Attending a small group for the first time can be scary. New visitors are unsure of what to expect and how to behave. This fear is sometimes great enough to keep people from attending. However, there are a few ways you can make your small group less scary and more welcoming.
1. Keep Invitations to your Small Group Casual
People rarely accept a formal invitation to church. Bible study, on the other hand, feels more casual, but only if you present it that way. If you talk about your group and the person seems interested, pray about the best way to include them. When the moment is right, extend a casual invitation.
2. Provide Transportation
Walking alone into a room of strangers is intimidating. Your guest will be immediately put on guard. You know that your group is friendly and warm, but your guest doesn’t. To ensure that your guest always has a friend at their side, offer to drive them there and back.
3. Explain the Ground Rules
Every group has an unspoken set of rules. Perhaps your group likes spirited debate; maybe it is more orderly and studious. Whatever the dynamic of your group, give a brief explanation. This doesn’t have to be complicated; let the newcomer know what to expect and what is expected of them.
4. Plan for Newcomers
An organized welcome wagon will put many people at ease and also draw them into the group quickly. Be proactive about welcoming newcomers. Ask them three silly questions or give them a special chair. This makes it clear that new people are a normal event, that you expect and welcome guests.
Once a guest is settled, jump right into the usual group activities. While it is hard to act completely authentic with a new person present, do your best. This will show your guest that the group is a place for realness.
5. Avoid Assumptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about strangers, but you should avoid it. Don’t assume people have grown up in religion; don’t assume they haven’t. Treat every new person to your group without preconceptions. You may be surprised to find that the blue-haired single mother has much to add to a discussion about scripture, or that a man grew up in your church doesn’t know the basic theology. Your group is there to build connections and help people grow in faith, so find out who people are.
6. Have Fun
Bible study should be taken seriously, but you should also feel the joy of Christ. This is especially important when new members are attending. There is nothing serious or somber about spiritual freedom. Embrace fun and levity even as you keep the focus on God.
7. Follow Up
Small groups should not stop when people walk out the door. Follow up with new members to make it clear that they are wanted. If you use StudyChurch, following up in a non-pushy way is easy. You don’t want to overdo this follow up, but make sure guests know they are welcome back. Most importantly, follow up in prayer. Pray for their spiritual needs and that they find the right spiritual home.
Attending a small group for the first time can be a fruitful experience for everyone involved. Making your group less scary will encourage growth and prevent stagnation. In addition, it will allow you to make meaningful connections with brothers and sisters in Christ and participate in building a religious community that meets the needs of its members.