How many times each year do you find yourself adding new small group members? I bet that the number is pretty high! Most leaders will tell you adding members to an already active group can be troublesome. Especially if the members are new to your church as well. New members tend to be shy, quiet, and sometimes even defensive. Not to mention group members may be apprehensive to the idea of adding a stranger into their well-cultivated group atmosphere.
So how do we make welcoming new small group members smooth and pain-free? Let’s take a look at some of the best practices used.
Ok, so I know that you probably think that you are warm and inviting to every member of your group already… but are your members being warm and inviting as well? One thing to consider when welcoming new small group members is if your members are ready. Along with the closeness that your group has there may also be some resentment towards outsiders. This is only natural as small groups tend to share personal problems and issues with one another.
Something that you can do to help prevent newcomers from feeling shunned is to remind everyone to be open. As a leader, it is your part to steer your members to feel comfortable with one another — even with new members. One of the best ways to encourage this is by sharing about the struggles you have had this week and the ways that you have seen God work. As you are more open with the group, they will naturally begin to mirror this openness. Try to make this a weekly rhythm in your small group. Ask if anyone has seen God work in their lives this week or if anyone needs prayer for something. This can be a big step for new members to feel welcome in your small group.
Do an activity.
Activities go a LONG way when it comes to people feeling comfortable with one another. It doesn’t even need to be something big and scary like planning a whole day together. Maybe going to someone’s house to help with yard work, or to the latest Christian film, or to a city with the intention of meeting people and sharing the gospel. If you don’t have the opportunity to add an additional event away from your normal meeting spot, try having a fun night instead with food and games. Asking people to bring their favorite snack or board game is a great way to encourage conversations and learn more about the people in the group!
Try some Icebreakers.
If you are adding a lot of members at once or over the course of a few weeks, ice breakers are a great way to make everyone feel welcome. You may have already done some ice breakers when you first started your group, but it is always a great way to welcome new people in. Try to find some that you have not used before in your group so that even existing members can learn more about each other!
Make your new members feel more welcome by asking good questions. Ask them about their week, about family, about hobbies, or anything else you can think of. The goal is to make them feel like you want to get to know them and be a part of their lives.
Open-ended questions are also great for when you want to promote a group discussion and get more out of your members that just a “yes” or “no”. In a previous post, I wrote more in-depth on the different types of questions to ask your group and how to handle difficult members. Check it out here!
“In the group discussion, the pinball is who is talking. Your role is to be the flipper.”50 Tips for Leading a Small Group By Vince Antonucci
Go over your Ground Rules.
Even though you may have already gone through the ground rules with your group before the first meeting, it is vital that you make sure that ALL your members are aware of them. Going over them again with new members is necessary for your current members to feel open. It also helps to ensure that your group continues to have a healthy dynamic. You’ll want to talk about how to handle disagreements, making sure that everyone gets a chance to speak, and any other rules that you’ve set up for your small group.
Don’t have any ground rules set up? Check out our post on the 5 basic small group ground rules!
Welcoming new members is just a way of life with small groups. Don’t forget to prayerfully consider each change and let God lead your group the way He wants it to go. Remember that each person that God brings into your group will have a unique personality, unique gifts, and a unique calling. As a leader be on the lookout for how you can best minister to each member of your group according to how God has made them.