In my last blog post, I encouraged all of us to consider the reason for welcoming and integrating new small group members. We examined the “why” question.
This time around, I want to focus on the practical aspects of welcoming in new group members. Let’s dig into a couple of ideas on “how” not to scare new people away. Here goes:
1. Be Warm
Welcome in new members by doing something fun, relaxing, and non-threatening. Meet at Starbucks for coffee. Host a barbeque. Get together for an evening at the local movie theatre. Introduce yourselves, watch a film together, and then set aside some time afterward to hang out and talk.
Do something that you would feel comfortable doing with mere acquaintances. (Because, many times, that’s what new members of your group are—acquaintances.) You don’t really know them, nor do they know you. Expecting people to jump right into the social dynamic and rhythm of your small group is a stretch. So do everything you can to make the transition easy—not forced and awkward.
2. Be Real
Everybody wants to make a good first impression. The group wants to appear welcoming and not at all like the local chess club. The new members understand that all eyes are on them. The pressure can be stifling. Let the air out of the balloon!
Encourage everybody in your small group to be themselves. (Frankly, why bother putting on a show? The new members will see the real you soon enough.) Talk about football, work, the kids, and last Sunday’s sermon-stuff that you’d normally kick around at the beginning of your typical small group gathering.
Then be intentional about introductions, not just the cursory name and where-you-work stuff. And, never underestimate the power of an ice breaker. Sure, they’re cheesy. But they’re also helpful in getting acquainted with each other. And that is the primary goal for the initial meeting(s) when welcoming new members.
Strive to welcome people in a casual non-threatening way that you would enjoy entering—and you’ll be just fine!