The first commitment of a small group host is to open your home to your group. Remember that some of the people coming to your group don’t know you personally. And some have never been in a small group before. So let’s go over a few tips that will help you create a welcoming environment that will keep people coming back.
You want people to be free to focus on the relationships and the discussion. So think about possible distractions, and take care of them. Tidy up the areas where people will be. Make sure the bathroom has soap and TP. Put the pets outside. Turn off the TV when people arrive. Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Since you’ll be showing a video, test the technology to make sure it works in advance.
Greet people personally as they come in. Get their names. Take a genuine interest in people. Ask safe, non-intrusive questions to get things going. Don’t just stick with the people you already know. Introduce people to each other, Allow time for people to chat before you start the discussion. Welcome people to hang around afterwards.
A few basic food and drink items help people relax and make it easier for people to relate to each other. You don’t need an elaborate spread! Don’t spend a lot of money, and keep it simple. (You might want to provide some healthy alternatives.)
Set simple ground rules
You can help people feel at ease in the group – which probably includes some strangers – if you set out two simple ground rules.
- Confidentiality. Everything shared in the group will remain within the group. Nothing will be repeated outside the group without permission.
- Non-judgmental acceptance. People can say some dumb things. But everything said will be received without condemnation. Some people are taking a big risk to join a group. If people disagree, they should do so gently.
Keep it basic
The simpler you keep the group, the easier it will be for people to relax and enjoy it. Here’s the basic schedule.
- Welcome people. Chat for a while over refreshments.
- Sit down for the video and discussion.
- Dismiss the group but invite people to hang out for a while if they wish.
That’s it! Anything beyond that is unnecessary and probably not helpful.
- 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?
- Tell us about a time when you were a newcomer among strangers. What was that like? What did someone do to help you feel welcome and at ease?
- What kind of things would feel distracting or unwelcoming to people entering a home for small group?
- Share some tips for getting acquainted with people and remembering their names.
- Can you suggest other ground rules that would help people feel welcome and safe in your group?
- If you had to choose just two ground rules, which would they be, and why?
- What other questions do you have about helping people feel welcome in your small group?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.