A healthy small group is intentional about inviting others to join. Most groups start by invitation, but then stop inviting once the group reaches a viable size. But inviting is not just about getting enough people for your group to survive. It’s a way of living out the priority of making disciples who make disciples. The problem is that most groups are content with the members who are already there. For a group to become invitational, its leaders must be intentional about helping the group reach out to people who aren’t there yet.
It starts with the leaders
An invitational group doesn’t happen by accident. It starts with leaders who care about it. People will catch your attitude and example. If your team is invitational, it will set a tone for the whole group. Talk about this in your team meetings. Examine your hearts. Do you really want new people to be added to your group? If so, why? If not, why not?
Remind people why the group exists
Your group is there to help people pursue God. That doesn’t just mean the leaders help the people in the group, or even that members of the group help each other. Jesus reached out to outsiders, and told us to do the same. If a group is learning to make disciples who make disciples, that means engaging and incorporating people who aren’t there yet.
Brainstorm people to invite
Take some of the group’s meeting time to talk about people in your lives who might be open to an invitation. Help people think about their circles of influence.
Pray for people who aren’t there yet
Spend time as a group praying by name for people you would like to start coming to the group. Pray also for unnamed people whom you may not even know yet, but in whom the Holy Spirit might be working to draw them toward Jesus.
Plan invitational events
Every so often, hold a simple event that open the doors of the group. Certain times in the year lend themselves to an invitational event. Make it an event that is easy to organize, easy for your members to invite people to, and easy for a newcomer to say “Yes” to. As you think about the people you’re inviting, plan an event that would be appealing to them (not just to yourselves). For example, a Christian movie night might be fun for you, but a cook-out or sports event might seem more fun for outsiders.
Train people what to say
People may not be used to inviting, so help them know how. You’re not inviting someone to make a long-term commitment to a group. You’re inviting them to come to the cook-out one time to meet your friends. Then you can invite them to come back when the group has its ordinary meeting. Or you’re inviting them to check out the new study you’re about to start. How you express the invitation will differ between a person who goes to church and one who doesn’t, because the church-goer probably has heard of small groups and has some idea of what they are.
Always be ready for guests to show up
If you expect people to come, you will arrange for practical things like back-up seating and plenty of food. Help your group think about how to welcome newcomers and make them feel at home.
It takes time to develop an invitational culture. Not everyone you invite will respond right away. It takes many invitations to find the people who will fit in your group. If you keep working at it over time, your group will grow.
There is something exciting about an invitational group! You’re always anticipating the next thing God will do in the lives of people you’ve been reaching out to. But it won’t happen unless the leadership team owns the vision for this and is intentional about putting it into practice.
- 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?
- Do you believe a truly healthy small group must be invitational? Why or why not?
- What happens in the dynamics of a group as people lose the vision to invite others?
- Brainstorm some invitational events a small group could organize.
- What are some factors that make it hard to invite people to join a group? How would you address these challenges?
- How would you invite a church attender differently from a non-church attender?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
- [How to: Use pursueGOD.org in your life]
- [How to: Download a video]
- [How to: Download an article]
- [Related Topic: How to Find New Group Members]
- [Related Topic: Creating an Outwardly Focused Small Group]
- [Related Topic: Strategic Times to Invite]
- [Related Topic: How to Make Your Group Welcoming to Guests]
- [Related Resource: Small Group Team Page]