So what is a house church and how do they operate? Our goal was not to come up with some structure and pattern of life that we thought was cool or hip. Rather, we wanted to create a structure that is based on our values and helps to bring those values to life.
1. House Church
Doing churches in homes allows us several advantages in making our values a reality.
Comfortable and Welcoming
First, homes are comfortable. Homes are where families gather and relationships gain depth. For those who have never gone to church, walking into a strange building full of people you don't know, doing things you aren't familiar with can be intimidating, if not scary. Sitting in a family room with friends who are genuinely interested in you and want to be with you, that's reassuring.
Meeting in homes also means that each house church has to keep their numbers relatively small, allowing deeper relationships to form. We do expect house churches to grow as new relationships form and new friends are invited. So, when a house church gets too big for it's home, it multiplies into two house churches! More on that later.
House churches reduce our overhead cost. Meeting in homes means our funding can go directly to missions and helping out our neighbors in need. Without a building to upkeep, equipment to set up, and programs to run our people can use their time and resources to live more sacrificially and missionally.
Our house churches gather once a week. While we encourage them to meet on Sunday morning, we are more than flexible to allow them to meet whenever works best for them. All gatherings follow this rough outline:
We begin by putting ourselves in an attitude of worship. This usually involves singing together, or someone offering up a song to listen to and think about. It can look like prayer or quiet meditation.
We believe in dialogue teaching. The Bible teaches us that the Spirit can speak through anyone, so why put all the pressure on one person. Our teaching in each gathering comes from that weeks Bible Reading. It begins with one of the house church leaders offering up some thoughts and questions for reflection. Since everyone has already spent time in the Word it allows for discussion, questions, and group teaching.
We have found that one of the quickest ways to build relationships with our brothers and sisters is to pray for one another. We lift up each other's needs, concerns, struggles, and joys in prayer. We pray for our neighborhoods, our communities, and anything else the Spirit lays on our hearts.
Jesus told his disciples to break bread and share the cup as often as they gathered together. We take the Lord's Supper seriously and share communion every time we meet. We believe that communion is a chance to experience God's grace and that grace is abundant!
After our time of worship, we conclude our Gathering by sharing a meal together. This a continuation of breaking bread together. Sitting around the table together helps us build relationships and strengthens our family.
We believe that giving is a part of the Christians life. We expect all people in our house churches to give as the Spirit leads. We don't put percentages or numbers in front of people. Rather we practice what we believe scripture teaches about giving, which is a attitude of sacrificial generosity. Because our overhead cost are kept low it means that almost all of our resources can go directly to missions.
Outreach and Mission
All of our house churches practice outreach and missions. What those looks like and when they happen is up to each house church. Outreach may look like holding each other accountable to identifying new people to build relationships with. It can look like a BBQ or everyone getting together to watch the game and inviting other friends to join them. Besides our church wide international and community missions, we also encourage each house church to identify local missions on their own. Maybe a neighbor is in need of yard work, or a single mom needs help buying her kids clothes for school, maybe a friend is struggling and is need of food and the basics?
3. Worship Together
With multiple house churches, we wanted a way for people to understand they were part of a body that was bigger than just themselves and even their house church. Once a month all of our house churches gather together in one location. We call this all-church gathering, "Worship Together." This gathering still follows the pattern of our weekly gatherings with the exception of a more typical sermon.
4. Bible Reading
All of our house churches follow the same weekly Bible Reading Plan. This means that although multiple house churches are meeting in different locations, they all stay connected by receiving the same teaching. We believe that spending daily time in the Word is an essential Christian practice. You can find our reading plans here.
5. Seasons / Multiplying
Part of our house churches both being a place where deep relationships form and where new people are brought in means they have to exists in seasons. Though there is no set length of time for any of these seasons, we expect a house church to take around a year to go through them.
Season of Forming
We encourage all of our house churches to take time to gel. Building relationsips and forming group dynamics is not always as easy as we want it to be. We understand this, and therefore ask our house churches to focus in on learning to love each other before they begin to invite new people.
Season of Inviting
Once a house church has found its rhythm, we believe they are in a healthy place to begin to invite those outside the church they have formed relationships with. As the church grows, new relationships form, and a new rhythm of doing life together occurs.
Season of Multiplying
It's not easy but there comes a time when a house church multiplies. This can look different for each house church. The one thing that is required is that our house church leaders have raised up new leaders. Without leaders, multiplication is impossible. Multiplying is part of our vision as we seek to see lives revived through authentic community focused on Jesus.