Have you ever been the new person? How do you respond when you’re thrown into a new situation? Being the new person can be awkward, scary, and intimidating. It can also be exciting because it’s an opportunity to forge new friendships. I was never the new kid in school—my family didn’t move much when I was growing up—but as an adult I've been the new person many times. At work, social events, and even as a group member, I’ve felt the anxiety that accompanies the unknown.
When I'm in new situations, I tend to sit back and take in the dynamics before fully engaging. You may identify with me or you may be the type that knows no stranger and jumps into new situations feet first. You see opportunity ahead, not potential risk.
When you add a new person to an existing group, that person probably feels some anxiety too. As a group leader, consider how the new member may feel. Be intentional about integrating him or her into the group.
Here are a few tips that might help make a new addition feel more welcome:
Put yourself in the new person's shoes New members will feel like outsiders. Be flexible, adjusting your approach based on whether the person is shy or outgoing. If your new members wants to be quiet, invite participation but don’t force it. If your new members is out going, be patient as he or she enjoys sharing with newfound friends. A key part of feeling like an insider is knowing what insiders know. Be intentional about catching a new member up on past experiences or inside jokes.
Pause If you're in the middle of a curriculum when adding a new member, stop and pick up a curriculum you can all start from the beginning together. Take time to re-tell your stories.
Involve existing group members Encourage existing members to reach out to new members. Match old members with new members to get lunch or coffee or pair them up for prayer time. Enlist existing members to welcome new members. This can create a new sense of ownership in the group.
What other things have you done to help new members join your existing group?