Skill Training: 10 Steps to Help New Group Members Connect

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So your small group has been together for awhile and you’ve invited a new member or two to your next group meeting.  Keep in mind that the longer your group has been together, the more difficult it is for prospective members to truly connect.  It’s not impossible, but once your group has been together for very long (perhaps as few as 8 to 12 meetings) an almost impermeable membrane begins to form that keeps out all but the most outgoing prospects*.  See also, Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members.

Are there things you can do to help break the membrane and welcome new members?  Absolutely.

Here are a 10 things you can do to give your guests the best chance to connect:

  1. While it makes the most sense to invite prospective members to join your group when you’re about to begin a new study, instead of business-a-usual, have a more social gathering.  A potluck dinner or dessert will go a long way to help new members ease their way into the group.
  2. Make sure you’re ready for everyone to arrive.  Better, make sure whoever invited the new members is on the scene early and ready to help make your guests feel comfortable.
  3. Have everyone put on a name tag as they arrive.  Make introductions.  Help new members connect the dots (i.e., “This is Bob and you met his wife Carol a few minutes ago”).
  4. Once everyone has been served and is at the table, ask a question that levels the playing field for everyone.  For example, “How did you end up at our church the first time and what made you come back the second time?”  Another great question is, “What motivated you to join a small group for the very first time?”  Remember: the group leader answers first.  Also, the group leader’s answers model for group members the kind of answer you’re looking for.  If you answer in a surface way, don’t be surprised if everyone else follows suit.
  5. Playing a game that unites old-timers with newbies is a great move.  Games like Trivial Pursuit or Win, Lose or Draw can give everyone a shared memory as new members take their first steps.
  6. Spend a few minutes previewing the study you’ll begin at the next meeting.
  7. As you conclude your “meeting,” ask everyone to share a simple and personal prayer request.  If you’re a mixed gender group, consider sub-grouping for this time.  Remember: as the leader, you need to model an appropriate prayer request.  It should be simple and personal (i.e., not for your sister’s husband’s friend who is a missionary in Africa).
  8.  Secret ingredient: Ask everyone to jot down the phone number of the person on their left and call to remind them about the next study in a few days.
  9. When you meet to begin the new study, have name-tags ready.  Be at the door and ready to warmly welcome everyone as they arrive.
  10. The first session of a new study is a great time to review your small group agreement.  See also, Skill Training: Using a Small Group Agreement.

*There are exceptions, for instance, close friends or family of current members.

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