This Guide explains the beauty and simplicity of beginning a church in a home. It provides a step-by-step procedure for an effective Bible study and worship experience. Every person who desires to worship in a home setting should read this Guide.
We all know that worship is more than the “order of worship” that takes place during a “worship” service. It consists of everything one does to honour our Lord—every hour of every day. However, when the church meets together, what we do together also fulfills the definition of worship. And everything we include in that time of holy fellowship should been seen as worship. So, as we sing, pray, minister, proclaim the gospel, study the Bible, and even eat dessert and chat about the weather—it will all acknowledge the lordship of Jesus and proclaim our worship of Him.
So, in a more casual and intimate setting of a home, how do we actually do it?
1. Invite friends, co-workers, neighbours, family, and others that God lays on your heart. Be bold. What you are about to do is fun, friendly, inclusive, non-threatening, non-embarrassing, and worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time. Follow the pattern of Jesus and include people who may not fit your image of the “ideal” group.
Your church can meet on any day and at any hour that is best for the group. However, in most settings, meeting on Sunday, and especially Sunday morning, says to those of our Christian heritage that what you are doing is more than a “Bible study”. It is the meeting of the complete body of Christ—his church. Therefore, it is a sacred, precious time. And, it is holy ground, even in someone’s home.
2. Be ready. Download and print the Home Church Online worship resource at least eight days in advance (so you can divide up the leadership responsibilities during the session previous to the one in question. Decide who will lead each of the three parts: Gathering Time, Bible Study, and Worship Time. Give those parts to the leaders. Help them become comfortable with the idea that, until they are at ease with leading, every word they need is written out for them.
Three leaders per session are definitely best. Each part is simple to lead. But leading all three by the same person is less effective, less exciting, and more tiring. If there are three or four of you who are Christians, you can each take one of the three parts of the service to lead. You can then rotate those among yourselves each week. Each part is presented step-by-step. No one needs previous experience to lead. Simply read the parts. You will soon see how God’s Spirit handles it.
If there are things (such as posters or copied readings or words to songs) that need to be copied or prepared beforehand, help each leader to ensure that such is done during the week before the session-to-be.
3. Many home churches prefer to download and copy the scripture for the session so that everyone has the same Bible version of the passage. Each version may be copied under its own copyright rules. The NIV is used as the base version for the HCO materials. It, as well as the King James Version and, more limitedly, a few others, can be legally copied in the portions needed each week from websites such as www.bble.gospelcom.net/passage. This is the portal for “BibleGateway.com”. Copyright rules and permissions are found on that site for each version in many different languages. So, if someone attends your church whose heart language differs from that of the majority of the congregation, most can have the scripture in their heart language side-by-side with that of the rest of the church.
Likewise, people enjoy having the words to praise songs and hymns. Joining CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) at www.ccli.com makes downloading multiple copies of songs inexpensive, easy, and legal. See “How to: Download Music and Scripture Easily and Legally” in the online How To: manual. Suggestions for hymnals, praise worship books, and instruments are found in How to: Equip your Church for Learning and Worship.
Carefully check the final page(s) at the end of each worship session. Often, there will be special sheets located there that need to be copied as indicated for one or more of the leaders for that session.
4. Encourage people to be on time. Yes, the home church seems casual and relaxed. However, first, arriving early means an easy and more casual entrance for the people. Second, the Gathering Time serves the purpose of introducing the people, the topic to be studied, and the format of the service. It takes all the tension out of the situation for those not accustomed to your style of worship.
5. At times, you will want to have a full meal together, either as an integral part of your worship experience or afterwards. However, normally, light refreshments will be sufficient. Assign someone to prepare coffee, tea, soft drinks, pastries, etc. This will help relax the group between the Bible study and worship time or afterwards if this is your plan. Never, never, get into competition over who will prepare the fanciest refreshments! Ordinary is good enough and avoids eventual hurt feelings. (It is also much easier).
6. Normally, begin with a well-known praise song and/or prayer. This puts those with less worship experience more at ease. After all, everyone expects singing and praying—as long as they are not called on to “perform”.
Explain what you are doing. Every time someone new comes, let them know that they will not be called on to find and read scripture or answer questions until they let you know that they are comfortable doing so. See “How to: Navigate the Bible” in the How To: manual.
7. Having already looked at how the material is presented, from this point on, the service should move smoothly. But, watch your time. The leaders must know that each part has a time limit. If one leader takes extra time, the next will not have enough time to do his or her task adequately. It is a matter of fairness. Casualness in regard to time only works if everyone in the room is comfortable with it. As well, children and seniors can tolerate about 1½ hours of “meeting”. After that, you will begin to have difficulties. The children will let you know. Others will simply turn you off. Click! Remember that you are guiding people. Content is a means to spiritual growth, not the “end”. You do not need to finish every Bible study nor include every question or activity.
8. Importantly, help the group to understand that the service is much like the gathering of a family in a happy, informal setting. Include the children. They belong in the middle of things just as much as they would in a family discussion. In a family setting, they would participate, be cared for, reminded to not interrupt others, be called on themselves for input, disciplined if needed by parents, etc. These things should be seen during home church worship exactly as they would be in a family gathering.
9. Learn how to effectively conclude the formal portion of the study and worship. Quietly but firmly conclude the worship with scriptural blessings or a song or prayer. Then fellowship! This releases those who need to leave.
10. Don’t try to follow all the rules of organizing a traditional church. Do what seems right to you under the leadership of God’s Spirit. For instance, most home-based churches do not seek “charitable institution” status. What is given is given—no deductions. (And no legal problems, auditors, etc., either!) Most do not keep formal membership lists. The group is small enough to regulate itself and know who qualifies by way of profession of faith, baptism, agreed on beliefs, etc. Most do not “elect” officers other that what is needed to have a bank account. Most do not elect teachers, committees, etc. The group simply shares leadership as God’s Spirit guides.
11. Consider yourself an autonomous church from the start. Your pattern is that of the New Testament. And that is hard to argue with! Most home-based churches do, early on, select a name that will identify them. Then, when they reproduce and begin to establish networks, it is easy to know who-is-who and who-is-where.
Simply come together and begin. Begin your church. Begin your worship. Like salvation it is so simple that many people think that it must be more difficult than that. It is not. Just begin and enjoy.