A 10-Point Checklist for Welcoming Guests
We've all been there– visiting a group for the first time. Remember when you didn't know what to expect, and opportunities for awkwardness abounded? You thought about sitting near the door as an easy escape, in case the group intimidated you. You made sure to eat before, because you were so unaware of what the snack situation would be. You were taking a real risk. As the leaders and welcoming committee, we must remember what it was like to visit a new group and that it requires a lot of boldness.
Through following these simple tips below, the hope is to eliminate some of the awkwardness, and help your guests see a place for themselvs in the small group community:
1. Create a welcoming culture. If you pray for God to send people to your group, you'll certainly treat them well when they arrive. Communicate often with your group that your purpose is to reach people and that Small Group is a great way to do that.
2. Plan for guests before they arrive. Talk this through with your group. A larger group might have some people assigned to be connection leaders, with the responsibility of making people feel welcome and assimilating them into the group.
3. Greet guests immediately. Nothing is worse than being in a situation where you are new and not greeted swiftly. The awkwardness is compounded. You feel like you've walked into a place where you are not wanted.
4. Ask them connection questions. I've learned to do this over the years. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes, but I don't think I've ever offended anyone by doing this. Here are a few I always ask:
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
How long have you attended Brook Hills?
How did you find out about us?
What are your hobbies?
My purpose in asking questions is to find places of commonality. I usually find connection points and also connect them to other members of the group. I might say, "Hey, Ray likes fishing. Let me introduce you to him."
5. Find a way to introduce them to the entire group. Whenever we have new people, we always go around and let everyone give their name and the answer to one question. Try thinking about new questions like, "Where would you like to travel if money were no object?"
6. Give them a brief background on any prayer requests. When someone says, "Continue to pray for my mother," I'll glance at the guest and say, "She's fighting cancer, and lives in Arizona."
7. Have some method to get their contact information. I use a form, but sometimes I just get their email address or cell number. Certainly don't forget to write down their names. Just let me know, and I can supply you with some guest forms.
8. Sit with them in worship. If the guests are new to the church, make them feel welcomed by inviting them to sit with you during the Worship Gathering. It may be that your group has a certain place to sit together already, and they can join y'all.
9. Plan to have a meal with them very soon. If you lead a larger group, encourage other group members to engage in fellowship with the guest the following week. This is one of the best ways to connect with guests. You can get to know them really well during Sunday lunch or dinner.
10. Follow up the next day via email, text message, or hand-written letter. This is icing on the cake to letting them know they are welcome in your group.
My hope is that completing a few of these tips with each newcomer to your group, they will find a place to connect within the Brook Hills community!
Jay Gordon has been the Adult Small Groups Minister at Brook Hills for over 3 years and loves serving the faith family in this capacity. He has been married to his wife, Liz, since 1985. He grew up in Northwest Alabama and later graduated from Jacksonville State University and Southwestern Seminary. Most of his ministry has been in Shelby County, spending 17 years at Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster.