Holy Conversation, Batman! (@drbattytowers)

What does your housegroup mean to you? Is it the core that binds your church together? Something you dip into when you feel like it? A safe space to ask questions and learn? A place you go to test and stretch your faith? Or perhaps it’s your social evening, at which you hope discussion of faith is kept to a minimum. Maybe you’ve never been to one, because the whole idea leaves you cold.

This short series of posts will look at why we attend mid-week groups, ideas on how they might run, plus some hints and tips on leading discussions and keeping them (more or less) on topic.

I look after a housegroup – one of five, that meet monthly, in a church of nearly 300 people. And I am a member of another one (for I need to learn, as well as facilitate). The group is quite small, 5 or 6 people. We come together for “Holy Conversation.” (I always want to add “Batman!” to the end of that). But what does that mean, and what is the point of the group?

‘My’ group has a mix of older and new Christians: people that have been around church for a long time, people who are just getting the hang of it. So we never assume that everyone round the table has the same level of knowledge. This is an advantage – for those who have seen more of faith, explaining their take on a theological point helps them articulate what they think – and we can be challenged by a new perspective on what’s been something we take for granted. This is, for me, where the ‘holy conversation’ comes into it. It’s a place where people just talk about what they do, day in, day out, as we take faltering or failing steps, or leaps and bounds in our walk with Christ.

Bible Study Housegroup

So that is the point of meeting. We share. We laugh. We’ve been stunned into silence and we’ve all talked at once. We’re building prayer partners. We love our church, with its ceremony and sermons – but the housegroup is the place we can honestly say, “I don’t understand this. Will someone explain?”

Our housegroup is currently reading the book ‘Living Faithfully’ together. So we have some structure, or at least some idea of structure, behind our meetings. The book has ‘anchor passages’ of scripture, plus questions, plus starting points for prayers. Life doesn’t really have time in to prepare a topic from scratch each week – so this is a good mix with which to begin. I’m certainly no theologian. I’ll have read the chapters several times, so I know what’s there; slowly read the anchor passages in the Bible, worked out my own answers to the questions and then perhaps sketch out a few more that I think would be interesting for the group. And what else might go in the mix? At our last meeting the anchor passage was one I had as part of a meditation CD, so we used that. Oh, and I’ll have prayed a lot…

When we set the group up, we knew there were other groups with a different flavour in the church. We didn’t want ours to be an academic Bible study – and I would not have felt comfortable leading. But we wanted some structure, which is why we’re using a book as a basis. There’s another group in our church who don’t prepare anything – they meet, and go where the Holy Spirit takes them.

About Sara Batts

Sara completed her PhD research in 2013 examining how English churches are embracing – or ignoring – the rise of social media. Based in Colchester, Sara has a day job in London as a legal information professional so she’s well placed to understand how best to find and provide information online. Blogs, twitter feeds and other social media are second nature and she’s been using the internet for longer than she cares to remember