A new year with your small group means new kids. And new kids are a good thing, right? It’s a sign of growth in your ministry. It tells us we, as SGLs, must be doing something right. It provides more opportunity for existing kids to connect and create positive community. But let’s be honest, accepting new kids can be complicated and a bit stressful—especially if you are really close with your existing group.
When you are with the same few kids each week for months or even years, something magical happens. You get comfortable with each other. You learn the group dynamic. Everyone let’s their guards down—including the SGL. But throw in a new face and guards go right back up. You have to redefine group dynamics. And it takes a while to get back to the same comfort level. I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that a small part of me tenses up when I see an unfamiliar face sitting in my circle.
However, as SGLs, part of our job is to reach out to the new kid—who is likely feeling even more anxious than you! It’s important to make them feel welcomed and connected right away so not only do they want to keep coming back but when they do come back, everyone already feels a connection and things can get back to normal quickly.
So how do you make a new kid feel welcomed and connect that child to the group right away? I’m no expert but I have found three techniques to really reduce the new kid jitters.
- Sit next to the new kid. I have noticed when I do this my kids want to sit next to them, too.
- Ask them what some of their favorite things are. Then ask your small group who else likes those same things. This is a great way to learn a little about the new kid and connect them to some great friends.
- Ask group members who would like to be their friend for the day. This will be someone to sit with, talk to, and explain how everything works. They may walk to large group together, show where the restrooms are located, or simply be someone who remembers their name the next week.
By doing these things not only will the newcomer feel welcomed, but you will have set a standard for how your group treats unfamiliar faces and your existing few will follow suite. So the next time you see a new face, don’t panic! Embrace the opportunity to make that new kid’s transition as smooth as possible while teaching the rest of your group an important lesson in acceptance!