Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why Should We Welcome New Group Members?

I learned something this weekend. As I prepared to host and lead my quarterly small group leader training event, I discovered the topic we were digging into—welcoming and integrating new group members—goes largely unaddressed by publishers and church leaders alike. Why? Is it because there’s an assumption within the church that we all do this well? That it comes natural for Christians to welcome other Christ-followers into their community? I believe that’s an unsafe and reckless assumption.

Most of us enjoy the idea of new people or couples experiencing what we have—great Bible-based discussions, rich times of prayer, and great friendship. Yet when it comes to actually welcoming, and seeking to integrate, the new member(s), the idea is easier than the reality.

There are plenty of practical “how” questions to ask, and I’ll address some of those in future blog entries. But the best place to begin for a group entertaining the idea of a new group member(s) is by engaging with the “why” question. Why should we welcome and integrate new people into our Christ-centered community?

Let’s look at the words of The Apostle Paul when he wrote to a deeply divided Roman Church. He writes these words:

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”Romans 15:7 (ESV)
Writing to this divided church community (Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians) Paul exhorts every believer to welcome or receive every other believer—as you have been accepted by Christ! Why? Because it brings glory to God when we do! When we welcome and receive and accept other members of the faith—God is glorified.

This is not to suggest that just because a person or couple desires to be a part of your small group that you should welcome them in without discernment. Fact is; your group may not be the best fit for them. Yet a healthy posture to take is to consider welcoming and integrating them in.

But what might that look like? Is your group ready to do that? Or have you become too inward-focused? Stagnant? Unwilling to change?

These are tough questions to ask and even tougher to discuss. Yet the “why” question is worth approaching. Both for your group, and for your potential future group members.

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