Housegroups with Zoom

Like many church groups, our housegroup decided that we would continue meeting during these unusual times, using Zoom instead of meeting physically, as the lockdown restrictions do not permit us to meet in the normal way. Now that we have done this for a few weeks I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences of meeting virtually.

The format we have used each week is:

• Welcome tea and coffee / catch-up

• Opening Prayer

• Worship song

• Bible reading and short reflection / discussion on passage.

• Prayer time

• Worship song

• Saying goodbye

Our housegroup normally has 10 people who attend. Unfortunately, 2 of these are unable to join the Zoom meeting, leaving 8 of us who have meet each week from 4 households.

I think we all found it initially quite strange looking at each other, and ourselves, on our computers / laptops. One starts to feel self-conscious of everybody looking at you!

It obviously goes without saying that it is not the same as meeting together and cannot replace that. However, currently we cannot do that and therefore this is the only option available. We all agree that it has been good to see and talk with each other again.

As far as the individual parts of the meeting have gone, I would say:

• Worship – the host of the meeting plays a worship song via YouTube. It is a good way to start the meeting, but the videos sometimes suffer from pixel issues when played back via Zoom. We discussed this last night and the problem is with the speed of the broadband connection when streaming the video via Zoom. I think it is something which we are just going to have to live with!

• Bible reflection – We have found that it does not really flow in quite the same way as when we normally meet together as a group. One of the problems is that sometimes it has been difficult for the group leader to gauge the mood of others in the group and if they want to contribute. This is a lot easier to do when we are all in the same room and you can see people’s expressions. That said our reflection last night did flow well and we may find that as we get more used to meeting virtually this might improve.

• Prayer time – I think the prayer times have worked very well. We have a prayer list which is shared on the screen and we quickly run through it, adding anything new, and then we pray together. I would say that the prayer times have probably been the best part of the evenings.

On a personal note there have been times during our meetings when I have struggled to hear exactly what one of the others have said due to the poor quality of my laptop speakers. I could put my headphones on to resolve this but then my wife would not be able to hear anything! I did investigate downloading the Zoom app to my tablet, however they wanted what I considered excessive unnecessary access to my tablet, which I was not prepared to grant.

Anyone who has used the free version of Zoom will know that meetings are limited to 40 minutes. We are fortunate to be using one of the subscription versions so do not have this time limitation.

One of the drawbacks of meeting virtually is that there is the risk that two people in different houses might start talking at the same time. Zoom does have a facility where you can put your hand up if you wish to say something. However, that facility is only available to the host of the meeting and in our group the leader is a different person to the host.

When all is said and done the majority of the issues we have experienced are not major ones. Some might call them “first world problems!” We as a group have enjoyed being able to meet again, even though it is virtual and will continue to do so until we are permitted to meet physically again.

We are very fortunate with the advances in technology over the last few years that we have this option which enables us to continue to meet during these times. I would certainly recommend that if your housegroup has not tried this yet then you consider doing so. You do not necessarily have to use Zoom as there are other options available e.g. Jitsu. Whichever option you choose it is worth meeting virtually to encourage one another.

 

The Importance of Housegroups

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews in Chapter 10 verse 25 says,

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

One of the ways in which we can do this is to belong to a housegroup. So what is a housegroup? Generally speaking a housegroup is a small group of Christians who meet together during the week in someone’s home to study the Bible, pray, encourage one another and to build up relationships in the body of Christ. Although the sizes of groups will vary they often would have between 6 to 12 members. Once a group grows beyond this number then it might be wise to split the group and to form two separate groups.

Bible study is very often a key feature of the group. One of the advantages of a housegroup is that the group can study the Bible together and members can discuss how the passage they are studying is relevant to their everyday life. There is also the opportunity for people to ask questions about anything they do not understand in the passage. Generally speaking when we are listening to the sermon on Sunday it’s not normal practice to interrupt the preacher and ask them questions if we don’t understand the talk! However, in the privacy of an individual’s home there is the chance to ask questions. And often we find that other people may have the same questions as us too. Discussing a passage together in this manner can be very helpful because we get onto real issues that concern people and we can discuss them to a depth that is not possible on a Sunday.

What’s the best Bible study for our group to do you may ask? Well there are literally hundreds of very good Bible study booklets available. Some people like to discuss subjects for example: Women of the Bible; whilst others may like to study a particular book of the Bible. Some churches will do a study based on the current theme of the sermons that are being preached at their Sunday services. If you are not sure what to study in your group a visit your local Christian bookshop to see what they have in stock or chat to your Church leaders.

Another advantage of the housegroup is that you can share prayer needs within the group and pray for one another. Whilst your Church leaders would probably be happy to pray for you on Sunday the opportunity for this may not arise. If you belong to a larger Church then there might be too many prayer needs for everyone to be prayed for on Sunday. However, in a small group you can share your needs and ask for prayer. One of the groups I used to be a member of would have a “sharing and pray” evening from time to time. We would go around the group saying how life was treating us and mention any prayer needs we might have. The other members of the group would then pray about the issues raised and then we would go onto the next person. (In that Church the housegroups were known as “Support Groups” which was an appropriate title). These were important meetings as we could be honest with the group and share disappointments or struggles we were having as well as praising God for the good things in our life.

Sometimes group members may have personal prayer requests which whilst they are happy to share with the group they would not want the rest of the Church to know about. Housegroups is the ideal place to do this.

Many people do find praying in public scary. They worry about getting the words wrong or drying up. However, praying in a housegroup can be a good place to practice and build up our confidence. It’s often a good idea to write down the items you prayer about so that when you meet together again you can see if the prayer has been answered yet. It can be very encouraging for the housegroup to see God answering the prayers they pray.

Another benefit from attending a housegroup is getting to know your fellow Christians better. It can be daunting for anyone who is quiet or shy to get to know people in a big Church. However, a housegroup offers a good opportunity to get to know people in the comfort of someone’s home. In some housegroups I have attended at Churches I have been fortunate to build up some great friendships as a result of cultivating them through the housegroup.

If you do not currently belong to a group I would strongly encourage you to consider seriously joining one. Not only will it benefit you but you too can also be a blessing to the group and the Body of Christ.