What does it mean to be part of the House of Faith? Go around the group and ask each person to introduce themselves. The House may ask a different question each time if they wish to do this over several weeks. For example, "Tell us about your family" or "Tell us about your faith journey." This contains questions that will include new members when the House grows.
Regular attendance is expected and vital to developing a sense of community. House faith commitment means more than just a covenant but building ownership of the Household itself. Household faith commitment will need to extend to the type of resources, meeting format including prayer, study and community building. This will incorporate an estimate of the amount of time needed for each element. You need to agree also about the preparation the leader and the house members will make outside of the meeting time.✞
Research by ComRes carried out for the Church of England, reveals the ages at which children and young people come to (and leave) faith. When practicing Christians are asked at what age they came to faith, the results showed 40% before the age of 5, 16% between 5 and 10 and 20% between 11 and 18. Another question asks respondents who previously used to be a member of a religious group (not just Christian) "At what age did you stop considering yourself to be a member of this religious group?" The results show 4% between 5 and 10, 34% between 11 and 18, 21% between 19 and 24. The fact that 76% of Christians say that they came to faith under the age of 18 indicates the importance of focusing on how children and young people are helped to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ so that their faith is firmly rooted in the Christian community.
The conclusions of this study show
1. Inclusion Young people want to be part of the whole church family rather than always being artificially separated. An intergenerational approach is highlighted as being important in the growth of faith.
2. Equality Young people articulate a desire to be treated as equal members of the Church, participating in its life and leadership.
3. Leadership Youth leaders (whether volunteers or employed) make a vital contribution to building bridges between the generations.
4. Space Young people need room to explore their faith and life without fear of being judged.✞
The House Faith Covenant is established and agreed upon by the group when they meet together. This spells out the reason we are meeting and what we hope to get out of this group. The written covenant lists the names of the Leader, the Host and the other members of each House. The frequency of their meetings is set out and what they will study when they meet. They will also agree on how they will worship. The starting time and length of each House meeting is decided as well as the beginning and completion date for their covenant. There are many advantages to having a House Faith Covenant.✞
A Covenant establishes the House as a kind of family unit rather than just another group. It is best to meet regularly every week but some may want to build in breaks for the House, for example over summer and Christmas breaks if that is the wish of the majority of the House Faith group. The covenant allows for a reshaping of the vision and purpose of the House as it grows and matures together. A good way to begin the discussion of a house covenant is to encourage members to talk about what they hope to get out of the group. The first time that the group is together they may need to agree on some guidelines about the teaching materials, the sharing time and the type of worship they will use.✞
List the goals of the house of faith. They should be clear, attainable and include specific items required. Ask such questions as "What are we going to study?" One of our aims should be to get to know one another well and to share our experiences. Ask how will this happen. Does it take place during the sharing time? We will grow to trust and support one another by building friendships, by praying and worshipping together. By sharing our mutual beliefs and personal faith stories we will develop as a strong House of Faith group.✞
The House of Faith group will decide by group consensus on household covenant times together. House covenant times spell out what is to happen in each of the group meetings. The leader simply implements what the group has decided. The covenant times will assist the group to identify itself and its purpose, and it will help hold individuals accountable to the group. Jeffrey Arnold writes in "The Big Book on Small Groups," "Remember, as you prepare the covenant, that group consensus is essential. You cannot negotiate this by majority rule."✞
Building a covenant is not simply about getting everybody to agree about what the House is going to study. At the heart of a covenant is the willingness to take the time to listen to each other and to hear what each person in the House wants to get from gathering together. In many cases, as the House members share their hopes, they will not only be listening to one another but they will understand why these covenant times are important.✞
Group consensus is vital and we need to persist to do this properly. Most Houses will take a fair amount of time to put together a covenant. The time you invest in building a covenant might be the best time you have together as a House and will be essential to the life and overall success of the House of Faith.✞
There are four objectives for the House of Faith.✞
The house covenant time leads to a commitment to study and share in fellowship with the other members of the House of Faith. Include social time in your planning. Some Houses can share a meal from time to time or once a month. Light refreshments should be included in every House meeting. Childcare is also important. Will the House pay for a sitter or will individuals take turns in looking after the children? These arrangements need to be made in advance. We want to be child-friendly but we also want to stay focused on what we are doing. Will the children be present for part or the whole of the House meeting, if at all? Confidentiality is also vital if honesty and frankness are to be encouraged. The covenant should be in writing, with each person agreeing to it and having a copy to take home. It is the group's decision whether or not to sign it. Covenants should be renewed every two years when the agreed-upon division of the House into two parts takes place. The House should look back on its experiences, review its progress and look forward to anticipating new growth.✞