As the Fellowship Group Facilitator, you are the "voice" of the group’s weekly Fellowship Meals. You are not only an "emcee," directing the components of the gathering, but someone who leads discussion and invites participation from the rest of the group in all portions of the gathering. Though we try to avoid our Fellowship Groups becoming overly personality-driven, your group will naturally respond to your demeanor and leadership, so Christ-centeredness and enthusiasm are very important! The responsibilities of the Facilitator can be delegated to other members of the group for a particular Meal from time to time (and this is recommended in order to identify people for the Facilitator role in future groups!). And don't talk too much–you are facilitating the interaction of the group, not preaching mini-devotionals!
The ideal person for this role is gifted in communication and leadership, and sensitive to group dynamics.
1. Direct the Fellowship Meal activities
The regular components of our NoHo Church Fellowship Meals are eating, communion, edification and prayer. Other activities may be added, but we ask that you make sure to include all of these at a minimum.
You can figure out what works for your group, but here’s a suggested schedule to aim for (loosely):
- 0:15 Welcome, Prayer, Eat, Communion
- 1:00 Edification
- 2:00 Musical Worship (if any)
- 2:15 Dismiss
Depending on your group dynamics, you may have to verbally cut short certain portions to be respectful of people’s time and to be cognizant of the children's attention-spans. A two-hour-fifteen-minute gathering is already longer than most people are used to for “church,” though some will want to hang out all day!
Ideas for what to say moving through the main activities of the gathering...
Leading into the meal:
"Welcome! Our gathering today illustrates our UNITY as followers of Jesus and our LOVE for one another. As we eat, I encourage you to discern your relationship with others here and make sure that there is no conflict between us–if there is, confess your sin and forgive each other–then we will participate together in communion!"
Leading into communion:
"We’re about to take communion to GIVE THANKS for the work of Christ, IDENTIFY ourselves as God’s people, and REJOICE that He is returning for us! We believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, and that He will return. If you don’t believe this, we ask that you just observe but not participate in this portion of the meal."
Leading into edification:
"Now we'll take some time to encourage and edify each other. Here are a few options to share:
- Scripture reading
- praise to God
- prayer request (someone will pray for you right away!)
- communication about an upcoming activity
- (It is recommended that you avoid using the word "share;" this word tends to lead to people talking about anything they want, which isn't the purpose of this time. Words like "edify," "encourage," "contribute," and "build up" may better help people understand what we're going for.)
(Depending on the group size and number of children, you may need to ask people to be brief, reminding them that we should be sharing these things outside of our Fellowship Meal as well!)
2. Line up members for specific "speaking" roles on a given week
It's easy to fall into a typical church misconception that the "leader" does everything. Don't let this happen! Ask other people to lead various components of your communion and edification time. You’ll probably want to maintain a list of who has been assigned these responsibilities so you can rotate involvement, and ask/inform people early in the week for upcoming items!
Some of the regular speaking/leading roles will be:
- COMMUNION: As a church, we find it important to participate in communion every week to remind us of the sacrifice of Christ and that He will return! It is something that you can lead yourself (it doesn’t have to take a lot of preparation), but it also provides a great opportunity for other members (including the host, administrator or spiritual overseer) to serve the Body. People given this responsibility may need to have explained that this isn't meant to be a devotional, but a simple and brief reminder of the cross and return of Jesus. (And remember, the bread and cup represent the body and blood of Christ–this should be mentioned!) The person leading should be someone who has been a member of the group for a while, and is apparently a believer. (Feel free to run names by your spiritual overseer!)
- PERSONAL STORY & PERSON-SPECIFIC ENCOURAGEMENT: Though it’s probably too time-consuming to include both of these in one week, we’ve found it incredibly beneficial to include at least one or the other of these items most weeks. When asking someone to share their personal story, you may want to explain to them that not only will the group love to hear how they came to Christ, but they will be encouraged to know what their life has been like since coming to know Him as well! Obviously one who would share in this way should be, as best you can tell, a follower of Jesus.
On a week that someone specifically will be encouraged, it is good to remind the group that encouragements based in Scripture are especially meaningful (e.g., fruits of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, Christlikeness, etc.); It isn't simply a time to tell the person everything you like about them. Please encourage the group to put some considerable thought into what they might say, as this is the perfect opportunity for the receiver to better understand how God has gifted them to serve the Body! Take this seriously, and don't blow smoke! (And don't forget to let the group know early in the week who is being encouraged so they can prepare!)
