When guests come to church for the first time one of the first questions they’re asking is, “Is there anyone here like me?” I would imagine, because this is a question that is important to them that the next question they’re asking themselves is, “Will the people who are like me welcome them into their inner circle?”
A door has been open. Inviting someone to join a group should be as natural as inviting a fellow golfer to play a round of golf. We have something in common, we think we’d like to hang out together, and, if one of us is willing to do the invite … we’re in!
Knowing how to invite someone to the group is essential. Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Spend some time getting to know them.
The first invitation you make should not be to the group meeting. The first invitation should be to go out to dinner together or to play golf together or to go to a movie. Diving right into an invitation to group life, unless there’s a hint from them early on that they’re looking for a group, should come after the ice has been broken. If you invite them to soon, you may lead them to believe that you long to make them your project rather than your friend.
2. Be willing to answer any questions, alleviating tensions or uncertainties.
Many people have never been in a small group. They aren’t sure what it’s about or what they have to do if they come. Be ready to tell them that they don’t have to read aloud if they don’t want to, that they don’t have to pray aloud if they’re not ready for that, etc. Answers to these questions may be the reason they start attending to a small group.
3. Let them know that they can exit without judgment.
When you do invite them, be clear that if they don’t like it or the group isn’t a good fit for them they can choose not to join the group. Many people are unwilling to come to their first group meeting because, in the back of their minds, they believe they’re going to be forced to stay in the group for years to come even if they don’t like it.
Rick Howerton has one passion — to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is pursuing this passion as the small group and discipleship specialist at Lifeway Church Resources.