Language matters. Disney knows this; that’s why they call all their employees “cast members.” So change the way you think about visitors. It changes your mindset when you stop thinking of newcomers as “visitors” and start thinking of them as guests. Think of it this way: When you are at home, people who come to your door are visitors. People you invite in (and invite back) are guests. Which do you want in your small group?
- Seat guests next to friendly members. You might even want to request permission ahead of time with something like, “I notice the way you pull people into the group. May I seat visitors next to you so they can have that same good experience?”
- Respect and welcome what each person says. Guests will realize you treat everyone with honor and appreciation. They’ll want to get in on that.
- Together with your group include each person in the conversation. Sometimes we focus so hard on what we’re about to say that we compete with other people in the group. A group is built when we learn from others. So develop a group habit of hearing and appreciating what others say. Use phrases like, “Thank you for that” and “You’ve really got me thinking.”
- Privately assure any guests that you won’t call on them. Then they can contribute when ready.
- Use irresistible icebreaker questions. This puts new and experienced group members on equal footing. (Every Bible Studies for Life Bible study provides one of these ice-breaker questions to lead right into the Bible study for that day).
- Use nametags for everyone every week. Then nametags aren’t a novelty that makes the guests feel called out.
- Thank each guest for a specific comment. Then they’ll know they are indispensible to the group.