Allow Time to Socialize
Everybody is different, but newcomers tend to be more interested in socializing toward the end of a group than the beginning. When you have guests, leave plenty of time for people to socialize at the tail-end of your meeting. This will give time to introduce your group members to your guests and have fun and relaxed conversations.
End on a High Note
Studies show that experiences which end positively create good memories. And if you're left with a good memory, you'll probably want to repeat the experience. End on an encouraging high note so guests are more likely to return.
As They Attend the Group
Watch Your Language
During your study and discussion time, use relational terms to explain theological concepts. For example, salvation is having a relationship with Christ or being friends with God now and forever. Redemption is Jesus helping us to connect with God and know him. Do your best to stay away from Christian jargon.
Express Appreciation for Their Input
Be sure to thank seekers for sharing. It will encourage them to continue doing so. When seekers say something that does not harmonize with Scripture, do not immediately correct them, especially during their initial gatherings with your group. Be positive and say something like, "I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!" Discipleship happens through relationships that develop over time.
Do not hesitate to pray or worship in your group if newcomers or seekers are present. Sometimes this is exactly what God uses to gather lost people to himself (Acts 2:46-47). If somebody needs prayer, pray for them. If you are going to worship, just do it. Don't attempt to explain it for seekers. They want to see things how they really are and would rather not have you disrupt the flow of what you normally do on their account. After the meeting offer to explain anything they have questions about.
Don't Put Them on the Spot
Most guests like to be acknowledged. They don't, however, like to stand out or be spotlighted in front of a group, so don't focus on them. If you keep things normal, the group will feel more natural and comfortable to newcomers.
Express Solidarity with Seekers
When your group prays together, thank God for everyone present and for how he is meeting every person right where they are in their spiritual journeys. Then punctuate your prayer by asking the Lord to allow everyone to help one another take their next steps closer to Jesus Christ. What you are doing is putting everyone on equal-footing and entrusting each person to the Lord.
Connect with the Seekers' Interests
Find out what subjects your truth-seeking guests enjoy talking about. Seekers will feel more empowered and comfortable talking about the things of interest to them. If you listen attentively, you will show that you are genuinely interested in them and they will not feel like a project.
Express Your Commitment to the Community
Be sure to talk about how the group would like to make a difference in your community. This allows you to revisit your group's commitment to outreach and shows seekers that your group is:
- Outward-thinking. This helps guests feel safer because it makes the communal nature of the group feel less cliquish and more caring.
- Serious about making a commitment to share God's love and grace to a waiting world. People want their lives to make a positive impact on others. This helps them see that your small group can help toward this goal, making group time a worthwhile investment of their time.