If you are a homecell leader and it is failing, it is most likely your own fault
I guess someone will be offended by this and decide not to read the article. If you are a homecell leader and things are not working out for you and the group, for your sake and theirs, continue reading.
Just this week I spoke to a dear friend of mine. He is a jovial character, has a lot of fun, but also loves Jesus with all his heart. As the discussion continued, I sensed a brewing sadness. It turned out that he and his family had decided to withdraw from their homecell. He is not the leader, just a member, and has felt that nothing he suggests saving their failing homecell has any effect on the homecell leader. It turns out that other families have also left. The homecell is all but done and dusted. This does not have to be the case.
Without being boastful about it, the homecell I am in charge of, works exceptionally well. I have been involved with small groups all my Christian life. Yes, I was a pastor as well and so I am expected to know how homecells work, but my formal ministry days are over, and my sole focus now is small groups. Here is some advice that will help you as a homecell leader to make your small group successful. I share the problem in one paragraph and then give an example of how it works in my own group.
Do not think of yourself as the definitive leader
The days of homecell leaders that control everything are over. While it is your responsibility to lead the group, rather think of yourself as more of a facilitator that helps members on their journey of which you are also a part. This way, there is less of “me and the rest” and more of “us as a group”. There may be members in your group with exceptional leadership skills who could be your match any day. You are here to build the Kingdom with them, not your own empire on them.
In our group, I have the deepest respect for the individual members. Many of them are way more qualified than me, maybe not as pastors, but as members of society and in business. This respect is healthy, and the group members respect me in turn.
I used to be a control freak in the past, but I have learnt to understand that the world does not come to a standstill if I am not in charge of everything. Learn to share responsibilities in the group. Are you always the one to open with prayer, decide what songs to sing, teach from the Word, and then end in prayer? Your group members deal with this every Sunday. Give them a break in the week, OK? Pull them closer to you by letting them do certain tasks. Functions should be diversified. This way you avoid them hearing only your own voice all the time.
In our group, everybody has equal opportunities to lead aspects of the meeting. We usually start our meeting with something to eat – many of them come to the group directly from work. We sit down at our dining room table, someone opens with prayer, and then we enjoy our food while we have a chat.
Moving upstairs to the living room, there will be someone who is the ice breaker. I leave it up to them what they want to do, but it is usually short, five minutes at the most. This is a fun, sometimes a very powerful, way to start, and immediately after the ice breaker is done, they appoint someone in the group to be the next week’s ice breaker. This way everyone knows who it is going to be.
I have a six-month theme and within the confines of this theme, topics are chosen. I hand out a list where each member can select whether they want to host the meeting at their homes; who leads the prayer hour (a critical part of our meetings, once a calendar month); who shares the message with the group; and who ends the meeting with prayer. I guide individual members to prepare for the following week. All along, I still control the direction, but in such a way that there is never a time when all attention is just focused on me. I often throw something on the table, and then sit back to experience what comes from it. The insight my group shows is amazing, and they often figure out answers and solutions without any intervention from my part. I keep quiet and let them do the talking.
Once we are done, we move downstairs again, have something to snack on again, and the members depart.
Managing the sharing of responsibilities
The previous section dealt with sharing of responsibilities. This section deals with how sharing responsibilities is managed. One of the most important things to remember is that you can manage without it looking like a boardroom meeting. Give your members a scope of things that need to be done, and then let them decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. You guide them without forcing them to do something they are not easy with. At the same time, you can push the boundaries ever so slightly. Remember that one of your tasks is to develop them as members, individuals, and believers. Give them something that is a little bit more challenging than what they may have done before and see how they cope.
In our group, I use people skills to find out how they feel about certain things. I often do not even do this myself. I use others in the group to casually observe their friends. They give me feedback and I act on that. Our group consists of strong individuals, men and women, old and young. We value the wisdom of the older ones, and marvel at the insight the younger ones have. There is an informal mentoring process going on all the time. We feed off one another’s strengths.
Be a friend and a mentor
You are not the pastor or the boss. If you really want to win them over, form meaningful relationships with each one of them, and be a living example of Christ-like living. They look to you and expect to find guidance. Most importantly, respect the unique character each one of them is.
In our group we are twelve people, and with each, I have a unique relationship. I am a friend for each of them, not just on a Wednesday, but the entire week. No two members are the same and I value each one for being who they are. I keep contact with the group using our WhatsApp group, but at the same time I also communicate with the members individually. As a man, I have the permission from the other men to communicate with their wives, but only in terms of aspects relating to the homecell and the member’s duties. Confidentiality is paramount, along with pastoral professionalism.
A change of scenery
If the homecell meetings are only ever held in your home, change this. If the meeting is only held in your home, eventually you become complacent, and the meeting loses its sparkle.
We do not believe in the idea that only the homecell leader’s home is used for meetings. Where and when logistically required, we switch homes. If a member has a birthday and they want to make it special for the group, it just makes more sense to have the meeting at their home for that week. Rotating venues also gives you as the leader to opportunity to see families operate in an environment they are comfortable with. Sometimes a certain function is just more suitable in another home.
Reviving a failing homecell
If you have lost members, do a bit of introspection and start with yourself. Take your Bible and read about how mentoring and leadership work. An excellent example is how Jethro dealt with Moses. He taught his son-in-law to distribute responsibility, and not do everything himself. Read how Jesus interacted with his disciples. Sometimes He would address an individual in front of the others, while at other times he would not humiliate them, and deal with them in private. Read how Paul gives advice to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These three are Paul’s focus in the pastoral epistles – letters Paul wrote to individuals to teach them how to deal with various groups in the churches and their homes (See Philemon 1:2) they pastored. Learn from these examples and then decide if you want to continue with your cell.
If you do, then start by asking members to tell you why they left. These reasons will be the things you need to focus on and not make the same mistakes again. See if you can establish new relationships with individuals. Invite individuals for coffee, but not at your home. This was the scene of the conflict in the first place. Take them to a neutral place you can meet. Most importantly, listen to them. While you may be upset because they left, they may be hurt because they left, and there is a big difference between upset and hurt. Right now, it is not about you, but about them. However, you are going to learn about the mistakes you made. What they tell you will be for your benefit, and ultimately, for theirs. If you manage to win them over, then you have done the right thing to establish a new relationship, for the benefit of both parties.
Understand that where individuals meet, there will be differences in opinion. Good leaders are those who can accept these differences and learn from them. Good leaders are also the ones who do not see others as a threat, but instead as valuable sources of information, friendship, and fellowship. In my group, the members are so important to my own well-being, that I will never do anything to upset the relationship in any way. They shape me, as I shape them. They hopefully feed off me, and I definitely feed off them. Together we are on a journey to our ultimate destination and want to gather as many on the way as we possibly can.