In official churches, hundreds of thousands of people gather together to attend services, but many don't know each other or just connect with their own group members. This article discusses the church pastoral mode accessible for the localization of Christianity in China and advocates small family churches.
Why advocate for small and comfortable home churches?
The big church model that the majority of churches used in the past aimed at the masses, making it impossible to achieve "refined care" with just a few staff workers serving hundreds or even thousands of people.
However, small home churches allow pastors the time and focus to observe those who need support, building pastoral relationships conducive to nurturing congregants and resembling a loving and warm home.
The smallest unit of a church is the family, and like the early church, small gatherings of two or three individuals create small meeting points. These gatherings can be held in homes, neighborhoods, or communities, facilitating easy access for attendees.
Amid the pandemic, some larger churches have attempted to establish "branched churches," with two or three families gathering later. This has been effective, and some pastors believe it will become a trend in the development of the church in China.
How can we build home churches?
Emphasis on family pastoral care
Small home churches emphasize pastoral care for families, providing a faith environment suitable for family members. Through birthday celebrations, parent-child activities, family devotions, and meals together, interactions and communication among family members are enhanced.
For instance, a home church of about a dozen people, affected by the pandemic, had not celebrated birthdays for a while. They spontaneously update records of members' birthdays and resume monthly celebrations now. Some small family churches also hold regular parent-child activities, such as foot-washing ceremonies for parents.
Establishing intimate relationships
Small home churches facilitate the establishment of intimate relationships. Pastors can regularly meet with each member at least once a month. Common issues can be addressed during Sunday gatherings, while personalized concerns can be handled through one-on-one counseling sessions.
In such churches, the smaller number of attendees fosters closeness. People like to pay home visits, with several believers conducting regular visits. Particularly for the sick, especially the elderly with severe illnesses, visits provide comfort and financial support. After the pandemic, crises in employment and entrepreneurship have emerged, and church members need mutual encouragement and resource support.
Emphasis on spiritual care
Small home churches should prioritize spiritual care for congregants, providing personalized guidance and support in faith. Regular spiritual activities like devotions, prayer meetings, and Bible studies help members establish a solid spiritual foundation and faith.
Many believers, despite years of professing faith, lack a foundational understanding of the Bible's teachings, which makes them vulnerable during turbulent times. Small and comfortable home churches enable pastors to provide one-on-one or small-group guidance. Besides instilling foundational truths, they also offer practical life companionship. These churches might organize basic, intermediate, and advanced Bible study groups, encouraging believers to attend men's or women's gatherings conducive to pastoral care based on individuals' spiritual conditions or differences in gender and occupation.
Strengthening community cooperations
Home churches should strengthen ties with the community by integrating Christians into community life and providing spiritual care and support.
They collaborate with communities by conducting seminars on marriage, parenting, law, and psychology. They also volunteer in nursing homes, providing support to elderly individuals whose children are not nearby. Additionally, they participate in cultural activities conducted by senior citizen universities in communities, engaging in activities like calligraphy, painting, and dance, and occasionally sharing the gospel.
Promotion of multicultural integration
Small home churches should advocate for multicultural integration, respecting people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Hosting multicultural events and offering multilingual services can be effective strategies.
For example, in a home church, the members include an art teacher, a civil servant, a homemaker, a migrant worker, and an IT professional. They organize varied activities to promote multicultural integration, such as art classes, sports events, and food festivals. Another house church comprises exclusively highly educated individuals above the university lecturer level. They enjoy Bible study sessions, weekly singing of hymns in multiple parts, as well as outings for painting and sketching sessions.
(The author of the original article is a Sichuan believer, and the Gospel Times published it.)
- Translated by Abigail Wu