Guest Who?

Over the last few months I have found myself occupied in the discussion about how our church community can best identify guests within the corporate worship gathering and move them towards a small group.

One of the ideas I have repeatedly heard from various voices is to institute a protocol among our church members to immediately ask the simple question, “What small group are you in?” to the people they engage with at the corporate gathering.

The idea is that this question will notify the church member whether the person is a visitor or not, while at the same time communicate to the guest that the key next step for them to take is to get into a small group.

However, the more I have thought through this approach I began to wonder if this practice comes more from a modern, formulaic, process-driven mindset, instead of a relevant, organic, relationally-driven mindset?  Does this question truly honor the person in seeing them as a human created in the image of God to naturally connect with, or does it see them merely as a product to launch on the church growth assembly line?

At some level I wonder if the immediate question to people, “What small group are you in?” says to the guest, “I only care about where you need to go, not where you and I coexist right now.”

If you desired to identify guests within a corporate worship gathering, while at the same time help them see that the best place for spiritual growth is within smaller, intimate community, what would you do?


~ by Dave Smith on June 18, 2009.

11 Responses to “Guest Who?”

  1. If the best place for spiritual growth is within smaller, intimate community, and the desire is to move people in that direction, why don’t we meet in smaller, intimate groups on Sunday mornings and move the big corporate worship gatherings to first and third Tuesday nights?

  2. I definitely like the way you think Ben.

    Yet, let’s shift the scenario then…and say you have an influx of visitors now at your Thursday night gathering. How do you identify them and help move them on to “the next level?”

    Or should you?

  3. If there are enough “small group” people with the same intention….would it be a plan to have these people sitting throughout the large group setting each Sunday…in the same location….(I believe most people will sit in the same area each Sunday they attend) During the “Welcome” and after the service a more involved conversation can begin and after a few weeks of becoming more familiar the question could be asked about the small group….instead of throwing the line out to bait every passer – by..

  4. Good thoughts “mom.”

    This idea had been used at a large megachurch in Kentucky where people would own sections of the pews are their own, to build relationships and make more natural connections.

    Apparently they had good success with it.

    Sort of like an “adopt a road” program, except you are adopting a few pews.

  5. Dave,

    Have you heard of this book?

    It’s well worth a read, especially for folks who think that small groups are the best (and only?) way forward for the church in America. It definitely gave me some pause and caused me to rethink a few things… additionally, it liberated me to be myself, i.e., one who’s very cautious about becoming ‘intimate’ with others quickly.

  6. Yea, good call Ben.

    That’s a good that I read a while back but always forget about. You are good about referring us to it, as there are a lot of innovative thoughts to that book.

  7. I think I agree with “mom”. Not sure that we have to be so intentional with the small group question, but rather intentional with building relationships with the people around us at our place of worship. If we are effective at that, it seems the small group issue would come naturally. It also kills two birds with one stone because I think we could all stand to be more intentional with those around us at church in terms of just investing in a relationship with them…it makes the entire church a much more inviting place for new people to come to in the first place.

  8. The design of the traditional corporate worship gathering (large number of people, all facing front, focused on a presentation of some sort) isn’t conducive to any good scenario for connecting with guests meaningfully enough to determine their small group status and/or nudge them toward one. It seems to be a case of not the right tool for the job. Having it on Thursday night or Sunday morning doesn’t change those inherent issues.

    Sunday morning is still considered “church time” by the culture. Therefore whatever your church has taking place regularly on Sunday morning is what people will come to expect as the main “church experience”. If you want that main experience to be small groups, then Sunday morning needs to be all about small groups.

    I think the best way to interest guests in small groups is to offer numerous opportunities for one-time or limited duration quasi small group activities (sports, volunteer days, TableTalk, etc.). These seems to create the environments where connections can be made that allow the “what small group are you in?” question to be more natural and less like trolling for fish.

  9. If one of the aims of small groups is inclusion in a community, then perhaps the first communication that we have with a “visitor” should not be one of exclusion. In essence, “Why aren’t you one of us?” Whether they are a visitor or a regular attender who, for whatever reason, is unwilling or unable to be a part of a small group at this point in time, how many times would they want to hear questions like this? Although well-intentioned (and effective at getting the information), not a very inviting experience. Building a relationship first is the key.

  10. Ben,

    Really good thoughts here. You aren’t trying to solve the problem within the existing paradigm, but creating a whole new paradigm, the moves from formal monologue, to non formal teaching and learning.

    Love how you think.


    What the crap! Out of no where.

    I hope you are well. And excellent point about how the underlined message with such a question is one of exclusion vs. inclusion. Well said.

  11. Good thoughts. Exclusion vs. inclusion is important but I think just as important is the question…where is the individual in their faith journey? Do we “plug” them into a small group program when maybe meeting one-on-one would be more beneficial right now? My experience has been that sometimes the less structured more organic/relational interactions cause the most growth.

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