When Should Our Group Open to New Members?

A healthy part of group life is adding new members to your group. Most groups will lose members over time. If you don’t add new members occasionally, then your group might just stop entirely. If your group isn’t normally open to new members, there are some key times to consider opening your group.
The start of a new year is a great time to open your group to new members. Folks who have been thinking about joining a small group get that extra nudge of New Year’s resolution fever that just might direct them to your group. (The Fall when everyone is returning to church after Summer break is also a good time). If you plan a 6-8 week study that will begin in January, it’s the perfect opportunity for those leaning toward joining a group to jump in. Please understand that your new group members will need regular reminders about the group meetings, since they are developing a new habit. But, in time, it will become a regular part of their lives.
The start of a new study is also a great time to open your group to members. While some groups have never met a stranger, other groups want to know who they can count on from week to week. There is a natural flow to accepting new members at the beginning of the study, then “closing” the group for the remainder of the study.
The start of a new group is obviously a great time to add new members. If you or a member of your group feels ready to step out and start a new group, the New Year provides a great opportunity to connect with new group members. New members really thrive in new groups. We always need new groups. Maybe you’re just tired of your current group. There is no more noble reason to leave a group than to start a new group. Nobody can blame you for that.
The New Year is also a great time to meet prospective group members at a Small Group Sampler. A Sampler is simply an informal gathering where prospective small group members can meet small group leaders and their groups. In a large room or concourse, arrange tables according to the type of small group (Men’s, Women’s, Couples’, Singles, etc.) Each group decorates their table and provides a little food to sample. Groups should also provide some information about their group: where and when they meet, their next study and so forth. Prospective members visit the tables and check out groups that they’re interested in. For the best results, have prospective members sign up for a 6-week trial of the group on the spot rather than creating general lists for follow-up.
If your group has been together for a while, and you don’t regularly advertise your group, I would put you in the category of “invitation only.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Rather than hanging out your shingle for whosoever will, you can simply ask your group members who they know that would enjoy or benefit from your next study.
There is no right or wrong way to add new members to your group. The best way to prepare is to give new members a warm welcome and an open heart. If you lead an established group, there will be a brief adjustment period, but after a little while everyone will feel at home.