Several years ago, a young, newly married couple at my church was leading and hosting a small group for the first time. A few weeks into the session, I called to check in, and they let me know they had to go to Walmart to buy more chairs! I always smile remembering that scenario. They “got it.” They understood that every person needs a place in a circle. Every person needs the opportunity to share, to ask questions, and to encourage others.
Welcoming new members into your established group can be a tad more challenging, but it is certainly doable. And, if your choices are including new members now or having them wait for another group to form, I would vote to help them now. Consider the following ways to make the transition comfortable for all.
- Alert your group ahead of time. While notifying other group members earlier is better than later, even sending a quick text the day of your meeting will help your group members be aware and be on their best behavior.
- Let your guest(s) know what to expect before the group. Texting and emails are easy, but a phone call is best. Share with them where to park, the schedule of the group so they know when it will end, and the particulars of food and childcare.
- Acclimate your guest(s) to your host home. Point out the bathroom, where to put coats and purses, etc.
- Allow time during their first group for introductions. You may even want to have group members share about each other. It’s an easy way to add a fun element.
- Follow-up with the new member(s) the next day. Connect the next day to see what they thought and if they have any questions.
- Fill them in on inside jokes and group history as you meet over the next few weeks and months. We all know the awkward feeling of being the only one who does not know what is being referenced. Even if there is not time to tell the whole story, acknowledging they are missing the context helps them know you are aware.
- Bring back the ice breakers! As groups become established, ice breakers can fade to the background. Bring them back when a new person joins and be sure to use them for several weeks.
- Get to know your new member(s) outside of the group. As time allows, meet up with your newest members and learn more about them. This will not only help you know how to lead and care for them, but it also allows you to make connections to others in your group.
- Ask other group members to reach out intentionally in the first few months. Relationships must be established with others in the group and not just to the leader.
When brothers and sisters love one another well, it glorifies God and it even attracts unbelievers to the church. We see this in the early church of Acts, which made a habit of meeting together, eating together, and worshiping together. As a result, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b NIV). We want the body of Christ to grow, and warmly welcoming new group members is an essential step in that process.
Laura Chapman leads the Groups and Connections Ministry at Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, where she has served for thirteen years. She taught elementary school for ten years before moving into full-time ministry. She is a graduate of Samford University and Trevecca Nazarene University. Laura loves spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and connecting people to Jesus.