There is nothing quite like feeling that you are welcome. And that’s exactly what you want a new person to experience. Here are eleven action steps that you can take to help make sure this happens:
1. Send a Warm Email
Create a warmth of hospitality with a new person before they even visit your group with your invitation email. It should include:
- Expressing your sincere desire to meet them
- Information about when they can visit and your address
- A short description of what happens during the gathering (“We usually eat dinner together from 6-6:30, I lead us in discussion about the sermon passage from 7:30-8, we break up into men’s and women’s prayer time from 8-8:30, and then we just have informal time together until 9 p.m.”)
- Any information they’ll need to know about logistics such as child care, pets, or dinner
- Letting them know they can ask you any other questions
2. Be Ready for Someone Different
Some will want to know if they are going to fit with the demographics of the group. For instance, they may mention in their interest email, “I’m a single woman in my forties.”
This an opportunity to assuage fear: “Our group is currently made up of couples in their thirties and forties, but we’re committed to forming strong relationships with those in our group regardless of stage of life, and I can’t wait to get to know you.”
Of course, this means you’ll need to lay the groundwork ahead of time for those in your group to proactively connect with a new person who may not share their age, marital status, ethnic background, or personality.
3. Greet Them at the Door
A new person isn’t sure if they are at the right house! Being ready to greet them at the door tells them that they were expected and are welcome.
Especially if it’s dark outside, make sure to turn plenty of lights on, open the curtains, and maybe even leave the door open (if you have a screen door). That way they can’t miss the house and can even see inside as they walk up.
4. Make Introductions for Them
Don’t wait for the new person to introduce themselves to everyone. Without being pushy, help introduce the existing group members to the new person. And if you know a commonality, feel free to make that connection (for example: “Phil also drives up here from Broad Ripple.”).
5. Help them Navigate
This house is a foreign environment, and they may have never been to a Small Group before! So help them make sure they know where the bathroom is, where they can lay down their stuff while everyone eats or mingles, and what’s going to happen next.
6. Avoid Insider Talk… Or Explain It
People in your group have inside jokes and references. If those emerge during the gathering, you can lean over and fill in the new person about what everyone is talking about. Your goal is to make them feel like an insider.
7. Give Space
Not everybody is an extrovert. Give the new person space to adjust to everything, and don’t feel like you or others have to pounce on them, interrogate them, or tell them every funny story you’ve ever heard. Let them gravitate to the people that they want to talk to and adjust to the environment in their own way.
8. Ask Them to Share a Little About Themselves
Everyone there knows that this person is new. So invite them to share something about themselves perhaps at the beginning of the discussion time. You could let them know beforehand what question you’re going to ask them (so they don’t feel like they are being put on the spot).
Perhaps an even better way to do this would be to have everyone share a bit about themselves. My favorite is answering three questions:
- Where did you grow up?
- How did you end up at College Park Church?
- What is your favorite kind of toothpaste? (Or another silly question that helps everyone seem down-to-earth)
9. Let them Stay Quiet
During discussion, they will probably not want to chime in with responses. Don’t pressure them. It’s okay for them to be quiet and observe—they are still taking it all in.
If a new person does chime in, that’s a blessing. If they over-talk, don’t feel like you need to overcorrect this. You can always address it in the future if it seems like a pattern.
10. Exhibit the “One Anothers”
The eyeballs of the new person are watching how people in your group relate even more than their ears are listening to what people say.
11. Follow Up to Invite them Back
A day or two after they visit, make sure to send them a kind text or email letting them know how much you (and the group) enjoyed meeting them and that you would love to have them continue to be a part of the group.
Then let the Lord direct their heart to whether they’ll stick in your group or transition elsewhere.
If They Stick
Once someone sticks in your group, add them to your roster, so that the church knows they are a part of your group. You can always remove them later if things change.