You’ve probably heard of “hosting” a group. But what does it mean to be a host? Is there a difference between a host and a leader? Is it just another name for a leader? If I’m a host, will you provide the teacher? These are questions that are asked all the time. ALL the time. You may have your own answers…but let me give you some of the defining ideas of the host strategy (and what it means to host a group).
The HOST Concept: The first thing you need to know is that the idea of H.O.S.T. makes it possible for ordinary people to lead a small group. By that I mean that we’re almost always talking about using a DVD or video-based small group study, bringing the teaching into the group via the television, and allowing the Host to do just that. In fact, the HOST acrostic stands for:
- Heart for your community (or your church)
- Willing to Open your home for six weeks (or the length of the study)
- Serve a few simple refreshments
- Tell a few of your friends (in the beginning the T stood for “Turn on your VCR”)
This is very important to the idea. You’re not recruiting teachers or leaders. You really are simply inviting people to open up their homes, serve some coffee and dessert, and tell (invite) a few of their friends. That is a ground-breaking concept and allows many more people, ordinary people, the chance to include friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
Will a “leader” or “teacher” be provided? No. Using a DVD-driven curriculum allows a group to begin without a teacher. In addition to a warm invitation and spirit of hospitality, only very basic facilitation skills are needed. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to match someone with an interest in leading with someone who has an open home, but that is not normally how the concept works.
When is HOST strategy used? The idea of hosting a group came into being as part of Saddleback’s 40 Days of Purpose campaign. The HOST strategy can be very effective when used as part of a church-wide campaign (an alignment of weekend message series and small group curriculum). As part of the build-up to the campaign, HOSTs can be recruited who will commit to opening up their home for the six weeks of the series/study and invite a few friends.
Who can be a HOST? Every church makes this decision based on a number of factors. The culture of the individual congregation, available coaching for new hosts, even the topic of study are all relevant. Some churches may decide that only members may host a group. Other churches may decide that you must attend an orientation to qualify, but will only allow members to advertise their group on the web or in the lobby. Still others will simply require that you use the provided materials and invite your own group members.
What kind of training is required? Again, this varies from one church to the next. The most effective strategy seems to be to require attendance at a brief orientation (1 to 2 hours max) combined with connection to a coach who will serve as a liaison for at least the period of the campaign. Many churches are also finding that a decentralized mid-series huddle in the home of the coach is a very effective additional opportunity to encourage the host.
What happens when the six-week commitment ends? With a good experience, many of the new groups will decide to continue. Hosts are reminded in the orientation that they’ve made a six-week commitment and that their commitment is making it possible to launch many new small groups. They’re often encouraged to be open to the possibility that the group may be such a good experience that they would choose to continue…but there’s no pressure to do that.
What is the biggest advantage of the HOST strategy? The HOST strategy is a proven method of getting the largest number of new leaders in the game and unconnected people in a small group. It is not problem-free, but it is a great solution when a church needs to connect a large percentage of their members and attendees.