How Open is Your Group?
One of the most important aspects of your church’s small group strategy is the “openness” of your group. An open group is one where people can drop in anytime. The guest does not need to know the Bible, know how to pray, or even know anyone in the group. Hence the word “open”! Being open is vital to the group’s impact on other people. Open-ness is more than just being friendly, it is about hospitality and strategy. As far as hospitality is concerned, make sure that the leader or someone from the group explains what the group is doing. A person should not have to have insider information to participate during the group meetings or other group activities. If a person has to know information in order to participate in the group, then the person will feel that the group is closed and will likely never return.
Seven suggestions to improve the open-ness of your group:
1. Wear nametags. Seriously. Imagine being a guest and trying to remember everyone’s name in the group. Plus, it will help group members remember the guest’s name as well.
2. Don’t assume. For example, don’t assume that everyone in your group knows what the Feast of Booths celebrates. Instead, explain the Feast of Booths or enlist someone else to explain it. The same goes for group traditions, activities, etc.
3. Show respect. Calling a guest by name and then staring at him or her while you explain a group tradition or Bible point is embarrassing to the guest. Make explanations generic to the whole group, don’t single out a guest and talk to them in this manner.
4. Make a phone call. The week following the guest’s visit to your group, pick up the phone and call them. Thank them for coming, get to know them, ask them some questions about their family and church background, and be sure to personally invite them back.
5. Never call on anyone to read, pray, or answer a question. Even if you call on someone who is rock solid on the Bible or prayer, a guest will assume that you may call on anyone, including them. For a guest, that is terrifying!! Many people today are functionally illiterate. Many more are hesitant to pray – especially in a group of people they do not know. Always ask for volunteers to read, pray, or answer questions; or, enlist people to read or pray in advance.
6. Have a group greeter. A cause of major anxiety for a guest is the fear that no one will speak to them. Educate your group on how to help guests feel welcome. Also, enlist a greeter to engage the guest and get to know them, then sit with them during the entire group meeting and worship if possible.
7. Expect guests every week. One of the reasons many groups do not receive guests well is because they are not expecting a guest in the first place. Make preparations to be a guest-friendly group, even if you have to do all the work at the beginning. Have registration cards and pens handy. People are more likely to bring a guest with them if they know that the group will be a great experience for them. Also, you are more likely to have a guest “stick” and become a member if you were prepared beforehand for them.
Rate your group: How open is your group?
|Sort of open||Depends on the Sunday||Sort of closed||Closed|
What can you do to improve the open-ness of your group to guests and newcomers?
Does your group have a designated greeter?
What is your group’s follow-up process with your guests?