What makes small groups successful: an intentional personal touch. Groups that succeed have leaders who prioritize making people comfortable, caring for each individual and building the confidence of all. As a result, people connect more readily and life-changing relationships grow because the rest of the group learns to model the same behavior.
Some people may have the gift of a personal touch, but everyone working in small groups settings need to be reminded and trained about the nuances of intentional personal attention. This quality is even more important as our society becomes increasingly fast-paced, busy and isolating.
Personal touches that stand out include:
The first time I was invited to join a small group I had just relocated, knew no one, had a toddler and a preschooler and was a bit overwhelmed. A small group leader took the time to talk to me, get to know those facts about me and then said, “You should join our small group Bible study program. You get two hours of adult conversation and your kids will be taken care of.” I was sold. She had paid attention to my needs and addressed them and this made all the difference. Her style also taught and gave me confidence for approaching others about joining small groups.
Small group leaders should make a point of greeting all members individually as they arrive for gatherings. Looking a person in the eye and acknowledging his/her presence is an oh-so-powerful greeting that is frequently missed in many social interactions today. Small group leaders should arrive early, greet all, sit facing the door to welcome latecomers and show each member of the group that his/her presence matters.
Prayer is a privilege and connects people spiritually. Small group leaders who take time outside of the group to pray for each member individually, prospective members and the group as a whole are blessed and bless the people in the group. Prayers deepen the connections between group members. Knowing that someone is praying for you is a powerful assurance that you are cared for.
When I first became a small group leader and was asked to call or email all group members weekly, I was reluctant. But then I remembered when a leader had called me at just the right time with words of encouragement. Later, as a leader, I received a card from a group member thanking me for leaving messages for her each week because it “helped me come back into the fold during a challenging time.” I still have that card from 15 years ago. I also keep cards leaders sent to encourage me. Their efforts have built my confidence. Effort for personal follow-up is worth it.
I would love to hear your tips on personal touch for small group leaders. What has touched you and what do you use to help others feel comfortable, cared for and confident?