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Gathering Rhythms | Simple Church Tools Pt. 3

Updated: May 2

Introduction

What rhythms guide the heartbeat of our church gatherings? Do our gatherings merely echo tradition and the prevailing model of church, or do they pulse with the vibrancy of a living, breathing expression of Jesus' church? This blog analyses the rhythms in simple churches that bubble up from underlying values like worship, community, and mission. Let's unravel the threads of tradition and innovation, seeking not just methods, but timeless principles that anchor our rhythms. What rhythm will your church dance to in the symphony of God's kingdom?


The following is a list of simple church rhythm examples gathered in 2024. Not all groups use the “house church” language, and some use “fellowship” or “micro”, therefore we refer to them all as “simple” expressions of church i.e. spiritual families worshiping together, committing to each other, and undertaking mission together. Many change their rhythms often to meet the adaptive needs of their unique setting. All groups are within the restoration movement in the United States and most within my own tribe of the restoration movement (ICOC). The simple churches are separated by geographic location breaking down their weekly, monthly, and quarterly rhythms. Lastly there are three different network examples of more than one simple church collaborating together and two examples from models outside of the restoration movement that have succeeded to multiply within the US. While it is good to imitate the faith (Heb. 13:7) of these groups and I hope you get some helpful ideas, remember that form follows function and your mission should precede your model. So work out your own rhythm within your context based on your values to God’s glory! (pt 4 will help you to identify the values behind your meetings so that you're contextualizing rather than copying))


"Methods are many, principles are few. Methods always change, but principles never do." - Josh Howard
"The man who grasps principles can successfully handle his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Examples of Gathering Rhythms


Corvallis, OR
  • Weekly: They gather for Sunday service at 5:00 pm, sometimes including a meal but not always. They spend one day a week on the college campus for a Bible talk outreach, which is determined by class schedule for students. Typically they meet for an hour and have lunch together discussing scripture.

  • Monthly: Once or twice a month they have a guest preacher visit. Usually the last Sunday of the month they travel to fellowship with a bigger church in nearby Eugene. They also join the other Oregon house churches once a month for an evening zoom, sharing encouragement, good news, and prayer.

  • Yearly: Camping trip with Eugene church and other Oregon house churches.


Salem, OR
  • Weekly: Each week has its own focal topic (such as, “planning for a harvest: the nature of a seed”). They split up roles, alternating preachers. Currently they are doing only Bible talks at campuses during the week (two college campuses - Chemeketa and George Fox) - so no midweek meeting. As working people are highly spread out, they find this to be most engaging. They often go out to eat after church.

  • Monthly: A monthly preaching theme (such as “planning for a harvest” in April) is determined before the year begins. They have events (breakfasts, parties, beach service) about once a month. They also join the other Oregon house churches once a month for an evening zoom, sharing encouragement, good news, and prayer.

  • Quarterly: They meet with another Oregon church about every quarter.

  • Yearly: Two church camping trips on the coast.

Bend, OR
  • Weekly: Typically they meet on Sundays for a more traditional gathering with lead worship, preaching (often part of a monthly series), and fellowship. Bend has been a unique house church in that it has afforded a full time minister and been blessed with a great worship team since its inception, allowing it to take on some larger capacities. They’ve met in homes, apartment club houses, parks, and rented facilities. Some weeks they will have a meal after church, go out to feed the homeless, or have a Sunday gathering completely devoted to prayer but these are inconsistent. In past seasons they have made the weekly Sunday gathering a time for Discovery Bible Study (which takes more participation, vulnerability, and accountability), agape communion feasts, or communal discussions with a shortened teaching. They meet weekly Sunday evenings for a time of ongoing training either for local core team support or for those who want to be within a continuing learning community, often on zoom with other house churches or a special speaker. They meet for midweek on Friday evenings for fellowship, and occasionally larger social events for outreach. In past seasons they’’ve done a weekly campus Bible talk.

  • Monthly: They gather for prayer and fasting once a month. Most of the church are young professionals who have a biweekly Bible talk and other outreach events like parties, hiking, and board games. The marrieds aim to have a monthly time of discipleship. In past seasons they’ve had a church wide monthly Saturday prayer walk with fasting. They join the other Oregon house churches once a month for an evening zoom, sharing encouragement, good news, and prayer.

  • Quarterly: They aim to meet with other Oregon house church families about once a quarter, most of whom are more than a two hour drive away.


Bozeman, MT
  • Weekly: They have weekly house church on Sunday evenings and separate men’s and women’s study groups during the week. The men’s group is called the Barnabas Project and the women’s group, Sisterworks. In the group they discuss high/low//forward/backward, pray, study, and hopefully soon serve the community.

  • Monthly: Money permitting they host larger gatherings usually brunch or athletic events like the Super Bowl ideally to encourage guests to attend either the men/women gatherings, house church, and/or individual Bible studies.


Missoula, MT
  • Weekly: Generally they meet Sunday for church, usually doing Bible talk type lessons and rotating who does the lesson about once a month. They do food each week, usually a breakfast before service. They don’t do midweek gatherings in the school year. When school gets out they do a barbecue Bible talk midweek series through June and July and rotate who leads those.

