Not a Housegroup

Having heard Roger Walton talk about his research into small groups I have been challenged to change the way I connect with small groups in my own church and also challenged to share the research with others in my work as a Training Officer for The Methodist Church.

A quick summary of what I got from the research.

Church small groups are made up of people like you and me, and we are influenced by our society. Our society is focused on the individual, therefore there is a need for community but we seek out community that will help us to help ourselves.

Housegroups promote mutual support at the expense of Bible study, accountability and social engagement. In other words groups were about mutual support but without deep challenge. Indeed the groups are a reflection of our secularised society by themselves avoiding the big theological issues.

 People in housegroups feel closer to God and more able to link faith to their daily life, but only 18% were more engaged in local social issues as a result of being in their group. This is the bit which challenged me.

Do we expect God to form us when we are gathered together as Church rather than when we are engaged in justice issues?

At the church where I worship, a couple of us have started a group which is open to all, is very fluid and we are not sure it can be called a group! It doesn't meet in a house so it cannot be called a housegroup. At the moment we are calling ourselves, 'not a housegroup'.

We meet in a pub and decide what local events and issues are going on and we engage in that. Then we reconvene in the pub to theologically reflect on what we have done. Our intention being to find God in the doing and the reflection.

The theological reflection tool we are using as a launch pad is a simple one which is depicted below.

Not a Housegroup

1. Overall, what are your thoughts about....?

2. Overall, what are your feelings about....?

3. Overall, what did you observe about yourself involved in ...?

4. At ... , how much of yourself did you reveal?

5. At...., how much of yourself did you hide?

6. How are your responses to ... shaped by your history?

7. How has ... influenced your anticipated future?

8. What does this tell you about God?

Alison Parker


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