If you’re going to be invitational (as you should!), people will visit your group who aren’t familiar with how you do things. If they find your group awkward or uncomfortable, they probably won’t come back. So put yourself in their place. Don’t assume that what you have become comfortable with over time won’t seem weird to them. Remember, you might have a guest show up at any time. If you want them to take a next step toward Jesus, be sensitive to their experience. Don’t put the onus on them to adapt to you.
Think about some ways to avoid being weird:
- Don’t ask people to share private things.
“Thanks for coming. Tell us about a time you struggled in your marriage.”
- Don’t ask people to touch each other.
“Let’s all turn and rub the shoulders of the person standing next to us.”
- Don’t do some strange group exercise.
“Tonight we’re going to read John 13 and wash each others’ feet.”
- Don’t use churchy jargon.
“I’m so glad, since I prayed the prayer, that I’m washed in the blood of the lamb.”
- Don’t sing out loud.
“Let’s sing ‘As the Deer.’ I’m sure you all know the words.”
- Don’t ask people to pray out loud.
“Everyone pray for the person sitting to your left.”
- Don’t make your group about politics or social issues.
“I want to announce the Republican Party caucuses coming up next week.”
In short, don’t put people on the spot. Don’t do things that only insiders will understand. And don’t assume everyone thinks like you do. Long-time small group attenders may cherish some of their practices. But we surrender them because they will prevent our groups from being open to newcomers. It’s more important that our groups engage and welcome people to help them pursue God than it is that our groups please us and our preferences.
If you have an idea something might be weird, it probably is. And if you’re not sure what is and what isn’t weird, ask your co-leaders or coach to give you feedback.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Have you ever been a newcomer in a group setting that became awkward? What happened?
- Put yourself in a newcomer’s shoes. What are some things groups do that might seem weird?
- How would you respond to the person who says, “I care about visitors. But it’s an important tradition for our group to do [whatever].”
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.