Steven: At some point in your youth ministry, there will be a time when you have to assimilate a new student into an already-established group. For me, this was last year. We had a group of 9 that had grown extremely close over the past year, but when the new school year started we added one student. Here are a few things we kept in mind to make it a seamless transition:
- Don’t talk about the past. This might seem a little extreme at first glance, but let me explain. The more you use lines like, “Remember that time when…?” and “How great was it when…?!” the more you’ll make the new guy realize he’s new. Try to focus as much as possible on the present and future. Talk about where the group currently is, and the hopes you have for where you want them to be.
- Find a common denominator. It’s not always easy for students to pick up on similarities between themselves until it’s painfully obvious. Last year we were lucky enough that our new guy went to the same school as a bunch of our other students. He actually knew one of our guys from school, so they connected right away. This made for a really smooth transition into the group for him.
- It’s not just awkward for the new guy. Chances are, your group may be a little uneasy about bringing in an “outsider” if they’re really well connected. Help them to see that they can’t be exclusive, and that everyone deserves an opportunity to be in a great youth group–even if it’s a little awkward at first.
Matt: Do what ever you can to help the new students transition into your group. Use this as an opportunity to remind everyone in the group about confidentiality and what is talked about in group, stays in the group. Here’s some other things to do:
- Keep your lessons at a level everyone can understand. You may have students who’ve been Christians for a while and a new student might be new to this whole Christian thing. Keep your lessons interesting for both groups.
- Build trust. Trust is huge in a small group and students who have been together for a while might have trouble at first with new students in the group. As a leader, you need to help build trust with everyone. One way to do that is to show them what trust looks like and make sure that you are someone students can trust with what’s going on in their lives.
- Social nights. One way to build a strong group is to do fun outings every now and then. Something away from the normal routine of a Bible study night. When students get to know each other and build friendships the group will grow stronger together.