We have a midweek week house group. We meet to catch up with each other and discuss something from the Bible. Recently, we were looking at Old Testament heroes, and on this particular evening it was Samson. I had chosen some verses from Judges that picked out key features in this man’s story, and then we talked about him together. This led to some conversations ranging from Greek mythology to parallels with Jesus. One person then said that as far as memory allowed, this was the first time she had considered the person of Samson since her childhood and all she remembered was his hair cut and fantastic strength in pulling down the great hall.  She had never considered the history, his special birth, his colourful life or possible parallels to the overall Christian salvation message that runs through out scripture.

Afterwards I reflected that it is so easy to assume that people in our congregations/house groups have the same background knowledge as we do, and people can so easily be excluded from the conversation/congregation/ group, and made to feel in some way unwelcome and not part of those in the ‘know’.

When preparing a house group session – or indeed any teaching session - here are the things I like to bear in mind:

  1. Imagine we have a visitor who we have never met before, but they have seen our all-embracing advert that says ‘everyone is welcome to any of our advertised activities’ and has been bold enough to give us a try. This happened in our house group, and led to an interesting evening. I was pleased that I had done my homework!

  2. Don’t be surprised if participants offer more insights, wisdom, life experience and Christian awareness than we thought was possible.

  3. Occasionally explain to the regulars, that we might be going back to first principals in our discussion of a passage or topic. This is to give everyone opportunity to be ‘on the same page’.

  4. Ask yourself if the pre-designated topic for this week has any resonance with something going on this week that would add currency to the discussion?

  5. If something dramatic has happened in the news, should we ditch the pre-designated topic to offer something that gives a Christian/biblical perspective that could be pastorally helpful.

  6. Is there some background to the topic that could give insight and broader understanding? The history and practices of their day often help to explain the passage or story.

  7. Ask open questions like ‘how does this relate to today?’ or ‘how does this fit into the central salvation message of the Bible?’

  8. Try to make the house group a safe place for people to express theirthoughts/ask ‘obvious’ questions.

I find Philippians 2:12 helpful ‘work out your own salvation’; House group discussion can really help as people can verbalise their concerns and puzzlement, and work through the issues.

Stephen Spurgeon

Stephen Spurgeon is Chairman of Rural Ministries, he is a member and has pastoral oversight of Elmswell Baptist Church, a Rural church in Suffolk.