If you ask someone who isn’t in a small group why not, you’ll often hear something along the lines of, “I felt like an outsider.” It takes courage to join an existing small group. However, minor yet significant actions and behaviors of both the leader or members can make or break a sense of belonging. These 10 questions will help you see your group from the viewpoint of a visitor and hopefully open discussion about what you’re doing right and what requires some extra attention.
1. How often do you pray for your group members and the group as a whole?
- I pray for our group every day
- I pray sporadically for our group
- I don't pray for our group outside of our regular meetings
It's important to pray for your group and your group members—including any prospective group members you may have. Ask that you will experience the Spirit's leading in your group and that God will bond you together.
2. Are you able to consistently greet your group members as they come through the door each week?
- Yes, someone greets all our guests each week as soon as they come through the door.
- There might be 1 or 2 people each week who enter without receiving a greeting.
- There are several people who come through the door and find a seat each week without a specific greeting.
Greeting people makes them feel welcome and valued. Plus, if this is a regular practice for you, you'll easily be able to greet newcomers when they arrive, putting them at ease.
3. Do your group meetings include a time when food and beverages are served?
Food has a way of making people feel more comfortable. Even if it's a simple snack like popcorn and punch, everyone will feel more at ease with something to do with their hands. Plus, it's amazing how much bonding happens over food.
4. Do your group members share the common value of welcoming newcomers to the group?
If your group members don't share this value, it will be difficult to be a very welcoming group. Help your group members understand the importance of welcoming new people. Ask them to recall the first time they visited a small group.
5. How often do you and your group members invite guests to visit your group?
- We invite guests nearly every meeting.
- We invite guests a few times a month.
- We invite guests a few times a year.
- We rarely invite guests.
Even if your group members say they value adding new members to your group, they don't really hold this value if they never invite anyone. Model this to your group by inviting people on a regular basis.
6. When guests visit your group, do you introduce them in a way that is warm but does not place too much focus on them?
Introduce your guests with their names and some basic information that will help break the ice and start conversations, but don't focus too long on them in away that singles them out.
7. Do you intentionally connect guests with group members?
Connecting newcomers with group members can really help them feel part of the conversation and take away the intimidating task of striking up conversation. If guests have children, consider connecting them with other parents. If they work, consider connecting them with someone in a similar career. Use the details you know about your guests to connect them to group members and start conversations.
8. When guests visit your group, do you explain things that may be confusing (such as inside jokes, theological terms, or conversations that have continued from previous meetings)?
- Yes, we always explain things.
- Yes, we occasionally explain things.
- No, we never explain things.
There's no need to constantly explain every aspect of your meeting. This can make guests feel uncomfortable with too much focus on them. It is a good idea, however, to explain things that need some context. To do this in a less apparent way,explain things to the guest in a quiet side conversation or ask the person sitting next to the guest to do this when appropriate.
9. Do you thank guests for visiting and give them your contact information beforethey leave the meeting?
Rather than ask guests for their information, give them your contact information. This puts the ball in their court and allows them to contact you if they want to return to the group. It gives them the opportunity to think about the group and decide about joining once they've left the meeting.
10. Do you follow up with guests in appropriate ways such as a note thanking them for visiting or saying hello after the weekend worship service?
There's a balance between making guests feel valued and making them feel like they must join your group. Be warm but not overbearing. Don't ask them if they'll be returning or if they'd like to join. Instead, thank them for visiting and let them know you'd love to see them again.