Home Fellowship Groups
Home Fellowship Groups are a life-changing expression of church here at PEPC! A Home Fellowship Group is an environment where Christ is head, where everyone is known and loved in community, where all are engaged in becoming more like Christ together, and where every person is equipped for and engaged in mission. If you have any questions or would like more information about Home Fellowship Groups, please contact Will Freyschlag, Community Life Director, by emailing: HFG@pepc.org.
Home Fellowships resemble some aspects of the early church, especially those found in Acts 2:42-47 and 1st Corinthians 12:1-31. From these passages PEPC has come up with 7 Elements of Home Fellowships that, with God’s help, each Home Fellowship strives for in due time. If each Home Fellowship pursues these practices in the timing that is best for their group, we trust God that amazing things will happen at our church! Six of the 7 Spiritual Practices of Home Fellowship groups are based on the description that the Bible gives us of the early church in Acts 2:42-47:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
The seventh practice is found in 1st Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and also Ephesians 4. It is practicing Body Ministry for the edification of the church.
Based on such passages as Acts 2:42 and Hebrews 4:12, Study is devoting ourselves to the apostle’s teachings and the rest of Scripture. It can also include studying other books or topics if that is what is needed for the Home Fellowship during a time.
Based on such passages as Acts 2:42 and Phil 2:1-2, Fellowship is a practical aspect of connecting with others, caring for each other, and living life together. Some examples include: sharing testimonies, asking good questions, laughing together, crying together.
Eating together as a church is based on such passages as Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7. Breaking Bread together is all through Scripture, from the feasts of the Israelites to the weekly gatherings of the early church, and is an essential part of our lives and communities.
Based on such passages as Acts 2:42 and Psalms 66:16-20, Prayer is going before our God in praise, in supplication, or in conversation as a group.
Based on such passages as Acts 2:45 and Mark 10:45, Serve is about serving in and out. It means sacrificing our own needs for the needs of those that are in a Home Fellowship, in the greater PEPC body and the church at large, and those outside the church who do not yet know Christ as their savior. Some examples include helping out with someone’s mortgage payment, providing meals, cleaning, giving rides, service project, etc. Serving means individually and as a group (or multiple groups coming together) and is encompasses the mission aspects of Home Fellowships.
Based on such passages as Acts 2:46 and Psalms 95:1-7, Worship is about reverence and celebration of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Worship looks different in a smaller gathering than the large corporate worship of Sunday mornings. Some examples include singing, stories, poems, art, “God sightings,” hopes, tears, and expressed adoration of various kinds.
The most misunderstood of all the Elements in our country (and will take the most work to implement) Body Ministry is based on such passages as 1st Corinthians 12:1-31. The general concept is the practical living out of the call of the church to minister to each other through the gifts that the Spirit has given each of us in the Body of Christ. Understanding what is needed to create and continue the space for Body Ministry takes time, but is well worth the effort because of the life and encouragement it brings to all involved.
“How do we account for kids at our Home Fellowship?”
We encourage all ages of kids and youth to be involved in the Home Fellowships. We are working with the Children’s Ministry Director and Youth Pastors to help Home Fellowships best minister to and be ministered to by the younger people who are involved. This integration of kids and youth is no longer the norm in churches so it may take a while to get used to, but we believe that the payoff of families worshipping and sharing together is well worth the adjustment.
That being said, we completely understand that this approach may not be the best fit for your Home Fellowship’s needs at the moment. We encourage groups to find ways to minister to their kids and youth in separate ways if they cannot join in the main gathering. This may include rotating a member to be with the kids each week or getting a babysitter, with both options aiming at mini-versions of the 7 Elements.
“What is the best meeting time for Home Fellowships?”
The best meeting time certainly varies for each Home Fellowship, but the factors that should be included in picking the time that best suits your group are: eating together, work and school schedules, and kid bedtimes (if applicable). If meeting as a Home Fellowship is a genuine priority for those in your group, God will help you find a time together as people become flexible and shift other things around to adjust to priorities.
“How often should a Home Fellowship Group meet?”
We are all busy people in this high-paced and competitive society, so we are often asked how frequently a HFG should meet. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but PEPC believes in the importance of a frequent and consistent Home Fellowship in each of our lives. The reason for this is that to have meaningful connection, growth, and service together, a Home Fellowship needs to spend regular, consistent time together. The pro to meeting every week is that if someone misses a meeting time, it is only one week, not 3 weeks, before they’re back with the group. Meeting weekly also reveals to every person in the group that you all highly value your time together and that you prioritize fellowship, growth in Christ, and serving in mission in your lives. The same can be said, however, for those who are a part of a group that meets every-other-week, or twice each month. The “every-other-week” model generally fits people’s schedules better and it also lends itself to other activities during the meeting time on the “off weeks.” Some groups will use the “off week” to gather just the women or just the men, or schedule a service project. Either way…Home Fellowships provide a safe place where one can be encouraged, equipped, empowered, loved in community, ministered to, minister to others, be held accountable, grow in Christ, and serve the lost and needy of the world.
“Why eat together as a group?”
