This topic is adapted from the PursueGOD Network YouTube channel.
It can be intimidating to attend a small group for the first time. But if your group wants to be invitational, people will be dropping in. What will they experience when they arrive? Your group can provide an environment that encourages people to take a next step toward Jesus. Prepare them in advance to be ready to make guests feel at home by reviewing a few key points.
Think in advance of things that will make your guests feel awkward. If you have a dog or cat, put it outside or in another room. Some people are allergic. Others are uncomfortable around animals. Turn off the TV before people arrive. Clean up the areas where people will be. Make sure the bathroom has toilet paper and soap.
Offer Some Refreshments
Food helps people relax. It makes it easier to connect with others. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but you should consider including some healthy options.
We often walk right by a guest – as if they weren’t even there – to speak to an old friend. Acknowledge a guest right away with a greeting. Make eye contact. Smile. Ask a few simple, non-threatening questions to break the ice, such as, “Where do you live? Where do you work? Tell me about your family.” Then introduce your new friend to other people. Do not leave anyone hanging alone. Make sure they have someone to talk to.
Give Them Some Space
In a new setting, people need time to check things out and get comfortable. Don’t be pushy. Don’t ask questions that might be embarrassing or that seem too personal. Stay away from delicate subjects like politics. Don’t make the guest feel pigeon-holed.
Explain What’s Going on
Every group has its normal ways of doing things. These seem obvious to the members, but don’t assume that a newcomer will know what comes next. Take a minute to explain how the group works: “We’re going to snack for a few minutes, then we’ll sit down and start our Bible study.”
Don’t Be Weird
Some things that groups do make guests feel awkward. To explore this, see How to Avoid a Weird Small Group. In short, don’t put people on the spot. Don’t do things that only insiders will understand. Don’t assume familiarity. And don’t assume everyone thinks like you do.
Think about How You Would Feel
We all find ourselves in an unfamiliar place from time to time. Try to remember how you felt the last time you were there – like when you took your child to the first day of sports tryouts, or when you visited a new doctor’s office and weren’t sure where or how to check in. Think about the kind of help you wish you had, as well as the things people did that were not helpful.
Invite People Back
At the end of the meeting, make sure your guests know that you were glad to have them, and that you would love to have them come back.
- 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?
- Talk about a time you went to a setting you hadn’t been to before (doctor’s visit, attorney, etc.) Were you anxious, and why?
- What have people done to make you feel welcome in a new situation?
- What have people done to make you feel unwelcome in a new situation?
- Why is it important to make a newcomer in your group feel welcome?
- If a guest doesn’t feel welcome, is that your responsibility or theirs? Explain.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.