“Run off guests? That’s the opposite of what I want to do!” you might say. Bible study groups exist for those “not yet here” (or at least they should if they are classified as “open” groups). It doesn’t take a lot to discourage a guest from returning a second time. If you lead a Bible study group, be on the lookout for the following things that create bad first impressions in the minds of your guests:
- Ignore them – I’ve sat in multiple Bible study groups as a guest and, believe it or not, no one approached me and said, “Welcome to our group” or “We’re glad you’re here.” Not long ago I was in my local big box electronics store. I intended to buy two Apple watches – one for me, and one for my wife. I’d done my homework, new what I wanted, and I went to that part of the store. I stood there for 15 minutes, looking at the Apple watch on display, playing with its multi-functions. I even turned around and played with iPads and other Mac products. Still no salesperson approached me. I left the store after sharing my disgust with the manager, and told her she’d lost a big sale and that I’d simply take my business elsewhere. When you ignore people, don’t expect them to return.
- Put them on the spot – If you want to run off a guest, ask them to read a passage of Scripture with some difficult-to-pronounce words (like Mephibosheth). Or better yet, ask them to respond to a challenging question, one they might not be able to answer accurately. Or invite them to pray out loud. If you put them on the spot, they most likely won’t be back. It’s better to allow them to raise a hand,answer a question, or volunteer to read on their own terms.
- Smother them – Yes, there’s a balance between being friendly and creepy. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you’d never go out on a second one with that person if they dropped to one knee and proposed on the first date. You can be too aggressive in your enthusiasm over the guest’s visit to your group. Back off a little, make them feel welcome, but don’t hover. No one likes the annoying but well-intentioned waiter or waitress who constantly buzzes by your table. Give the guest a little space, and let them know you’re thankful they came to your group’s Bible study.
- Don’t invite them back. When a guest visits your Bible study, always invite them back to the next study. It is statistically true that when guests visit multiple weeks in a row, their chances of joining your church and your group rise dramatically. Don’t assume the guest will be back – invite them back – ask them to carve out time for lunch with you or others from your group – but don’t just assume they’ll be back the next time you meet.
- Follow up slowly. It is also true that the faster you follow up with a guest, the more likely they are to return a second or third time. If you make contact with a guest within 48 hours of their visit, there’s a great chance they will be back.
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