Home groups are critical to the ministry of Solano Community Church. To be successful, however, a home group requires constant thought and intentionality. Leaders and home group members are continually balancing numerous “tensions” within the small community. If left unattended, these tensions can obstruct the discipleship process. With proper attention, however, they can become the very pathways along which spiritual growth occurs.
So, what specifically are the forces needing to be balanced in home group community? While there are probably an almost infinite number of them, here are some of the key ones we’ve observed over time:
Transparency vs. Discretion. Being open about what is really going on in our lives is essential to healthy community. There must be transparency and lots of it. But there is a point when transparency becomes “dumping” and can overwhelm a group, dragging it into paralysis. If we are in the midst of massive crisis, we should bring it to the home group, we should solicit prayer, we should keep them updated but we might also need to consider adding outside counsel to our discipleship portfolio.
Mission vs. Nurture. If a group spends all of its energy ministering to people outside of the group, relationships will fray and empowerment will wane. But groups that spend all of their time focused only on caring for members and never sharing the wealth of their relationships slide into corporate self-centeredness. Ironically, this ends up being un-nurturing because gospel-health entails cultivating generosity towards those on the outside.
Bearing vs. Admonishing. This is one of the toughest ones. There are a whole lot of irritating things people do that we are simply called to bear. Much of it has to do with the clash of personality types. And yet the Bible does call us to admonish one another as the Spirit leads. We should probably focus on admonishing against sin (not personality difference, however irritating that might be), we should do it after we’ve gained trust, we should do it lovingly, and we should do it with sensitivity to a person’s circumstances and ability to handle critique.
Affinity vs. Diversity. We are often drawn towards people who are like us and repelled by people who are different. There is nothing wrong with the sweet fellowship that comes with sharing a common life stage, outlook or “style”. But too much of that in your life can have a vision-narrowing effect. Diverse people provide diverse perspectives. And when we are dealing with approaching an infinite God, that is probably a good thing.
There are other forces in a home group that have to be balanced. Many of them are structural. Do we study or do we socialize? Does one person teach or do we all discuss? Are we open to newcomers or are we closed (for a season)? If you can think of any others, please add them to the comments below.
The point is, healthy community is not about finding the one perfect balance suitable for all time. As the seasons of community ebb and flow, as people grow, as new people come, as certain topics of study arise, the community balance needs to be adjusted.
It is a lot like the equalizer on my stereo. Depending on the music I’m playing, certain sound registers are turned up or down in relation to others. And when I get it right, the harmonies are sweetened.
Next time, Part 3: Audibles or, how to make community adjustments on the fly.