Housegroups

Why do we place so much emphasis on housegroups?

Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The word used in the New Testament for “fellowship” is the Greek word “koinonia” which literally means “sharing our lives in common”, “intimacy”, “joint contribution”, “joint participation”.  The word means so much more than having a cup of tea every so often or saying hello at a meeting every week.  It is our understanding that the only way that we can really have koinonia with people is if we really know them and care about them.

The fact is that it is very hard to know more than about a dozen people well.  Sociologists recognise that around twelve is a very significant number when it comes to people.  Jesus seemed to think so too!  Obviously, our housegroups do not all have exactly twelve people in them but they are all around that number.  The reason for this is that this number of people can look after each other and care for each other and know each other far better than a larger group of people where it can be difficult to be much more than superficial in our relationships.

It is our desire to develop a church where people really love and care for each other and can learn and grow together in their faith.  At this time it is our belief that housegroups provide the best means for this.  The meetings are a place where it is safe to try to be open without fear of making a fool of yourself.  It is also a place where we can learn to do the works of the kingdom – compassion ministry to the poor, and outreach.  It is also a place where it is safe to learn how to prophecy, give words of knowledge and minister in the power of the Spirit, without making a fool of yourself.  It is a group of people learning how to be family.

What is the pastoral structure?

It is possible for a leader, or pair of leaders, to oversee and influence this small number of people successfully and diligently.  This, after all is exactly what Jesus did – he took twelve and trained them and oversaw them and pastored them and they then went out and did the same.  For this reason no one in the church is directly responsible for overseeing or pastoring more than about a dozen people.

Housegroup leaders have the responsibility to oversee and pastor the people in their group.  That means that they will be looking out for, encouraging, training and challenging the people in their group.  Effectively, these are the pastors of the church.

There are housegroup overseers who each look after a few housegroup leaders.  Their role is to be looking out for, encouraging, training and challenging these housegroup leaders.  They pastor the housegroup leaders.  Also, if a housegroup leader has a situation that they are not able to deal with in their group then their overseers will step in to help them with it.

Each housegroup has its own budget and sets its own agenda.  In many ways the groups serve the purpose of “church”.  These groups come together on Sunday mornings to meet up with others and encourage others together and also share resources from a central resource.  The pastoral staff are there to be a resource to the housegroups and their leaders to enable the groups to develop, grow and multiply.  In effect this church is a group of small groups reaching out and serving God but who share a common vision, resource and meet together weekly.

Currently Sam & Helen East  and Jo & Con Williams function as housegroup leaders as well as overseers.

What happens if you are not in a housegroup?

As you can see, the whole structure of the church is built around housegroups.  For the reasons that we have stated, it is our belief that this is the most effective way that we can faithfully pastor and develop this church.  Obviously, if you are not in a housegroup then it is going to be hard for you to get to know people and it will also be hard for us to pastor you.

Being a member of the Southampton Vineyard means being a member of a housegroup.  Each Sunday, a housegroup will lead the first of half of the meeting – music, devotional stuff, sharing and set-up while another housegroup will run the information, bookshop and catering.  You are not allowed to minister to people in the meetings, work in the kids work or bring something during open-microphone times unless you are in a housegroup.  This is just because we need to know that people are accountable and sharing their lives in common with others.  The bottom line is that there is just no way for you to be able to really contribute without being in a housegroup.

What if I can’t make it every week?

Housegroup is a commitment to a group of people and not a commitment to a meeting.  Obviously, if you do not make it to any meetings then it is obviously difficult to be committed to those people but being accountable and looked after is more important than attending meetings.  If you only make it once a month then it is better than not at all and it will mean that there are people praying for you, who care about you and who are looking out for you

Where and when are the Housegroups?

We have several housegroups, which meet on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening.  Generally groups start at 8pm.  We also have a Friday morning women’s group.

You can find out more details about these groups at the Sunday meeting, a current list of housegroups is presented below.

Tuesdays

Who? Where? 
Judi Galbraith & Yvonne Postlethwaite Bitterne Park (women’s group – mornings)

Wednesdays

Who? Where?
Lydia Roberts & Sarah Clegg Millbrook
Dan & Catherine Hamstead Bursledon (on the 2nd and 4th week of each month – see below)

Thursdays

Who? Where?
Matt & Georgina Bitterne Park
Jo & Con Williams (Newcomers) Townhill Park
Nick & Sarah Thomas St Denys
Ben Chapman & Mary Dickson Bitterne Park
Dan & Catherine Hamstead Shirley (on 1st and 3rd week of each month – see above)

Fridays

Jackie Neat & Emily Light Bitterne Park (women’s group, mornings – term time)