I recently asked my lama in an email which practices he thought were most important for beginners to practice, and his answer was shinay, lojong, and the four thoughts which turn the mind toward the Dharma. My lama is a Karma Kagyu lama.
I was wondering which practices the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism think are the most important for beginners (people who haven't yet begun Ngondro) to practice. And perhaps some different Kagyu schools might have different opinions as well.
I have a feeling that everyone will recommend shinay, but I don't think that everyone practices lojong. I might be wrong, but I think that only the Kagyu and Gelug schools practice lojong.
All traditions practice Lojong.
Lojong, the four thoughts that turn the mind, shine and vipasyana are all great starts along with refuge and bodhicitta.
As far as the other discussion about the capacities of lay practitioners or "householders" the ngakpa tradition is actually a very profound means for non-monastic practitioners to progress along the stages and paths.
As lay people we have just as much opportunity for the two accumulations and the recognition of our nature as any one else.
Its about view, meditation, and conduct more than anything else.