- MID-WEEK TEACHING FOLLOW-UP DISCUSSION: As much as possible, we try to overlap our two main ministries so that truth and love operate hand-in-hand within our church. A Fellowship Meal is a great place to follow up the Mid-Week Teaching with personal conversation about applying what we've learned. Many weeks, the church's teaching team will provide you, the Facilitator, with some discussion questions to get the group thinking and talking about the relevance of God's Word in their everyday life. The person to lead this discussion should be someone who is regularly engaged in the Mid-Week Teaching and has some considerable spiritual maturity.
- MUSICAL WORSHIP: The primary purpose of the Fellowship Meal is edification, not worship music. Singing isn't required every week, nor may your group be able to accomplish it (depending on the gifting of your members), but it is a particularly valued form of worship in our culture. If your group doesn't have capable musicians but they would like to sing together, feel free to ask members from other groups to help periodically, or download some worship songs! (If you need NoHo Church Songbooks, ask Jared.) Other worship options that don't involve music include: reading and praying through Psalms, speaking praise to God for who He is, giving public testimony to the work God in your lives, etc. Any believer can be asked to lead a time of worship.
3. Provide regular reminders
Be discerning about what to remind the Group of on a particular week. Here are some things you will want to bring up periodically...
- "Come to the Meal prepared to edify one another! The responsibility is on every group member to provide the "content" for any given week (like Col 3:16, 1 Cor 14:26). During the week, be thinking about how you might edify the group at the gathering...e.g., a Scripture you recently read that you sense would be especially timely for your group to hear, something for which you'd like to express public praise to God, a song you've written for the church, etc. Remember, it's not just a time to "share," but to encourage, sharpen, and build up one another in Christ." (The tendency will be to focus only on prayer requests, so make sure to consider the other options as well--see #1 above."
- "It is everyone's responsibility to welcome new people. If you see someone you've not met or standing alone, change that! It's very easy to get comfortable with members who have been around for a while–we hope they feel like family–but remember that our hope is to grow as more and more people are being adopted into God's Family. Think of how you felt when you were the new person; Every relationship has to start somewhere. Don't expect someone else to be the welcoming committee; Be that yourself!"
- "Living into our identity as the Family of God and the Body of Christ should extend well beyond our set gathering times. Get involved in each other's lives! We believe sanctification and discipleship happen best over everyday life. Who knows what sharpening conversations you will have together at the grocery store, cleaning your house, eating dinner, playing with the kids, going on vacation, watching the ballgame, ...you get the point!"
- "Our hope is to birth more Fellowship Groups as the Lord brings growth. This will happen as we are faithful ambassadors for Christ and His Gospel. As you converse with friends, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors about Jesus, feel free to invite them to a Fellowship Meal! Please be upfront about what they will experience at the gathering (prayer, communion, etc.), and don't let "inviting someone to church" be an excuse for not sharing the Gospel yourself; Make it a part of your evangelism process, teaching them about God and what He does in the lives of His people!"
- "As the Lord adds to our numbers, be on the lookout for future administrators, hosts, facilitators and spiritual overseers so we can spread into more Fellowship Groups when we outgrow the home we're in!"
- "Encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13), not just for Fellowship Meals! Some of us have been very moved by the encouraging environment we've experienced at our Fellowship Meals; Why not make this a reality throughout the week?"
- "Make sure you remember to engage with the larger church through Mid-Week Teaching and other all-church activities. While smaller groups are our primary community context, there is something important and special that happens when all of the Groups are together, and you won't want to miss out on that!"
- "Make sure to be at our Fellowship Meal as consistently as possible (Heb 10:25; Acts 2:42), realizing that we have responsibility to each other. Don't think to yourself, "Do I feel like showing up?" or "Is this going to benefit me?" When you're not here, the Group misses out on you being here. You're not being challenged to "attend" something–it's much more than that! Church attendance is just religion. You are part of the living Body of Christ, and this is the gathered context in which that Body expresses its unity and love."
- "Which part of the Body of Christ are you? How has God gifted you uniquely to serve this Body? (1 Cor 12; Rom 12) Be creative and consider this often! Our church is not the type to be okay with passive involvement. The Body of Christ only grows as each part is working properly (Eph 4:15-16). Encourage one another in these things!"
- "How well are we doing carrying out the "one-anothers?" (Maybe provide your group with a list, or discuss one in particular every week.)
- "When you don't see someone for a while, check in with them! Even after someone moves away, or is no longer engaged with our church, if we truly love the people in our church and we understand that God's work is much bigger than us, we need to care for people as they leave us (even though our interaction will taper off). This may happen often because we live in Los Angeles where most people don't stay long-term. Make sure to follow up with people when you stop seeing them–it may be just what they needed! (James 5:19-20; Luke 15:1-10)"