For 20 years I worked as a youth minister in churches of all sizes. I’ve worked in churches where my presence constituted 10% of the attendance that day, and I’ve worked in churches where I was one of the thousands.
I learned a lot through those experiences. I learned what I loved about the church, and I learned what I needed to endure if I was going to keep on being a part of the church.
The main thing I learned is that the perfect church doesn’t exist. I think we can all agree on that.
About six years ago I started my own business that helped people, and my ministry began to look a lot different from working as a staff member of a church.
This freedom allowed me to try a new church experience that my wife and I had been praying about for a while.
We joined a house church.
When I tell people that I’m a part of a house church I usually get one of two responses;
“That’s nice” (With body language that says, “That’s not really church. Poor heathen.”)
“Tell me more” (in other words, “I don’t really know what that means but it sounds like something different and I’ve been looking for “different” for a long time.”)
So for the rest of this post, I’m going to pretend that you asked for more. I’ll share with you my “why” for joining a house church. Then I’ll give you the pros and cons I’ve experienced over the last 6 years.
Why wouldn’t you just go to a “normal” church? I think that’s what a lot of folks would like to ask me, so I’ll give my best answer. I
’m not sure that a larger organized church is any more normal than a house church. In fact, when you see the term “ekklesia” (the greek word for church) used in Scripture it’s used in larger and smaller, more intimate settings.
The larger, organized church recognizes this and offers large gatherings of worship along with small groups.
There’s only one problem that I believe most professional ministers would admit to you if they were being honest….. you. can’t. manufacture. intimacy.
So doing small groups (with authentic intimacy) on a large scale is a tough, if not impossible job.
There’s no doubt that groups can form and hit it off, but relationships are hard to scale on a large level.
This is where the house church appealed to me. The churches I worked for made their front door the large worship gathering and then moved folks to small groups.
The house church starts in the small group and moves towards larger gatherings.
If you want to know my real reason for joining a house church, it’s pretty simple. I had been a part of three mega churches back to back to back, and I needed for a season to experience the exact opposite.
So, the house church seemed like a great move for me and my family.
Little did I know how my life would change, and my love for the church would grow beyond what I could imagine.
So here’s the good and the bad of my house church experience:
My house church affectionately refers to itself as “Tailgate church”. You see we all love football and tailgate parties, and we thought it would be fun for church to feel like a family reunion every time you gather.
Last Sunday our church lasted 8 hours…. we ate lunch and dinner together 🙂
It’s a fellowship that’s not perfect but it’s also not forced. Everyone chooses to be there, and for the most part makes themselves emotionally available to each other.
The experience for my Kids-
When we first started house church, I was worried my kids would suffer. How will they learn the Bible without a children’s ministry pouring into them?
Now, don’t get me wrong—- I LOVE KIDMIN! But I quickly learned that in the house church setting my wife and I are the children’s ministers for my kids during the week, and they enjoy true Christian fellowship with their friends at house church on the weekend.
My wife and I are the ones who accept responsibility for spiritually teaching and leading our sons. The kids in house church gladly help them experience Christian friendship and fellowship.
[Side note] This Sunday my oldest son will get his Birthday Blessing from our house church. He picks his favorite dessert and we enjoy it together. Before the dessert, each adult will read a pre-written spiritual blessing tailored specifically for my son, and then give him a symbol that represents the blessing. Then each of the kids will take turns telling my son how they see God has made him unique.
We do a Birthday Blessing for every kid in our church because it’s small enough to do that. It’s an amazing time that I know will shape their lives. I’m so excited for Sunday to watch other adults join my wife and I in pouring into our son’s soul.
In a house church, there is very rarely a centralized leader like a “senior pastor”. There are some cool aspects to that, but one thing that isn’t very fun is that it’s easy to get lazy on the details and organization that goes along with regularly meeting.
It’s a very real struggle.
It’s hard to replace a Youth Group
Maybe it’s the old youth minister in me, but I love a good youth group. I just see Christian teenagers flourish in a setting where they can be around like minded kids their age.
It’s almost impossible for a house church to offer a youth group to their kids.
This is a place where the larger church serves my house church so well. We also enjoy attending the larger worship services of the corporate churches in town. It helps to fill in the gaps for us and allows us to connect with the church as a whole.
I have a BIG STATEMENT to make as I close this post.
I am not trying to convince you to join a house church.
I’m not at all trying to say that the house church is the answer to what’s broken in the American church.
I’m not trying to take shots at Mega Churches.
I see a very clear purpose for the larger, corporate churches that serve our cities so well. I just know that at a time when I needed to fall in love with the bride of Christ again, Jesus allowed me to experience it in a small, intimate setting.
And now, I can’t wait for Sunday.