Breaking Bread is one of the 7 Spiritual Practices that each Home Fellowship strives for (in their own time) and is an important part of what it means to fellowship together as a group. God has designed eating together to be an integral part of what it means to be a human in community. We see this reaching all the way back to the festivals and feasts of the Old Testament, present in Jesus’ ministry (eating with sinners, miracles involving food and drink , and the Last Supper), and also a consistent practice of the early church (Acts 2, communion). There is something to this call to Break Bread as the church and it is a beautiful thing to be involved in on a consistent basis.
“What is the best way to structure our time together as a Home Fellowship?”
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to structuring your time together as a Home Fellowship because each group is made up of different people and has different needs than any other group. That being said, PEPC is striving to have consistency of standards in all of our groups so that we are all on the same page when it comes to purpose, language, and communication within and between all our groups. The balance of keeping these standards in our Home Fellowships but also recognizing and encouraging flexibility in each group is tough to maintain but more than possible if we all recognize and maintain the 7 elements, or 7 Spiritual Practices, for each group. These 7 Spiritual Practices are based on Scripture and beautifully maintain the standards intended for Home Fellowships while at the same time encouraging the flexibility of a group’s particular needs.
But if you’ve asked this question I’m sure you’d like at least a little bit of practicality. As a general rule, we’ve found it best to start your time together with Breaking Bread, during which you engage in Fellowship together by sharing stories from your week. Helping with making this week’s food or with setup or clean-up is a wonderful way to do the Spiritual Practice of Serve In: serving each other as the Body of Christ. Eating together is also a good time to Worship by sharing how you’ve seen God work in your life this week. One of our Home Fellowships calls these “God Sightings” and I think it is a great phrase for it. Next, a transition to the living room is usually in order, which is a good time to send the kids to be with the rotating adult overseer or babysitter if that is what your Home Fellowship chooses to do. In the living room you can either start with your time of Study or your time of Body Ministry. The time of Study involves diving into the Bible or a specified book study your Home Fellowship is going through together. This shouldn’t be a high-pressure situation for the one presenting the study and we would encourage all to be involved in the subsequent discussion and to even lead this time every once in a while. Insights, questions, and applications are encouraged from all. The time of Body Ministry usually involves a period of “Structured Freedom” where time is set aside for a liberating experience of listening to the Holy Spirit together for guidance, strength, and clarity for the purpose of ministering to each other as the Body of Christ as called for in 1st Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:3-8, and Ephesians 4:1-16. This time is also a great space for Prayer, though the Spiritual Practice of Prayer is the most adaptable of all of the practices so it can occur at any time throughout your meeting.
“Our Home Fellowship is having a hard time being involved in the Element of Serving, especially serving out, how do we find what mission best fits our group?”
The Spiritual Practice of Serving Out is the one element of Home Fellowships that likely can’t consistently occur during your weekly meetings. But that’s not a bad thing. Helping every individual Christian pursue their call to mission is something that Home Fellowships specialize in. PEPC’s Home Fellowships are encouraged to be involved in mission as a group. Whether this mission is for those who live in the same neighborhood that those in the Home Fellowship live in, is for the social circle the group’s members are involved in together, or another calling that God has made clear for the group. All of the above are some of the main reasons we as a church are pushing for Home Fellowships that are either geographically, socially, or mission ally oriented. With the mission of your group being a part of your DNA from the beginning, this will make Serving Out that much more natural. Mission won’t feel like something you are forced to do, but will be something you naturally want to be a part of with your Home Fellowship. Serving Out might often require meeting on a separate occasion to Serve together, but it could also be accomplished with a specified night where neighbors, coworkers, or friends who don’t yet know the Lord are invited to join in on a “lighter” night.
“Can you explain the Element of Body Ministry and how to implement it in our Home Fellowship?”
The Spiritual Practice of Body Ministry is probably the newest concept for most people involved in a Home Fellowship. The likely reason for this is that in general, the Church in America hasn’t emphasized member involvement when it comes to the practices of our churches. For the most part, all that has been expected of Christians in America is to come to church for an hour and a half on Sundays, count as an attendance number, and give some money to the church fund. At least that is what the common church structure of observational Sunday worship has encouraged. PEPC is changing these expectations at our church. We know that you, as a Christian, as an adopted son or daughter of God, and as a part of the Body of Christ, have gifts to offer our church and the Kingdom that we absolutely need if we are going to be the church that God has called us to. You are an essential part to this thing we call “church” and the Body of Christ and the world needs what you have to offer. PEPC longs to be a church that is living out what God has called us to and to do that we need our full Body to do this. To accomplish all that the Lord has put on our heart in this area we have to make some changes in our structure and priorities, which is where Home Fellowships come in. In addition to all that we’ve mentioned so far about Home Fellowships, these consistent environments will also provide the space and the opportunity for every member of PEPC to explore their gifts, to receive other’s gifts, and the chance to minister to others through the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given each person (Romans 12, 1st Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4). The Spiritual Practice of Body Ministry provides the space and time for every Christian to minister to the Body for the edification of the Body.
“How does the Element of Worship work in a Home Fellowship?”
The majority of Worship at PEPC will happen during our Sunday large gatherings, but some of the finer points of Worship should occur during your weekly Home Fellowship. This is where you can Worship the Lord through stories of His work in your life, personal testimonies, art, poems, and anything else that brings reverence and/or praise to our King. Be creative!