Uninviting. Boring. Cold. Out of touch. Have you ever been to a small group or Sunday School class that left you with those feelings? You probably decided right then and there that this wasn’t the group for you. Or perhaps you’ve led a group like this. You arrived late and couldn’t get things set up the way you wanted. Or maybe you had to change things at the last minute. Regardless, this kind of meeting isn’t a win for anybody.
To truly engage your group you need to create an environment. Your group should begin to experience the session as soon as they enter the meeting space. Whether it’s raising or lowering the lights, providing a light snack, or ensuring a friendly person greets them at the door, creating an environment is a critical part of a good group meeting. Here are 5 ways you can help create an environment that engages:
1. Warm and welcome
- If possible, personally greet people when they enter the room. If this isn’t possible ask a friendly member of the group to help. This sets the tone for everyone entering the meeting space.
- Go beyond, “Good morning,” or “Welcome.” If you know the people you’re greeting inquire about their family, the week, work, etc. Make it personal. If they are visitors, personally walk them through the space, answer any questions, and introduce them to others in the group.
- Make sure the room isn’t too cold or too warm. This can be a challenge but it can make a big difference for those attending.
- How does the room smell? This may sound weird but our senses drive a lot of our experience. Whether it’s musty because of infrequent use or sterile because it’s a classroom, make adjustments if needed. Consider a scented candle, snacks that give off a delicious aroma, or opening a window.
- How does the room look? If it’s a shared space, chances are it can be a bit messy. Arrive early enough to straighten things up. Arrange chairs in a circle or semi circle to help engage everyone. Dim or lower the lights if the option is available to help create a warm atmosphere.
- Nothing is less engaging than when a leader capitalizes on all of the meeting time. Use discussion questions to evoke conversation. If something must be read aloud, ask a volunteer to do it. Use the powerful follow-up question of “why?” as often as you can.
- Engage the group by giving them something to do. Are you teaching on being salt and light in the world? Hand out salt packets to each person as a physical reminder while you lead. Will you be covering a lot of material? Play a game geared toward the session’s point. Get the group active and they will remain engaged.
- Use videos, pictures, smartphones, audio, and any other media to help engage the group. From YouTube to thousands of free apps, there are ways to provide for the group to see and hear things that support the session.
- If you’re not the tech savvy leader, invite someone in your group to take that role. Media, when used well, is a powerful teaching tool.
- Think of your meeting as an experience. You want people to look forward to what you’re going to do each time you gather. From when they walk in the door until they walk out, every moment should engage and build community as well as strengthen the session.
- People are always looking for fun, impacting, and memorable experiences. Why not make your group meetings something to remember?
With an engaging environment, your group will be more eager to connect. When connection happens you will be able to lead them through Scripture and discussion more effectively. What better way to show your group where the Bible meets their lives? Check out biblestudiesforlife.com for additional ideas every week that will help you create an engaging environment for your group.