In preparation for International Moment of Frustration Scream Day (October 12), we started listing things that might make a person scream, including a list for group leaders (Tuesday’s post), group members (yesterday’s post), and group guests. Not all groups expect guests, but many do. The life of open ongoing Bible study groups depends upon guest attendance. When traveling, I will sometimes attend a Bible study group as a guest. Here is a list of things that can make a guest scream with frustration.
- Make them walk across the room to find a chair. You enter the room (usually late because you had to find where the group met) and the only chair available is on the other side of the room. In some cases, the group leader is positioned right by the entrance to the space and there is no way to simply sneak in.
- Provide them a name tag that is different from everyone else’s. Everyone wearing a printed name tag lets me know I am not “in the club.” Handing me a red marker when everyone else has nametags in black also raises my suspicions. Let me be a part of your club!
- Put them on the spot. One way is asking them to introduce themselves. Did no one in the group catch my name earlier? If I didn’t share during the group time, why would I want to share now? There are so many more ways that guests can be put on the spot: the leader directs a specific question toward the guest, the guest is put in charge of an activity, or the leader asks a guest to read or pray aloud.
- Make it hard to participate. Having extra resources on hand makes it easier. Give the guest a Bible if needed. Make it possible for them to participate. If they want to keep the Bible or resource provided, let them.
- Tell inside jokes, stories, or terms. Every group has a code—the order of doing things and the way things are referenced make up part of that code. Experiences within the group also make up that code. “You remember how that worked out when we were building that playground for the community” means nothing to the person who didn’t even know the community had a playground. Don’t be so exclusive. Guests need you to clue them in—explain inside jokes or unspoken rules.
- Forget their name. Most of us expect people to remember our names. If your group has so many guests that you can’t remember their names ten minutes after you met them, then maybe it’s time to start a new group!
- Ignore them. It’s one thing to not put guests on the spot, but it’s another thing to ignore them altogether. If a guest wants to contribute to the discussion, let her do so. If he volunteers to read aloud, encourage him. After the group time is over, make the effort to talk to guests or contact them. We want to know that someone noticed that we were there!
What other things might a Bible study group do that would cause a guest to scream out of frustration?
What actions might you or your group take to minimize the potential for frustration among newcomers, and encourage guests to come back?
G. Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.