In less than 2 minutes, here about how Rich doubled his small groups in one month after attending an Accelerate Small Group Workshop!
Consider this scenario:
You are interested in learning about real estate. You discover there is a group of people in your area who meet regularly to discuss the topic and learn from each other. You are intrigued enough to find a place online to sign up for the group and you do. The next group meeting is in a week.
While you are waiting to attend, what questions are you starting to ask yourself?
- Will they welcome me or ignore me?
- Am I expected to take anything to the meeting?
- I have no knowledge or experience. What am I going to be able to contribute to the conversation?
- Are they going to embarrass me and make me feel stupid by calling on me to answer questions I can’t answer?
- Real estate is a big area. Are the discussion topics going to help me get the knowledge I need?
- It’s scheduled during a normal meal-time. Is food provided, do I need to pack a meal for myself, or do I need to eat before I go to the meeting?
- If I’m going to be late, should I still attend?
- Will there be anyone there who is close to my age?
- Why is the meeting being held at a house instead of at a real estate company?
- It is going to be dark outside. Will it be difficult to know which house I am looking for?
- Do I ring the doorbell or send a text message when I arrive? (Yes, this is a legitimate question.)
The day of the meeting has now arrived, and you are having a difficult day at work. How likely is it that you will attend the real estate meeting after work?
First Visits to Small Groups are Scary
We know how much small groups can change a person’s life. As a small group point person, you have likely experienced multiple life-changing moments in the past. You are a small group advocate.
But to a person who has never been a part of a small group and maybe has little to no experience with church, it can be very scary.
If you want to encourage a new member to go from signing up for a small group to attending their first small group gathering, take a moment to look at the situation from their perspective.
Here are four things you can consider to help them take that step:
1. Make a Personal Connection
Showing up to a group of strangers is scary. Knowing that there is at least one person there that you have met makes it much less scary.
Someone from the group should connect with the new member or prospect shortly after they sign up. The connection can be in person or via a video/phone call. Avoid email and text messages for this purpose. It needs to be a personal connection.
Try to find a common interest to start building a relationship. Give them an opportunity to ask any questions they have. Having someone they already know at the gathering will give them another reason to look forward to attending.
2. Select Your Words Carefully
If the words you use cause confusion, negativity, or make new members or prospects feel they lack the knowledge to participate in the group, they will be less likely to show up.
For example, avoid using the word meeting. For many people, this word conjures up negative thoughts and doesn’t describe what a small group is all about. I like to use the word gathering. Other alternatives include: get-together, session, meetup, and hangout.
Don’t use small group and church jargon. It is easy to do and I am guilty of it often. For example, when you use the term building community, many people outside of church (or even small groups) don’t really understand what you mean. Use words that people outside the church will understand.
3. Don’t Call on People to Answer Questions
Let them know they are not going to be put in an embarrassing situation where they are asked to do something they don’t want (or can’t) do. I let my small group members know that it is my commitment to them and they can hold me accountable.
Asking an individual to read a verse from the Bible sounds like a simple thing to get someone involved in the conversation. However, what if that person can’t read. (This is a real situation that has occurred.)
I challenge myself to find ways to encourage people to be engaged with the conversation. For example, this is one of the reasons I routinely email members an ice breaker question before our gathering. It is also the reason silence can be your friend, once you get comfortable with it.
If I notice someone is not participating, I make a special effort to reach out to them in private to find out if there is something of concern they are dealing with.
You may not be willing to go to the extreme I have, but keep in mind the potential consequences before putting someone on the spot in front of the group.
4. Provide Helpful Information
If you know some of the questions new members and prospects might have, why not capture some of the answers in writing and send it to them. It’s like a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet for your small group members that is written in the form of a welcome.
Here is a template that is written for my small group that you can revise and provide to your small group members for their use.
|Hi <new member>,|
I am excited you joined the new Leaders Learning small group. I intend it to be useful for both new and experienced leaders of all types. We will learn and apply leadership principles through book/video studies, group discussions and encouragement.
Showing up to a new small group can be scary. I do my best to lead the group in a way that you are not pressured to do or say anything you don’t want to. But at the same time, you can talk about anything without fear of being judged or the information leaving the room.
<Host names> are excited to host our group at their house. Here are the details:
Day: Wednesdays (starting next week, Sept 11)
Here are some things we will talk about during our first gathering:
– For this semester, I looked for a leadership study that applied to the traditional leader role, but also to the everyday life of all Christians. We will be using the book Learning to Lead Like Jesus: 11 Principles to Help You Serve, Inspire, and Equip Others by Boyd Bailey for our Bible study. We will discuss how you can get a copy of the book.
– Confidentiality in the group is critical. We will discuss this at this first gathering and I will also provide reminders in several of our future sessions.
– I have already started praying for you every day. I will add you to our group on the Echo Prayer app. This is a tool we use to manage prayer requests and remind us to pray daily for each other.
– We will enjoy snacks and conversation at each gathering. I will cover the first gathering and you will also have an opportunity to share snacks on a future date.
I look forward to meeting you next week and getting to know you better over the semester.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.
Question: How can the welcome email be improved? What are some other ways you have found effective in getting people to attend their first small group gathering?