  • Monthly: They meet once a month for men and women hangouts. Once a month they volunteer at a children's center for kids that have been taken away from their families.

  • Quarterly: Once a quarter they volunteer at a nursing home and do birthday cake and ice cream for birthdays that have happened in that quarter. About quarterly they do larger events for outreach such as Octoberfest, Super Bowl, Easter, park service, etc. They try to do enough that keeps it fun and engaging but not overwhelming since they are a small group and don’t want to burn people out.

  • Yearly: They do a “man camp” each spring and a women’s retreat in the summer. They also have brought in a couple speakers a year to help encourage the church.


Skagit County, WA
  • Weekly: Sundays start with singing, worship, and prayer. Generally, they alternate between two leaders who facilitate the discussion, which is pre-planned for the month. Sometimes they choose topics, or they choose a book of the Bible to work through. Since they all know what the topic is, everyone is encouraged to bring something to share, which spoke to them from the text, if God has put something on their heart that week. They also encourage their kids to be a part of the conversation by reading scripture or saying a prayer or helping serve communion. They have communion and a time for prayer requests/praises and prayer time. Generally, every Sunday, they have a meal together. People have a tendency to hang out longer and fellowship.

  • Monthly: Their midweeks are much of the same except for no meal. Discipling is important, so the men meet twice a month in discipleship groups as do the women. They meet once a month with the nearby local big church and take advantage of their big events like Women’s Day, big church camping trips, and chili feeds.

  • Yearly: For House Church outreach, they focus on an annual fundraiser garage sale. The community has gotten to know about their garage sale because they have had it for so many years. The funds go towards their youth for sending them to camp and to special missions. They have outdoor movie nights, BBQ,’s Pinterest parties, and park services. They also go as a group to their children’s sporting events in order to show their support to the youth and to show the community a unified group.


Shasta County, CA
  • Weekly: They do Church every Sunday morning and a midweek service every Thursday evening. These meetings take different forms but almost always include group prayer. They huddle for a group prayer every Sunday morning before church for disciple making. They do men’s coffee early on Wednesday mornings as well as individual discipleship times. About every other week they go out to eat together with the church sponsoring the meal.

  • Monthly: They have a church planning/leader meeting every six weeks. They volunteer with the Rescue Mission food service every third Friday of the month and have regular evangelistic events (like Easter for the month of March). They also join other house churches once a month for an evening zoom, sharing encouragement, good news, and prayer.

  • Quarterly: They visit a larger metro church about two and half hours away.


Palm Desert, CA
  • Weekly: They meet for midweeks and Sunday afternoon church, where they have a meal together and tag team between a couple preachers.

  • Monthly: Once a month they have a Friday night prayer night and fast. They go to movies together once a month. They also join other house churches once a month for an evening zoom, sharing encouragement, good news, and prayer.

  • Yearly: Once a year, they go to Mexico and build a very small house for a needy family.


Clemson, SC
Blacksburg, VA
  • Weekly: With about twenty people, they host “table church” during summer and winter break, putting out one long table for the whole church. They have a brunch potluck, beginning with prayer and rotating participation around the table for the priesthood of all believers. They end the time with communion. The time is structured by asking people to pray, share a psalm, or lead songs beforehand. There is a shortened teaching or a discussion based sermon by the lead minister, with dialogue around a passage.

  • Monthly: family night every other Wednesday with potluck meal rotating to different households. Shorter discussion and worship.

  • Quarterly: 50% of the group are campus students, which means that the church fluctuates as students go out of town for the holidays. Table church occurs during the breaks, and they do a more traditional model of church when school is in session and they have forty people. They’re about an hour from the closest big church, who they're connected with financially and for larger events or special workshops.


Sarasota, FL
  • Monthly: They have two house church Sundays and two “all church” Sundays each month. They alternate men/women midweeks with the first two lesson based, and the second two fun based that they invite friends to. They sometimes partner on teaching a theme, like recently doing a three month study on Jonah and NOT running away from God’s mission.

  • Yearly: They recently did an annual “Women's Day” for outreach.


Simple Church Network Examples


Bay Area Fellowship, CA
  • Bay Area fellowship has 130 disciples in six house churches, using the language of “fellowship groups” and a “lead minister” to have terminology that everyone is at peace with. Leaders meet relationally every two weeks; once on zoom and once in person each month. Ministry leaders are available as consultants to train, equip, and encourage the fellowship groups. Some staff are necessary for teaching, planning, and running certain dedicated ministries but certainly not for every expression of the church. They feel that a simple church network with less staff is an amazing opportunity and the shape of things to come, flipping the traditional church model.

  • They hold core doctrine (baptism, God’s word, embodying christ) collectively to be true, but don’t control anything else, meaning diversity and unity. They give blessing to champion the mission of others (some champion social justice, evangelism,homelessness, or grief, etc.). They have a stripped down essential common vision to hold sacred, and everything else is flexible.

