I’ve been thinking through all the homes I’ve led a group in over the years and how thankful I am for each one. Without a good host home, a small group will never develop into a growing and loving group. Bottom line- host homes matter. In thinking about this, I began to wonder what are the common characteristics that make the best host homes.
If you host a group, consider how you can develop these traits even further. If you’ve never hosted a group before but are thinking about it- this short list can help you decide if hosting is right for you.
1. They genuinely like having people at their house. If you don’t enjoy having people at your house, it’ll show. When people feel like the host is genuinely glad they’re there- they relax. And it’ll be easier for them to feel loved and cared for. A loved person is more likely to engage in group and feel like they belong. If you don’t feel like a “burden” to the host family- you’ll want to come back week after week.
2. Their house is physically “safe”. The best host homes I’ve ever been in are clean, but not too clean. They feel comfortable. It feels like, if you spilled a drink the hosts wouldn’t freak out. In fact, very little would shake them. Again, this helps people feel safe. On the opposite end, I’ve been in houses where you feel like you need to scrub down and put on a protective layer before entering the house. You fear breaking, scratching, or accidently moving anything- lest the host freak out. It’s very difficult to encourage a group to relax and be transparent in a house like this. (Consider having tea or coffee available during group. It’s a great way to help people relax and encourage conversation.)
3. When you’re there, your family. (like Olive Garden) I love being in a house where the host encourages me to “make myself at home.” Maybe they show me where they keep the glasses or coffee. I’ve found that one big difference between “family” and “guests” is family are not afraid to rummage through your cabinets- looking for what they need. Maybe that’s good or bad, but it’s the way it is. So, the best hosts help people to feel at home, in their home.
4. They’re secret group leaders. There’s nothing better than knowing your host family has your back. If discussion is too quiet, they know when to speak up to help you out. They help make new people feel comfortable. The best hosts will even follow up with group members outside of group to see how they’re doing. I remember one year when I couldn’t make it to group one night and another person stepped in to lead discussion. It ended up being one of the better discussions of the semester. On the one hand, I wondered if I should stop leading discussion to improve the group? (lol) But, on the other hand, I believe part of the reason the group was able to have such a special night was because the group hosts were like secret group leaders and their presence helped everyone feel safe so the group never missed a beat.
A few tips to help people relax:
- Think about lighting. Make sure your rooms are well lit.
- What about shoes and coats? When people enter your house, let them know what to do with their shoes and coats.
- Trash. Make sure there’s a trashcan that can be easily found.
- House Rules and Boundaries. It’s ok to have house rules and boundaries. No eating in the basement or take your shoes off when you come in. Hosting a group doesn’t mean you let people destroy your house for 2 hours. Make sure to discuss any house rules you have on the first or second night of your group.
Bottom line. I think it’s important to know how much a small group host home matters. I also think it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect host home. My wife and I have hosted groups off and on for a few years and sometimes, with 3 young children, we’re just proud we’ve made it to group time without anything being on fire and all of our children wearing clothes. Honestly, we just like having people over and work on the other 3 host home “secrets” as we’re able.