We have all been around someone with bad breath. When it becomes unbearable, we all do the same thing: we avoid that person like the plague. But even more shocking is when you discover you have bad breath. Interestingly enough, many small group Bible studies have a similar issue. New people seem to avoid your group.

So how do you know if your group suffers from “group halitosis”? Does your Sunday School or small group have a “one-and-done” history with new people? Do first-time guests attend once and never appear again? Do guests avoid interaction after just one visit to your group? Your group is suffering from “group halitosis.”

The good news is that there is a cure for “group halitosis.” Try the following suggestions:

1) Nametags. Yes, everyone wears nametags and get those cheap, disposable, adhesive tags. A person visiting your group does not know everyone’s name, so make it easy for them and wear a nametag (not just the guest).

2) Never call on a guest to pray, read or answer a question in public.

3) Sit in circles, not rows. Rows are for sermons. Circles are for groups. Trust me, it is very difficult to communicate with the back of someone’s head.

4) Guests are… well, guests! You would not invite a guest to your home and never visit with them or have them sit in the corner while your family holds forth. A guest to your group wants to share their story, but they are not going to volunteer it. They would prefer for someone to initiate the conversation.

5) Don’t be a ball hog. We live in a society that is losing simple communication skills. Pretend that there is a conversation ball. When someone asks you a question, they are tossing you the conversation ball and you now control the conversation. Don’t be a ball hog and hold the ball, toss it back by asking them a question about themselves. When a guest enters your group’s room, they are on your turf, and you have the ball. Initiate conversation with them and toss them the ball.

6) Invite the guest to sit with you during the worship service.

7) Ask them out to eat.

8) Send them a note thanking them for attending your group. Include an invite to your group’s Facebook page or social media account.

9) Pay them a visit, either on the phone or at their home. Let them know you are interested in them and their spiritual journey.

10) Smile.

“Group halitosis” is rampant in our churches, but the cure is so easy to administer. Be sure to treat your guests well and you will see more guests return and become part of your group.