From Host to Spiritual Leader

The Host Home Strategy is transforming a new wave of leadership.

Christ's Church is consistently transforming and adapting to meet the needs and desires of people today. This continual change is seen vividly in small group ministries. It influences the way small groups are initially formed, then sustained, and eventually replicated. Small group leadership needs are also affected by these changes as well as by factors such as the dynamics of the local church body, the makeup of the small group participants, and ever changing cultural influences. One of the latest methods for starting and sustaining small groups, which has directly impacted small group leadership, is called the "Host Home Strategy." This article will focus on the effect this strategy can have on transforming a new wave of leadership.

The Host Home Strategy has been formulated and popularized within the last five years. It has had a profound effect on birthing new small groups and connecting people who may never have considered participating in a small group before. This strategy involves a church-wide emphasis aimed at encouraging people to become "hosts" of a short term DVD driven study in their home. During this period (often six-weeks), the Sunday morning sermons are aligned with the same topic each host home will be discussing in their small group that week. Hosts are recruited, trained, and sent out to invite other people to join them in this short term pursuit. Because of the increased focus and momentum, everyone from early adaptors to late adaptors are drawn in to share the experience as an entire body of believers.

Vast numbers of churches have had an opportunity to experience the Host Home Strategy multiple times. The result is that new attention is being given to what small group ministries have learned collectively. This additional focus has revealed that navigating the spiritual development process of the host is essential. Sustaining and encouraging the spiritual growth of these potential leaders are key factors in determining whether the Host Home Strategy will experience short-term success, or whether it will define how small group ministry is accomplished for many years to come. Four steps are crucial in helping facilitate the transformation from host to spiritual leader: Prayer; Coaching; Vision; and Practice.


Oftentimes, the basic foundational principles of spiritual development, can unfortunately appear trite. In fact, many reading this article saw the word "prayer" and moved right past it thinking, "Yes, I know we start with prayer, but what else is there?" However, this attitude is precisely what we need to guard against. We must ensure that our privilege of communicating with our Creator is not taken for granted. Regretfully, an assumption is made that prayer is naturally happening because we are doing the Lord's work, only to later find that major gaps exist in our network of prayer. Remarkably, our most basic source of strength is the one most easily overlooked. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Plan and prepare your strategy for prayer, just like any other step in the process.
  • Do not fall for the illusion that prayer naturally happens.
  • Encourage hosts to recruit one or more persons to pray specifically for their group.
  • Develop a creative way for the whole church to pray for the entire Host Home Strategy.
  • Ensure that the worship service involves prayer for the Host Home Strategy.


Partnering hosts with a coach means providing someone who will come alongside the host to offer prayer, support, encouragement, and assistance. Coaching has become a highly discussed topic in small group ministry. Critics of coaching proclaim that coaches are rendered ineffective because hosts typically do not ask for help. Though sometimes true, it is important to understand why hosts are not asking for help. For example, if everything is running smoothly, a host has no pressing need to call a coach. Conversely, if the state of affairs is not very bright, the host may fear revealing this information.

Consequently, without intentional effort on the coach's part, communication from the host is often scarce. However, the more intentional a coach is at genuinely taking interest in a host, the more likely that host will have a desire to reciprocate. Granted, not every coach and host relationship will reach its fullest potential. The coaching structure and the relationships that develop will vary drastically from church to church and group to group. Nonetheless, providing an opportunity for a coach-to-host relationship is essential. Whether that opportunity is fully embraced is a choice the host has to make!

In Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Chambers shares his insights into reproducing leaders. "Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train…" (i) Some coaching suggestions include:

  • Encourage coaches to schedule an initial face to face meeting with their hosts early on to build rapport.
  • Not every host may need a coach; focus on those who do.
  • Regular points of contact help assure a host is not "tossed here and there… (Eph. 4:14)."
  • Encourage using phone, email and text messaging where possible.


We all know the Proverb, "Without a vision, the people perish." (Pro. 29:18)However, not just any vision will do! Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." What an immense difference there is between God's vision from on high and ours here on earth! For our purposes, vision is understood on two levels: General Vision for all hosts; and Personal Vision for each individual host.

General vision must be intentionally communicated. The goal is to help hosts understand the direction in which God is leading them to proceed. From day one, hosts are encouraged to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, despite what their initial intentions for their group might be. Those who allow themselves to be vulnerable before God in this way are often amazed at how He begins to work in their group. What initially seemed like a short-term act of obedience has the potential of being used to spur them on toward a greater measure of spiritual maturity.

Personal vision provides the avenue for the hosts to travel the transformational journey from "host" to "spiritual leader." This transformation requires coaches to be involved in building meaningful relationships and getting to know the hosts. "Teaching a vision—and confirming that the vision is shared—is a process of engaging constituents in conversations about their lives, about their hopes and dreams."(ii)Genuine interest shown toward hosts who have been called and are ready to pursue spiritual transformation will provide unique opportunities for spiritual reproduction. Coaches can play a vital role in this transformational journey.


Hosts are being prayed for, coaches have modeled and encouraged, vision has been cast and it is time to focus on putting everything into practice. Now is the time when hosts must believe and commit to chasing after God and all he desires for them and their group. The perception of their role begins to shift from that of "host" to "spiritual leader." This process of spiritual maturation certainly does not happen overnight; however, hosts begin to notice that the horizon that once lay before them has changed and they are anticipating the new journey ahead.

These "hosts-turned-spiritual leaders" are now on a quest to live in community with those the Lord has placed in their lives. The pathway of transformation from hospitable host to community-driven spiritual leader may be strewn with countless accidents, dead-end paths, stalled attempts, and aborted missions. The host embraces the risks of the group never getting off the ground as well as a variety of other detours along the way. However, these words of assurance from Isaiah and referenced by Paul hold endless hope to this worthwhile pursuit, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (Isa. 64:4; I Cor. 2:9)


"T.S. Eliot said, 'There is no life that is not in community.' Scripture begins and ends with God calling humanity into relationship with the divine community and one another. (iii) The Host Home Strategy unquestionably supports this calling. As this strategy is refined, through experience and God's leading, more hosts will become spiritual leaders. Similarly, people within the small groups will begin seeing the purpose of their gatherings not just as a Bible study, or solely about fellowship, but about gaining a sense of what it means to live their life in Christian community.

These thoughts are not an exhaustive discussion of (or prescription for) completing the "host-to-spiritual leader" journey. Hopefully, they will serve as general talking points to spur small group ministries toward dialogue about what this process looks like in their setting. With God's help, our prayer is that more people will become connected to Christ and to each other as they to live in Christian community.

(i) Sanders, J. Oswald.Spiritual Leadership. Chicago:Moody Press, 1994, Page 25.

(ii) Blackaby, Henry and Richard. Spiritual Leadership:Moving People on the God's Agenda. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, Page 62.

(iii) Icenogle, Gareth Weldon. Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrational Approach. Downers Grove, IL:InterVarsity Press, 1994, Page 25.

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