Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: Housegroups

Small groups can have a big impact. Over the past twelve years or so, I've been involved in lots of different versions and types of groups - cell groups, fellowship groups, small groups, house groups. You name it, I've probably been to it! As we were preparing to introduce a Bible study / fellowship group to our new parish (can I still call it that after a year and a bit?), I decided to read up on small groups, and this was the book I settled on.

'Housegroups: The Leader's Survival Guide' is edited by Ian Coffey and Stephen Gaukroger, having been reprinted in 2011 from an earlier version from 1996. Through eleven chapters, a variety of helpful instruction and timely advice is given to help leaders think about the point of housegroups, the makings of leadership, the skills needed to lead, how to teach the Bible in small groups, creative worship, trouble-shooting, communicating truth, praying, sharing, and evangelising in small groups. The authors have all been there, done that, so they know what they're talking about, and the reader will find lots of encouragement to get stuck in and see people group through small groups.

As a little taster, how about this to whet the appetite:

'Housegroups are the place where the 'ordinary church member' finds the ministries of the wider church supplemented; the place where Christians are nurtured, discipled, and encouraged to reach out to a lost world.'

However, as the writers make clear, housegroups need to be carefully led, with some teaching incorporated:

'Self-expression is fine, up to a point. But people feel dissatisfied if they go away feeling that they have spent an hour sharing each other's ignorance.'

The best chapter, for me, was the closing one, simply entitled 'I was a Housegroup Junkie' with a humorous sharing of one man's story as he overdosed on small groups and all the little quirks and happenings of groups of Christians in peoples' homes.

This book would be useful, both for pastors and others being asked to step up to lead a small group, to provide a comprehensive grounding in the practicalities and principles of small groups.

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