How to host a Church gathering in your home
Many of us around the world are under a shelter-in-place order. Most are limited to gatherings of less than ten people. Many do not have the option of streaming a live service. At such a critical time, how can we continue to meet and encourage one another as the body of Christ? Here is how we do it.
• Meet with other believers in your home. Keep the gathering under the number allowed by your local authorities.
• Instead of trying to do a service, host a gathering of the body. See below.
• Care for one another.
• Pray with one another using the prayer gathering model.
• Share a meal.
Here are the details.
Meet with other believers in your home.
Keep the gathering under the number allowed by your local authorities. This is important. In our area, we can have religious gatherings if the attendance is below ten people. On a practical note, this is also easier for the host to have enough seating for everyone. Keep it small. Keep it simple.
If you are not able to physically meet together, consider using online meeting apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. Again, keep it small. It is much easier to use an app with fewer people.
Host a gathering of the body instead of trying to do a service.
I encourage you to have a gathering instead of a service. Let me explain. A gathering is different from a service.
We usually think of church as a service instead of a gathering of the body of Christ. In a service, we tend to have a time of worship, then a time of announcements and an offering, then a message. The service usually lasts about an hour.
When we have a gathering of our house church on Sundays, we meet together for three to four hours. How can we possibly meet for that long? Because we have a gathering, not a service. Think of it this way. If I have a gathering of close friends in my home, it would seem weird if we all left after only an hour. It would also seem odd if one of us dominated the conversation, and the rest of us just sat there and listened. It is the same with our house church gathering. When we meet together, essentially, it is a group of close friends gathered together as the body of Christ. The conversation flows naturally. We learn from one another and pray for one another. We find out what God is doing in each other’s lives throughout the week. We meet each other’s needs. When we do this, our gathering lasts around four hours.
Since we have a gathering and not a service, it’s okay if kids are coming in and out, sitting on laps, or playing in another room. Encourage participation as the earliest age possible.
Have a gathering, not a service. When you gather, begin by caring for one another.
Care for one another.
Take some time to find out how everyone is doing. How has God been at work throughout the week? What is God teaching you? How do you see God at work around you? Learn from one another and encourage one another. During this season, find out if anyone in the group has a financial need. Encourage everyone to meet one another’s needs. Pool resources together. What’s mine is yours.
Pray with one another using the prayer gathering model.
Have an extending time of prayer together. This is vital. This time of prayer is the one non-negotiable we have each week. We use the prayer gathering model. The focus of the prayer time is to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to the group. This is how it works.
1. Assign someone to start the prayer time and someone to close. The one who closes the prayer time should be comfortable with the long gaps of silence. Don’t close it down too quickly. Remember to wait on the Lord.
2. We don’t expect everyone to pray. We do not pray around the room. Pray as you feel led to pray.
3. Expect long gaps of silence. Wait on the Lord. Become comfortable in the silence. Remember, we are listening to God as he speaks. When he speaks, then we respond. In the silence, listen to him talking to you in your thoughts, then answer in prayer.
4. Respond as others pray. As you are listening to someone pray, something may deeply connect with you. Respond to God with your prayer on that topic. Often, the Holy Spirit will develop a theme as the prayer time continues.
5. If a passage of Scripture comes to mind, read it to the group. You may think, “This passage doesn’t have anything to do with what is going on in my life.” Read it anyway! The Holy Spirit may be trying to speak through you to another member of the group.
6. If a worship chorus comes to mind, play it to the group on your cell phone. Often, worshiping to these songs is as powerful as a corporate worship experience. (Tip: If you use a Youtube video, silence the media volume on your phone until you can skip the ad. Then bring up the volume for the song. I’m smiling as I write this because this will probably happen in your gathering. Just laugh it off when it does.)
7. The prayer time ends when the person assigned to close in prayer believes the Holy Spirit has finished speaking. When I am assigned to close, I just ask God, “Are we done?” If he says, “Yes,” then I end our time with prayer. If he says, “No,” then I wait. Often, God is just getting started, and we shut it down too soon. Sensitivity to the Spirit is essential. One time I thought a guy shut it down too quickly. It felt like we were just getting started. But then I watched the Holy Spirit guide the conversation that followed. The Spirit was still moving. God wanted to minister to a need in the body. It was powerful! So just follow the Holy Spirit.
8. Sometimes while we are praying, the Holy Spirit may speak to someone with a thought that may be for someone else in the group. This word can be shared as the prayer time is progressing or after we have closed in prayer. We never say, “I have a word from the Lord…” We say, “I feel like God may be saying this for you.” We always want humility and godliness in our words. If done at the end, then ask if anyone feels God was speaking something to them, which might be for someone else in the group.
I encourage you to read this list to the group at the beginning of the prayer gathering, so everyone understands how the prayer time progresses.
Share a meal.
We usually have a meal together. There is something about food with friends that binds us together. We keep it simple. The host provides a protein, and the rest of us bring a side dish. No one should feel pressured to make something from scratch. It does not need to be complicated. Hot dogs and chips work!
This model is how God has led us when we gather as a body. I imagine there are other ways to do this. Whichever way you choose, let’s love on one another and focus on the needs of our neighbors during this challenging season.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact to me. I am glad to help.