I received an email from an old friend who is seeking advice on how to start a house church group among college students. He asked me, "What would Keith do?"
This is an intriguing question and I realized I haven't published a lot of my ideas on this anywhere so here's a bit of what I said to my friend.
Honestly, I lean towards a "less is more" approach and I'm usually reticent to give people step by step instructions. However, I'd basically suggest gathering those who are interested in this together and sharing a meal together (potluck), sharing communion together, and sharing from their actual lives what God has been teaching them in their daily walk with Christ.
Our house church follows this general pattern based on 1 Cor 14:26 - "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."
So, our assumption is that everyone in our house church is already a follower of Jesus. Most of them, like me, have grown up in Church and have heard thousands of sermons and bible studies and can fill in the blanks on any discussion on the Scriptures. What we're not so great at is actually putting all of this into actual practice in our daily lives.
The purpose of our house church is to encourage and motivate everyone to live out their personal mission and calling according to their individual gifting. It's different for all of us. So, we don't tell them what it is, we help them to discover it and then we encourage one another every time we gather to continue living out that personal mission.
When we gather each week we all bring something to share - food and encouragement. During the share time I try to keep my mouth shut and allow people to talk. I also try to make sure that everyone is given equal time to speak and I try to keep us on target with encouraging one another in our walk with Christ. (This means re-directing complaints, gripes, politics, etc. to the end for prayer, or for another time).
In general, I'd suggest empowering people and not attempting to control or direct people.
For me, one of the most amazing things has been discovering that when Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth, and when Paul and Peter said that we were the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the priesthood of believers, they were all dead serious.
In our house church we have kids who open their Bibles and their mouths and speak such words of simple truth that only God could have revealed it to them. Sure, we have to safeguard the essentials of our faith, and there are times when I may have to speak up and correct a misconception theologically, but most of the time I'm the one who is learning from the Holy Spirit through everyone else in the room.
It can be very challenging for someone like me (and maybe you as well) with a gift to teach and a heart to preach to actually shut our mouths, invite the Holy Spirit and then just wait quietly in the uncomfortable silence for Him to speak. But, I'm telling you, if you can, and if you will, He actually does...and it's pretty amazing.
I've written a few things about my philosophy of house church at the links below. Take a look over at www.OCHouseChurch.com