So your group has been meeting, maybe for a short time or maybe you’ve been together for years. So how do you know that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing? What are some indications that your group is functional or dysfunctional?
We all have to ask this question of our group on occasion. Asking ourselves if we are functioning as a group is like checking the map when you are on a trip. It is like measuring that expensive piece of wood a second time before you cut it. As my grandfather used to say, “Measure twice… cut once!” Asking if we are accomplishing our purpose helps us measure if we are reaching our destination. Knowing your purpose is what separates classes from cliques. Here are a few ideas to help you evaluate how your class is doing when it comes to being open and accepting of guests.
First – What is the purpose of your group? If you are a Sunday School class, or if your home group is designed for newcomers to drop in anytime, you are supposed to be an open group. My friend David Francis defines an open group as “expecting new people every time you meet”. This means that the style of Bible study your group does makes it easy for someone who is new to fit in.
Second, what is your class’ Bible study method? If your class members do not spend hours each week in study, are they embarrassed to attend class? Or can a newcomer walk into the group and be able to pick up what the class is studying? To truly function as an open group, guests must be made to feel welcome and they must be able to participate in the Bible study without feeling like an idiot.
Third, have you thought about nametags? In many classes, even the members may not know everyone by name. But imagine being a guest in a class for the first time. It’s embarrassing to call someone, “hey you”! Or even worse, you’re a guest and in the barrage of names that get thrown at you, you mistakenly get two of them mixed up and start calling people by their wrong name. Guess what… that guest probably won’t be back!
But finally, one of the most telling indicators of whether your group is open or not… Do new people “stick”? Do they return for more visits? Or do they visit once or twice and move on?
Some suggestions to have a more open group…
- Have an expectancy for new people every week;
- Arrange your chairs in a circle instead of rows. And have extra chairs already out;
- Wear nametags;
- Make sure guests get invited to class fellowships, both formal and informal outings. It hurts to attend a group several times, and then hear on Sunday that several people got together for hamburgers the night before… and you weren’t invited!
- Develop a follow-up plan so that guests receive phone calls and attention;
- Use literature that is user-friendly. A guest should never be embarrassed because they didn’t do homework. They should not be put in a position where everyone else in the class quotes a memory verse… but them!
One caution, just because you are an open group does not necessarily mean that you are evangelistic. It may mean that fellow Christians feel comfortable around you. We’ll talk about being evangelistic in another post.
Any thoughts or other ideas about being a class or a clique?