By Susi Lamoutte
Going home. I suspect this phrase brings to mind different images for each of us based on where and with whom we have lived throughout our lives. Good or not so good, set those thoughts aside. Dream for a moment, hypothesize. When you go home from a long day of work, school, parenting, trying to find a job—whatever it is that makes your day long, full, or hard—what do you wish you could enter into?
Going home. Think beyond making dinner, screaming kids, an equally tired spouse, messy roommates, your to-do list. Going home. Think comfortable, affirming, pleasant, inviting, or whatever characteristic you most wish for at home. What would make you say, I can’t wait to go home.
What does this have to do with homegroup? It could be said that homegroup is a mid-week meeting that happens to be in a home. Hopefully there is much more to it than that! Everyone shows up to homegroup at the end of a day – a good day, an okay day, a bad day, or simply just a day.
What if homegroup felt like going home, to a place you WANT to go? A place that is peaceful and inviting, a space for conversation and laughter, where you can let down and just be you, with no pretense or expectations. A safe place to share—joys, fears, dreams, questions, uncertainties, frustrations, deep unfulfilled longings—to be listened to, embraced, and prayed for.
As Dorothy says as she clicks the heels of her red ruby slippers together at the end of The Wizard of Oz, There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,…. We long for a home we love.
Can homegroup be like going home? YES! But it takes every member’s contribution. Here are four initial qualities for a homegroup to feel like home. Upon these, much will naturally develop.
First and foundationally, members must simply respect one another. We are each unique, and we all have strengths and weaknesses. Really, the only way we are fully the same is that each of us is created in God’s image. That said, there is no place to judge, to compare yourself either up or down. Respect, acceptance, and compassion in light of our humanness are essential.
Secondly, we need to listen to one another. To really hear, not just the words, but the story the words encapsulate. When in homegroup, try to really be in homegroup. Our minds are so full and scattered sometimes. Be present in the room, with your people. Hear before you formulate your next sentence. Don’t interrupt or cut the last few words off a person’s sharing with your response. That means you weren’t really listening to the whole sharing! Think about it: listening goes hand in hand with respect.
Another important feature of homegroup is what I refer to as “equal participation.” Equality not just between women and men, young and old, but with the introverts and extroverts, people many decades into following Jesus and those who may be new to learning about the Christian faith, those with post-doctoral degrees and those who have not yet or may never pursue the academic environment post-high school. None of these stations in life gives anyone a one-up on anyone else! Each individual’s thoughts, experiences, and questions are equally valuable to everyone.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Equal participation goes two ways. Those of us who can say a lot, and are prone to do so, need to be quiet more. Conversely, those of us who hesitate to speak, either because of timidity or simply because it takes a few moments to pull our thoughts together, need a place which allows us to join in and discuss. This, too, has to do with respect as well as listening.
Finally, home needs to be a safe place. As one shares in homegroup and is heard, one must also be protected with confidentiality. Don’t talk about others’ sharings with or around people who are not part of your group! That is gossip.
Invest in your homegroup, help create the feeling of going home, build the desire for all to come participate at the end of whatever their day may have presented. Enjoy!