The movie was starting in about 10 minutes. But another show was already playing.
A man and his teenage son were sitting in front of me. A woman and her daughter walked up to their seats where the man introduced the two of them to his son. It was clear it was an awkward moment for the son. They all sat down with the son sitting between his dad and his dad’s date. This was quickly followed by the son leaving and coming back to the theater several times with the man and woman chasing him down some of those times.
Do you remember the first time you attended a small group meeting? You probably entered an unfamiliar place. The people were a group of strangers. You didn’t know what to expect.
Showing up to a small group for the first time can be a scary experience.
Small group members can help replace this scary experience with an enjoyable one for visitors. To do this, group members need to be intentional in creating the enjoyable experience.
Here are a few ways to make the small group experience more enjoyable for people visiting for the first time. Be intentional about including these to help put your visitors at ease and make sure they want to return again and again.
Always give clear directions and a phone number for anyone who expresses an interest in attending your small group meeting. Be sure the address can be easily seen by drivers from the road. Use things like signs, lights and/or open doors to show they are at the right place. If they get lost or aren’t certain they arrived at the correct location, they will not initially be in a great mood or may leave without giving your small group an opportunity.
Have each visitor met with a smile. Make sure they are introduced to several group members before and after the meeting. Listen for any areas of interest that they have in common with any of the group members. This will help build a relationship right from the start.
Consider establishing a greeter role in your group. This person would be responsible for greeting everyone as they arrive and talking with visitors while introducing them to the group members.
Getting inundated with a bunch of names to remember all at once is overwhelming. If everyone is wearing a name tag it takes away one more thing that can lead to worry and distraction for your visitors.
There are many questions going through the mind of a visitor:
Take the time before the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting to share what they can expect. This will help end anxiousness so they can settle in and enjoy their time with the group.
Always carry copies of the group covenant with you. Give a copy to your visitors. Quickly discuss the key points, including the importance of confidentiality, and get their agreement. This is important not only for your visitors to feel safe participating but also to maintain a safe environment for the rest of the group.
Find an opportunity, in private or during the group meeting, to ask how you can pray for your visitor. Then pray right there. Don’t just say you will pray for them. They won’t know whether it happens. Show you care.
Visitors are not going to return if it doesn’t seem that the group enjoys being together. If your group is not having fun when members get together, discover changes needed by doing an assessment.
Visitors should not leave the meeting without all of the group members letting them know how thankful they are that they spent their time participating in the group. People are busy and it is a big deal that they chose to use that time with your small group instead of doing something else. They need to know you appreciate them.
Be sure you let your visitors know you look forward to seeing them at your next gathering. If there is a special event planned for the group, let your visitors know about the event and encourage their participation.
Get your visitors’ contact information if you don’t already have it. Don’t let more than a couple days go by without calling them and:
Each of these items will show love for your visitors. It will be hard for visitors not to be drawn into your group as they experience the love for Jesus, for each other and for them.