WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? A healthy open group (Sunday School) will always have a desire to welcome new people into their group. The whole idea of an “open group” is that it is open to new people. It is not closed meaning new people are not welcome (officially or un-officially). If we work from that premise, then what do we do when a “guest” actually shows up?
WHAT DO I DO? Here are some ideas for you to consider and see if you can implement them so that your group has an atmosphere that is “welcoming to guests.”
- Be there early – designate a leader who has the responsibility to greet everyone but especially has an eye out for a new person. Make sure they arrive and are ready at least 15 minutes before the start time of the group.
- Create a culture – teach your group to be conscious of new people, speak to them, introduce yourself, ask who they are, get to know them, be genuinely interested in their life. While it is important to have a person or team designated to greet guests, make sure the whole group reflects this attitude.
- Make room – be sure that empty chairs are available for the guest and if possible, right next to some of your friendliest group members. Someone who is sensitive to the guests needs. Who will engage them in casual conversation and be able to exhibit genuine care for the guest.
- Follow through – once the group time is over, make sure the guest is not just shuffled off on their own. Ask if you can show them where the worship center is, bathrooms, coffee, etc. Ask they you can sit with them and introduce them to other people in the church, especially people with whom they might have things in common.
- Spontaneous fellowship – want to really make an impression, invite the guest to lunch, dinner, something that says more than just “oh, yea, glad you came.”
- Potential friendships – people who attend your group maybe looking for many things, but one of the primary is that they are looking for friendships. Show them that your group offers this as well as spiritual guidance, bible study and food. Show them they can “belong.”
Give these a try and see if your group doesn’t keep more of your guests!
Steve McNeil, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana