For those less familiar with this football analogy, an “audible” is when the play caller decides at the last second that the play everyone was planning to execute is no longer a good one (usually because of something unexpected that the defense is doing). The play caller then calls an “audible”. He changes the play just before it starts and everyone on the team adjusts accordingly.
Home Group leaders sometimes need to call an “audible” when things start to take an unexpected turn. Instead of resisting what God might be doing, it’s more helpful simply to get used to the idea that plans sometimes don’t go as expected and there’s no failure in changing mid-stream. In fact, often the best things happen during these unexpected moments.
In addition, it is important that the rest of the Home Group members key in on the audible and supportively follow the leader as the meeting goes in a new direction. It might even be worth having a conversation with the key leaders of the group to discuss the idea of the audible so that all can be prepared for if and when it might need to happen.
When do we need to call an audible? Here are some possible situations:
Visitors: If a non-believer unexpectedly shows up at the Home Group meeting (something we encourage!), one good strategy is to open the time with a testimony instead of going straight to the Bible study. Testimonies put people at ease and reinforce an atmosphere of sharing and honesty. Testimonies draw non-believers into community and draw out their own life circumstances.
To call this audible, the leader simply needs to ask someone in the group if he or she would be willing to share. After the first testimony, the leader can ask, “Does anyone else want to share?” Depending on timing, the next step would be to go to the Bible study or to closing prayer.
Crises: Sometimes a member enters the room in such a way that you know things aren’t right. Or sometimes a passage of scripture brings up deep-seated struggles and one of the members becomes visibly troubled. In these cases, it might be advisable to stop and allow the person to share what’s going on. Afterwards, the group can pray for him or her and can ask if there are tangible ways they can assist. When the need’s acute, prayer does not have to wait until the end of the meeting.
Church Mission: Sometimes the local church has a special need, faces a big decision or is stepping out in faith to tackle a large initiative. Such moments might warrant stopping the regular flow to discuss the matter and spend extended time in prayer. If feedback or good ideas come out of the discussion, the leader can communicate it back to the church leadership. This is a great way to build unity throughout the church.
Home Group Mission: Every Home Group is meant to be “on mission” together. There are myriad ways to envision the mission but whatever form it takes, it requires intentionality. Does your Home Group have an external mission? It might be worth setting aside extra time to let people discuss what’s on their hearts, who they sense God is calling them to serve, and what opportunities for service God is bringing. This can be followed up by prayer and planning.
The list of reasons to call an audible is endless. What happens when childcare doesn’t show up? Maybe you sit with the kids and sing together, or do a kid-oriented Bible study, or go to the park. What happens when group life seems to be getting “too comfortable?” Maybe you spend extra time in corporate confession to make way for a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you look for an opportunity to stretch yourselves by sacrificing to help another member, etc.
One caveat: it’s be possible to call too many audibles and create a chaotic feel in the group. But a little messiness is good and often present when God’s working. So, go for the audible and see what God might do!
Can you think of any other circumstances that might lead you to call on audible?