Where House Churches Excel
A house church is under 40 people in size. This is a manageable size for a leader to create community. Healthy house churches measure fruitfulness in three areas: love for God, love your neighbor and make disciples.
Multiplication is a compelling, strategic option.
Functionally, when a house church approaches capacity the option to reproduce is clear. Cramped space is not THE reason to multiply house churches; but is a realistic option. A higher calling is to follow Jesus and reach more people with the gospel.
Low overhead costs for doing ministry.
Most house church leaders are co-vocational. This eliminates one very large budget item – salary for full-time pastoral staff. And a second budget item – facility costs.
Tim Keller said it well in his article, Leadership and Church Size Dynamics:
“House churches grow in the most organic possible way—through attraction to their warmth, relationships, and people. New people are simply invited and continue to come because they are befriended. There is no “program” of outreach.”
5 Challenges Every House Church Faces
There are subtle and not so subtle nuances that will make a difference when coaching a house church leader. Consider the following 5 challenges every house church faces and how you might come alongside them in each.
1. Inward focus
One of the currents that leaders of house churches need to be aware of and combat is the consumer mentality of Jesus followers who transfer from an established church to a house church. Just like small groups found in larger churches, house churches can become overly focused on the fellowship of believers, forgetting essential obedience to the Great Commandment. Without the building, the staff, or the worship team, house church gatherings leave nowhere to hide as they focus on the spiritual growth of members AND work together to accomplish church goals. You, as the leader’s coach, can help them adapt and change to engage with each. The primary focus though is to reach pre-Christians with the Gospel who are seeking something that is relationally based and part of their daily lives.
Provide a safe place for the house church leader to process their vision. Allow them the space to envision a movement that goes beyond a single house church. Help them unpack the values of their house church and let them hear themselves defend those and ask questions to challenge their assumptions.
2. Time limitations
Most house church leaders are self-funding. They either raise their own salary or they work a full-time job that frees-up time for them to serve in the house church. Reality is the time they have available to serve the house church they lead is limited and done in the margins of their lives. This is their reality. Your job is to help them maximize what time they have at their disposal.
Does the leader have an effective project management system that works? A simple
Scrum Board can help them visualize what the top priorities are to move things forward. Break a large surface such as a white board into three columns and label them from left to right: “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done”. Use post-it notes to identify the tasks that need to get done and move them to the next column as they progress. This helps the house church leader stay ahead of the more important projects.
Common among church planters is the desire to be different. This can be a positive motivator but the church needs the help of an outside voice such as a network or denominational leader. If the house church leader is not connected to a network, accountability might be a foreign concept or at least more challenging. It is important to help them establish those relationships, otherwise they may find themselves in an unhealthy situation that is to their detriment. For instance, what should a leader of a house church do when a strong leader challenges their philosophy of ministry? It can be helpful to access outside resources that can help them navigate conflict.
Listen to the motivations a house church leader was that led to plant or pastor a house church. Everyone wins when the leader desires the Interdependent relationships a network provides. The house church leader wins when they discover like-minded people to stay connected. The network wins because they have another voice to speak into their culture. The house church wins when they feel part of something bigger than themselves.
4. Mission drift
Because of the amount of time required for a person far from God to enter into a house church and follow Jesus, evangelistic fruit will take time – perhaps more than the leader anticipated. During this lag time it is easy to get impatient, lose focus and get off track. All leaders need a nudge and again to be reminded “why” they are doing house church.
You can serve a great purpose simply by showing-up for a coaching appointment. You are a reminder of the mission of house church leaders: love for God, love your neighbor and make disciples. Beyond showing-up, ask leaders to reflect on the things that can move their house church forward to achieve its mission. Listen carefully, ask powerful questions and be fully present to help them discern the things the Holy Spirit wants to bring to their attention.
Care for children, youth and singles among other groupings is the holy grail of house church. Some do it better than others but the challenge is always present. Because every house church will have its own philosophy, for instance, children remain in the larger group vs. going to an age-appropriate activity in a separate space.
The role you play as the coach is to help the leader apply the best strategy to address the issues. Remain curious. Ask questions. Allow the client to arrive at the approach that will work best for them.
Key Questions to Ask a House Church Leader:
- What is your vision to grow and reproduce house churches?
- What are you doing well as a house church in the three core behaviors of a disciple: love for God, love your neighbor and make disciples?
- What can you prune to maximize what you are doing well?
- What do you need to change?
- How do you need to adapt?
- What can I do to help?
- How can I pray for you?