You could say that a big part of a small group leader’s job is creating an environment where biblical community can flourish! This includes hospitality elements like greeting, seating, and food that help people to feel more ‘at home’, but it’s also about the way you pilot the group dynamics so that newcomers, or those who are exploring Christianity, feel included and accepted. We will now explore additional ways you can welcome newcomers/seekers with an emphasis on facilitating spiritual conversations.
11. Don’t over-accommodate. You can be sensitive to your group’s form without changing its Just be yourself and allow the group to be itself. For example, don’t hesitate to pray or worship in your group if newcomers / seekers are present. (Sometimes this is exactly what God uses to gather lost people to Himself – see Acts 2:46-47.) Just be natural about it and use everyday language as opposed to being churchy or religious in how you express things just because you happen to be in a Christian gathering. If somebody needs prayer, pray for them. If you are going to worship, just do it. Don’t attempt to explain it for seekers. They want to see things how they really are and would rather not have you disrupt the flow of what you do on their account.
12. Express solidarity with seekers through prayer. When your group prays together, thank God for everyone present and for how He is meeting every person right where they’re at in their spiritual journey. Then punctuate your prayer by asking the Lord to help each person encourage one another grow closer to Jesus. What you are doing is putting everyone on equal-footing and entrusting the power of spiritual influence to the Lord.
13. Find out what subjects your truth-searching guests have an enthusiasm or expertise in and talk about that! People like to talk about things they know about. Seekers will feel more empowered and comfortable talking about things of interest to them. If you listen with interest, you will show that you are interested in them as a person and they will not feel like a project.
14. In private, let seekers know how much you appreciated them coming and that you really hope you get to see them again. Unless they have a friend who brought them, make yourself available to talk anytime.
15. Most guests like to be acknowledged – they just don’t like to stand out or be spotlighted in front of a group…so don’t focus on them. If you keep things normal, the group will feel more natural and comfortable to newcomers.
16. Help seekers get to know others in your group. The more people your guests sense a possible connection with, the more likely it is they will want to return. Research has shown the possibility of a visitor joining a church is reduced by at least 50% with each passing week. This trend also holds true for small groups and can be inverted by the same proportion if guests experience the hope of developing healthy friendships. In other words, the likelihood of seekers returning increases by at least 50% if they experience a sense of belonging through their connection with others. This can be cultivated by highlighting things your truth-searching guests hold in common with other group members and timely follow-up.
17. Talk about how you would like for your group to make a difference in your community. Have that conversation spontaneously or just say you would like to talk about it next time. This allows you to revisit your group’s commitment to outreach and shows seekers that your group is…
18. Do not offer advice for how your seeking guests can grow. That might sound funny for those who like to be helpful. The reason is because some people on the receiving end of such good advice might interpret it as homework and think you will be checking-up with them at the next meeting or they might even jump to the conclusion that you’re judging them in some way. You might be surprised how this inhibits people from returning, especially if they did not act on your advice or experience the results they assume you want them to have.
19. Follow-up with guests before your next meeting. Let them know you hope to see them again. If a seeker came with somebody, encourage their friend to welcome them back. Sometimes group leaders hold off from following up in this way because they are afraid of being intrusive or coming across as pushy. Guests appreciate this act of kindness and it makes your group more inviting overall. If you do not risk the remote possibility of coming across as intrusive in your follow-up, seekers/newcomers may feel like they are
20. After a gathering where you had spiritual seekers visit your group, write down facts about them or prayer requests they shared. Find a way to revisit these things when you follow-up with them and naturally weave them into your conversation. This shows you were listening and that you care, which has a powerful effect in drawing guests into your group’s community life.
21. Last but not least, decide as a group to be “open” and ready to welcome spiritual seekers and always encourage personal evangelism. Small groups provide so many opportunities and so much encouragement for outreach. You want group members to have more than permission to invite their friends…let them know you WANT them to invite their friends. This attitude is one of the greatest contributing factors to a group making an evangelistic impact. If your group is in a season or study that is less conducive to having newcomers join in, just ask your small group ministry contact person to remove your group listing from your church’s communications for a time. However, it is always good for group members to know they are commissioned and encouraged to invite their seeking friends. Groups can and should always serve to encourage personal outreach.
Small groups enable people to apply biblical learning to life and believers are empowered to engage in mission through them. They are a vital extension of a church’s community life to the life of its surrounding community and present transformational opportunities for blending believers with those who have yet to believe.
Just know a group that has an open home, open hearts, and open hands is a group that is replete with life-giving possibilities. By following the recommendations above, you will create an environment where the hospitality of biblical community will receive and reach many truth-searchers for Christ!