Put yourself in this situation. You are attending a church for the very first time. Even more, you have decided to attend a Bible study group at the invitation of a member. How are you feeling? A little anxious? Nervous? Thinking about backing out and just staying home in the security of your own world?
That’s how many first-time guests also feel when they attend your church. It is a BIG deal! It is a conscientious choice. We need to remember that.
Sunday School groups must prepare for guests. It’s not enough to just expect group members to know how to treat them. Assuming group members will welcome guests is quite a dangerous assumption. Welcoming guests requires training and assignments.
1. Assign someone.
Specifically assign certain group members to the roles of welcoming guests. The old saying is true, “Everyone’s job is no one’s job.” There should be friendly, out-going members who know they have responsibility to greet first-time guests and make them feel welcome. This can be done by:
- Introducing the guests to other group members
- Gathering information from the guests for follow-up
- Showing guests the way to the restroom, worship center, etc.
- Communicating after the session by phone or email
2. Provide curriculum.
Many guests have no idea what to expect upon visiting a group. Most are probably expecting some type of Bible study experience, but probably have no idea what the group may be studying on the day of the visit. Providing the guest with a copy of the study will make the guest feel a part of the group and is a nice, inexpensive gift from the group.
Think ahead. When ordering curriculum for the group, anticipate the number of different guests who may attend during the study and order a copy for them. Most personal study guides (member Bible study books) are inexpensive, but are appreciated by guests.
3. Train the group how to act.
This may sound ridiculous, but don’t assume members know how to act around guests. I visit many churches and have discovered people simply do not know how make guests feel welcome. In fact, I have often felt ignored. My wife and I now joke that we must be invisible because no one talked with us.
Take some time to talk about how a member would want to be treated if they were a guest. Encourage everyone to be proactive.
Bruce Raley has served as Director of Church Education Ministry with Lifeway Christian Resources since May 2006. A native of Arkansas, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and traveling with Donna.