Early in the small group year we make the big transition into homes from the first couple weeks of the small group year in The Refinery. Here are a few ideas to help create a great small group environment and work with host homes:

1. Get the host home ground rules
Once you find the perfect host home, schedule a quick visit with the people who will be hosting the group. Many times they will be gone when you and your group are there, but it would be wise to find out their expectations first-hand. What in the house is off limits? Which bathrooms should we use? Where can/can’t they bring food? Ask about parking to make sure students are parking in the right place.

2. Clearly communicate expectations to your students.
What you discover in your meeting with the host home, be sure to share clearly with students. The better you are at setting expectations and honoring the host home ground rules, the stronger your relationship with the host home will become. It will also give you something to hold your students to when the cross the line.

3. Look for potential distractions.
Your first night in the host home, take a good look around. You’ve settled on the perfect place, now make sure your group will be free of distractions. Eliminate what you can – if the house has pets make sure they’re out of the area, unplug any house phones in the area, quarantine random siblings and make sure any fancy “adult” art is off the walls. Trust us, that’s happened before.

4. Clean up your students’ mess.
You had a great night, and left a little too much evidence behind. While we want you to have a great time at small group, make sure you reset the room and clean up whatever mess you’ve created.

5. If anything goes wrong or gets broken, let us know.
HSM is absolutely responsible for what happens in your host home environment during small group time. If you knock over a vase or two students wrestling destroys the coffee table, please let us know so we can swing into action. You may want to have the small group guys pay it back in some way, but either way keep us in the loop. Especially if a student carves their name in the furniture during prayer. Yes, that has happened, too.

6. Continue communicating with the host home.
Get the small group calender for the year and give a copy to the hosts so they know when they have a week off. The more communication and less surprises between you and the hosts, the better.

7. Encourage “thank-yous” and simple gifts.
Encourage your students to thank the host home mom every night, maybe even consider leaving a little card for them. If possible, a small amount gift card might be super meaningful, or even a nice candle to help rid the family room of the “teenage boy” smell would be a super gesture.

What would you add to the list?