“We’re a friendly church!” It’s a phrase heard regularly in most churches. Often, the more true statement is, “We’re really friendly with one another.” Is it possible that newcomers at your church or small group perceive your sweet fellowship as cliquish?
Answer this question: Do you function more as a social club or an army of God? If your Sunday School class is comfortably stagnant or your church is plateaued or declining in attendance, perhaps it’s time to un-clique.
As the fall semester kicks off, try these simple ideas to un-clique your class:
– Stop and refocus. Teach members to pay attention. When a guest arrives, members immediately change their focus from chatting with one another to warmly welcome the guest.
– Every member is a greeter. Train members to see every guest through God’s loving eyes, and connect personally. Learn their name. Listen well and introduce guests to others. Sit nearby guests. Have real conversation with them. Tell them about church events and ministries they might enjoy. Get to know them and share your own Jesus story. Don’t forget to learn their name.
– Add chairs, and move over. Anticipate guests. Provide plenty of seating so a guest never has to search awkwardly. Members can make guest seating less intimidating when they avoid “saving” seats in worship. Give up your end-of-pew seat rather than forcing newcomers to climb over you. For a Sunday School class, rearrange classroom seating often.
– Avoid exclusive phrases. “Most of us are related.” “We’ve all been friends for years.” “We all grew up in this church.” Phrases like these inform guests that they’ll never be accepted. Show love for one another, but never at the expense of excluding others.
– Invite. Challenge class members to invite their unchurched acquaintances weekly. Teach members to be alert for guests in worship services, and invite them to their small group.
– Provide frequent entry points. Guests are always welcome, but intentionally plan special days to encourage members to bring newcomers. Use any excuse. A new Bible class or sermon series is beginning. We’re going out for lunch after church together. Keep members thinking of the lost people they know.
– Connect digitally. Guests feel welcomed when individuals send an email to invite them back. Add guests’ names to your email list immediately. “Friend” them on Facebook.
– State the goal often. Remind the group that we are organized to reach those who don’t yet know Jesus. Strive for second-time guests and new members. Small groups can set numeric goals for growth. Ask every guest if they’d like to join the class.
– Un-clique leadership. Involve more people in large and small leadership roles. Many responsibilities are appropriate for newcomers, so offer a place of service.
– Plan for explosive growth. When members bring lost friends, and the church warmly envelops guests with God’s love, growth will happen. Get ready for them. Mentor potential teachers and leaders. Intentionally create new breakout groups, or multiply your class.
The Great Commission is too vast, and eternity is far too important for us to sit in a huddle: Un-clique.