Posts Tagged visitor

The Importance of a Warm Welcome

By Jay Fennell

I can recall a time when my wife and I were visiting Sunday School classes in a church. We were newlyweds and had recently moved to Texas from South Carolina to attend seminary. We were lonely and homesick. We had no connections, no friends, and no church home, and we desperately needed a place to belong. We visited a few classes for young couples and didn’t feel a connection. The classes we visited were friendly, but we quickly learned that they weren’t interested in being our friend, and you can tell the difference. They had room in the classroom for us but not much room in their hearts. Frustrated, we prayed that God would provide us a Christian community with which we could grow in our faith and serve the church. We were looking for a family!
God answered our prayer and led us to visit a new group for young marrieds. As we approached the room, we immediately noticed lively interaction. The couples were connecting relationally and were genuinely enjoying one another. As we walked in the door, we were immediately greeted warmly by a couple who introduced themselves and thanked us for coming. They were wearing nametags, so that made it easier to remember people because it put a face to a name. We were introduced to other couples, all wearing nametags. The people of the group were sincerely grateful we were there. By the end of the morning, we knew we had found the group where we wanted to invest, grow and serve.
The first minute of our visit was so crucial. This group had one minute to make a good first impression, and they passed with flying colors because they cared enough to acknowledge us when we walked in the door. Their most hospitable and bubbly people were placed at the door to welcome everyone, members and guests alike. But they gave special attention to guests and made sure that we were warmly welcomed and made to feel important. They didn’t neglect the people that God had brought to their group.
How good are you at warmly welcoming each person every time you gather for LIFE Group? Your group’s success at retaining guests might be determined by your intentionality in warmly welcoming newcomers. I cannot stress how important that is and encourage you to ensure that each person is greeted and welcomed each time you gather. It meant a lot to me and my wife, and I know it means a lot to others, as well.

Avoiding the Closed Group Syndrome

by Jay Fennell

Every small group or Sunday school class drifts toward becoming inwardly focused. Here’s how it plays out: a new group forms and enjoys early days of developing new relationships and connections with people. Everyone is equally eager to develop these relationships. The group grows numerically as new faces are added. Excitement builds as the group grows and reaches new people who were formerly unconnected.  This momentum lasts for a time but, after a while, it slows as the group leans more and more toward becoming closed in nature or less receptive to newcomers.
This trend toward becoming closed isn’t intentional, it’s accidental. It’s natural inertia. Relationships become solidified among group members as you do life together over time. Mountain and valley experiences of life are shared and bonds form as people walk side by side on life’s journey. And all of this is good. It’s what you must develop in a small group community. But the challenge is to not become so closed, so inwardly focused, that you forsake the importance of creating room for newcomers who desire to experience the same community you enjoy.
So how do you do that? How do you fight against the natural tilt toward an inwardly focused group? Consider these ideas:

  • Expect Guests. It sounds silly but it’s true. Inwardly focused groups do not expect guests and, therefore, do not have a plan to receive them, acknowledge them, and help them feel accepted.  When you don’t expect guests, you neglect guests.
  • Wear Nametags. You may know everyone’s name in your group, but guests don’t know any names typically. Wearing nametags sends the message that you expect someone who doesn’t know your name to be present.
  • Avoid Cliques. It’s so much easier to talk with people you know and already have a developed relationship with. But fight the urge to segregate yourself from others, especially guests, and take initiative to connect with newcomers. The worst possible scenario is for longtime members to chat with each other while not including guests.
  • Sit in Circles. Group size obviously dictates set up but, whenever possible, arrange your chairs in a circle. Circles promote group growth, unity and combined synergy.  This sends a positive message to guests who desire to belong and grow. Life change happens best in circles, not rows.