Meeting a new group of people for the first time can be intimidating. Think about your first day of school, your first date, or your first day on a new job. Do you remember the butterflies, the anxiousness, the excitement, the mix of emotions and physical reactions? There can be both anticipation and fear as you meet new people. So as you start a new small group, remember both first timers and seasoned attendees are in your group, and find ways to help them all connect.
Building relationships is foundational to a great group and to becoming people who will really invest their lives into others. This begins from the first invitation to join the study and should continue throughout the duration of the small group. Find ways to have fun and get people talking. You may provide food, play a game, or pitch out some conversation starters. Do whatever it takes to get people talking and connecting, not just at the first meeting, but every time they meet.
People need to sense that they are welcome and that they belong to the group. Assuming they know what the group will study (book of the Bible, topical study, etc.) they can immediately connect on that point. Identify key questions to discuss in that first meeting that help them see that connection such as: What drew you to this study? What do you hope to gain from this Bible study? Remind them of the purpose of the study on the first meeting and keep that purpose at the forefront throughout the study. Keeping a common goal and purpose will help maintain connectedness.
Spend the necessary time in prayer and preparation before the group meeting. Talk things over with any co-leaders and map out the plan of how the group session will flow. Set the pattern in that first group meeting where discussion and study keeps moving and goes deeper. You want the group to know that there is always more in Scripture and always more to learn from and about one another.
Part of being prepared is starting and dismissing on time. This implies that you know their time is valuable and you will honor that. Group members will respect those boundaries and be grateful for you as the leader. When people want to stay connected with one another, they will be on time and not want to miss the precious time they have together.
3. Clarifying and Explaining the Purpose
Women want to know what they are getting into and the commitment they are making. They will evaluate if it is worth their time and how they will benefit from attending. It is good to share the plan for the coming weeks, the biblical foundation of the study, and value statements of what you hope the group gains from their time together.
Help your group understand the bigger purpose of meeting together. They are cultivating spiritual growth. Every person in the group is on a spiritual journey and needs the foundation and growth that only comes through God’s Word, the Bible. They will celebrate life together—birthdays, anniversaries, babies, milestones of all kinds—but more often, they will celebrate their salvation and spiritual growth as they walk in obedience to Jesus and in understanding of Scripture.
Although meeting a new group for the first time can be challenging, the benefits of walking through a season of life with other believers far outweigh the fears. Lives that are transformed by the gospel are exciting to watch and encourage. Take time to shepherd and connect with your group from that very first meeting and watch as they live out their faith.