Besides being able to lead discussion, hospitality is the most important gift for a small group leader. But with teens, hospitality may look a little different than it does with grown-ups. Here’s what you can do to make teens feel welcome in your home:
1. Make it comfortable
While adults may appreciate interior decorating skills, teens for the most part don’t. They care most about being comfortable. A comfy old couch, a bean bag, big cushions on the floor, they may not make your house look tasteful, but it’ll earn you gratitude from your teen small group.
2. Don’t mind the mess
Where teenagers are, it always gets messy at some points. There will be crushed potato chips on the floor, soda stains on your coffee table and leftovers of marshmallows on your couch. Being hospitable means not minding the mess. While it’s perfectly okay to set rules for your small group to protect your belongings from too much damage, accepting a little tear and wear goes a long way.
3. Share a meal
We’ve always shared a meal with our small group before having the ‘real’ small group session and it’s made a big difference. Teens love food, they love the sense of togetherness and community that eating together brings and they love the chance to just chill. It doesn’t really matter what you cook, we tried a lot of different things (most of them healthy, we’re not fans of always doing fast food) and most of them worked out just fine. Just make sure you cook enough, some of them eat like a horse!
4. Don’t clean up beforehand
Seriously, it’s no use at all. I can be a bit of a neat freak sometimes, but I’ve learned that is really is senseless to try and clean before small group. They don’t notice and you can start again the minute they leave. So don’t fuss about the dust, the crumbs on the floor or the dirty windows. Just open your home and enjoy the invasion.
5. Create rituals
Whenever possible, think of something special that you can do to make your small group feel extra welcome. What works really well is a ritual that they will come to recognize and appreciate, such as:
- Always serving certain snacks (we did that with M&M’s, which was sort of our whole youth group’s special thing)
- Giving them their own mug (we had them make their own mugs from plain white mugs that they decorated with special paint)
- A standard sitting order (for some reason, we often had the girls on one side of the table and the guys on the other)
- Certain weird rules (we had the rule that those sitting with their back to the kitchen area, had to serve the others – it really didn’t make sense, but it was a lot of fun to see this repeated every week)
6. Let them stay until they have to leave
We often had somewhat older teens (16+) who didn’t really have a time they had to be home. We had no set time they had to leave either, but we made a very clear deal with them: they were welcome to stay until we kicked them out. They never had to worry if they were overstaying their welcome, we were always very clear when it was time to leave. It meant they felt really welcome.
What do you do to make your youth small group feel welcome?