  • The fellowship groups meet corporately once a month for traditional preaching, typically flying in a special speaker, but the main event is in their fellowship groups and not everyone comes to the monthly corporate gathering if they’re uncomfortable with the prevailing model of church.

  • Some fellowship groups partner on teaching series and materials, while others prefer their own plan of teaching and/or interactive meetings.


Asheville Micro Church Network, NC
  • They gather and experiment in local geographic or demographic based communities of disciples that are microcosms of the larger church. These micro churches are set to serve, love, and make disciples throughout the communities surrounding Asheville. They aim to bring church to people, and not just bring people to church, inspired by “Letters to the church” by Frances Chan. This network seems to serve their area better than bringing people to one central location, as multiple members are upwards of two hours driving distance away from each other.

  • They have one full time couple, aiming to reinvision the role of a pastor to equip the saints rather than run a Sunday service. They refer to micro church leaders as pastors, who need ongoing equipping to lean into their calling and gifting. They train and equip disciples to lead micro churches and be disciple makers who impact their communities. They are focused on mission and maturity, bringing the gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God to the communities around them.

  • They started with one micro church expression a month and three traditional Sunday expressions, aiming to increase micro church Sundays (currently having two a month, and intending to eventually have the traditional service just once a month or once a quarter). They practiced 1 Cor. 14 interactive communal style meetings before splitting up to try it separately. The micro church expressions are not just miniature church services with sermons and singing, rather those groups have lots of latitude to determine what the gathering looks like. Some meet in houses, some feed the homeless for a Sunday meeting, and some don’t even meet on Sunday.

  • “Iron on Iron group template” discipling life on life groups to live out one another covenant in transparency and accountability, which most members take part in but not all.

  • More info: https://robskinner.libsyn.com/227-micro-churches-jon-sherwood-talks-about-his-network-of-micro-churches-in-asheville-north-carolina


Backyard Church, AL
  • Each week of the month they have a special focus, and the reason for this is to practice on Sunday what they want to practice during the week, “learn one thing, do one thing”. Since they believe God is guiding them and that they need to pray and stop to listen to God, they have incorporated these principles into their monthly worship rhythm. This also gives their worship leaders time to recharge as they are not leading and practicing every single week:

  • 1st Sunday – Prayer Sunday (start the month in prayer)

    • Short lesson focused on prayer

    • Prayer prompts that are assigned in advance via text/whatsapp

    • Communion

  • 2nd & 3rd Sunday – Singing worship

    • They have a worship team that leads their worship

    • Lesson from the Bible (interactive)

    • Prayer

    • Communion

  • 4th Sunday - Potluck worship - close the month in silence/listening and sharing

    • They ask in advance for people to pay attention to how they see God working during the week and come with something to offer/share (a prayer, a song, a scripture, a testimony, etc)

    • They start in silence waiting on God to move – when someone feels compelled to share, they begin

    • Short lesson is possible, communion and prayer

  • 5th Sunday – special Sunday of service project and/or a meal together

  • In addition to the Sunday gatherings, they have servant deacons with term limits assigned to plan monthly benevolence events, prayer walking, fun and fellowship. They also have servant deacons assigned to the tasks of worship and kids ministry. By transitioning these roles they train one another and avoid burnout. An intercessory prayer team meets on zoom weekly. Leaders have a biweekly zoom for support and encouragement.


Common Themes

  • Weekly: Amongst all of these examples, it seems regular Sunday meetings with worship, some form of preaching, and communion take place, with some churches also holding midweek gatherings for additional study, outreach, or fellowship. Shared team leadership roles and rotating responsibilities ensure diverse participation and prevent dependency on a single leader or burnout. Some of these Sunday gatherings focus on prayer or community service. Most prioritize discipleship through small groups, mentoring, and community-building activities like shared meals, alongside a strong emphasis on prayer and mission.

  • Monthly: Simple churches often have monthly themes guiding teaching and activities, along with events like prayer nights, parties, or volunteer work to foster community and mission.

  • Quarterly: Meetings with other churches and larger outreach events facilitate collaboration and broader impact in the community on a quarterly basis.


Demographically the vast majority of these endeavors seem to be lead by seasoned and mature disciples. In some cases the house church can heavily depend on the key house church leader, who often hosts the church gathering along with leading it. Most find themselves gathering with the wider church at a bigger celebration once a month if they are close by and once a quarter if they’re further away.


Two more examples to model

The following tables are taken from two of the most successful house church networks in the US (not necessarily restoration movement theology), identifying some of their rhythms. These networks have successfully multiplied disciples with a high value of decentralized collaboration, centralized resourcing, distributed authority, obedience based disciple making, etc.


The first table is from Mike Breen with the 3DM missions agency, giving an example of how one “Missional Community” gathers for Sunday celebration, training huddles, accountability groups, parties, and mission days.


The second table is from Stacy Gaskins with the Tampa Underground Network, giving an example of how one “micro church” gathers for rhythms of education, apprenticeship, and experience in order to activate calling and step into missional risk together.


Further Reading for house churches getting started:


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