Every small group leader—whether an SGL for students or for elementary and preschool kids—needs to think about how to assimilate new students into their small group. The initial thought of the new student or kid who just joined your group is “This group thing is kind of weird.” Think about it. Where else are students and kids placed in a small group to sit in a circle and are encouraged to talk about their life and faith? In our postmodern-21st century-digital culture it is very rare for a student to have another adult genuinely care about them and ask them about their life and faith. . .face-to-face.
Chap Clark in his book HURT states:
Today’s adolescents are, as a lot, indescribably lonely. (p. 69)
Mid-adolescents believe that few if any adults genuinely care about them. (p. 68)
Adolescents have suffered the loss of safe relationships and intimate settings that served as the primary nurturing community for those traveling the path from child to adult… (p. 50)
Today’s postmodern kids and students long to belong. They need places where trusted, committed adults genuinely care for them. And the perfect place for them is your small group. But there are a few things small group leaders need to think about when welcoming a new student who is possibly a little lonely, has a few doubts about faith, thinks adults are out to get him or does not easily trust others — especially adults.
Bottom line: how you, as the SGL, initiate a safe and welcoming relationship with new students is important.
Here are a few thoughts on ways to welcome your new few to the group:
– Ask great “get to know you” questions. For example: What is your favorite TV show? What movies do you enjoy? What are your favorite YouTube videos? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do they drive you crazy? What is your favorite store or restaurant? What is the coolest place you ever been?
– Be sensitive to their spiritual development and process. Every student’s spiritual process is unique and different. The adolescent spiritual growth is not a sequential progress like the educational system. Rather the spiritual process for new students is very intermitted, disruptive and messy. Discipleship starts with a student’s heart and not with their actions and behaviors. To understand where they are spiritually you can ask these questions: What are your thoughts about God? What is your previous experience with church? What is one word that defines your relationship with God?
– Make sure to get their contact info. If they have a phone or social media account, ask if you have his or her number and if you can add them on social media. Get their mailing address, birth date and school name. Get as much info about them as possible so you can easily follow up with them outside of group.
– Send them a welcome card in the mail. Send them a “Welcome to our Group” postcard. In this postcard, write about how excited you are that they joined your group and you got to hear their story. Today’s kids rarely get anything in the mail, so it will mean the world if they get something from you in the mailbox after their first time in small group.
– Contact their parents. When partnering with parents, it is important to get them early on. When their son/daughter joins your small group, contact them immediately. Establish a connection to introduce yourself and get to know them and their family story. Plus, parents can give you some helpful insights on how to best support and cheer on their son/daughter.
– Commit to praying for them. An easy way to show students you care is by asking them every week: How can I pray for you? Pray for them right then and there and continue praying for them throughout the week. Make sure to follow up with the developments of their prayer requests. Keep a journal or record of each students’ prayer request so you can see how God is working in their lives.
When a new students come into our circle, they will most likely make their minds up about our group — possibly even the church — within the first few minutes. Take advantage of those first interactions. Welcome your new few with gusto. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity to grow your circle wider.
What are some creative ways you have welcomed new students into your circle?