or conference for home-based churches together. There are several house church conferences that are held across the country, which can serve as a connecting point with other like-minded believers. Unfortunately, I have seen such gatherings become an arena for disputation and disagreement. Be forewarned: broadmindedness is sometimes not a prerequisite for attendance.
6. Host an activity and invite other home churches. I call these multi-group gatherings, “reunions” because they give groups that have been birthed out of other groups a chance to reconnect with people they no longer see regularly. The Summit Fellowships of Portland, Oregon, the network of which I am a part, scheduled a Labor Day picnic and campout that was to have been attended by several groups. Sadly, the weather scrubbed the effort, but we know it would have been a great time! Another group in the network has invited a guest teacher for a weekend mini-conference of small groups.
There are other ideas for adding variety to a group that is growing stale. The important thing is that small groups should be alert to the need for expanding relationships and sharing with others outside of the fellowship. Networks of home churches make it possible for groups to share resources, spiritual gifts and ministry opportunities. Such interactions help groups stay open to new people and avoid becoming cliques.