We all have those situations that aren't completely comfortable because we're with a bunch of people we don't know; either because they are a new group to us or a group that we don't know that well. We know we have to put ourselves out there, but the environment is new to us and therefore SUPER uncomfortable.
If my parents were ever uncomfortable in a social situation, they had perfected the "fake it till you make it" technique. My mother would ask you all about your family...and then would remember each little detail for the next time she'd see you. Dad had been known to walk up to perfect strangers and say "I'm Bill. I don't believe you've met me!". I am not my parents.
Like most people, I do well in situations where I know the environment or the people. But I have observed something that I think we all need to be aware of. If you are in a situation where you are comfortable, look out for the one who isn't.
I have a sweet friend who is very social. When she was the group meeting leader; she deputized a friend to handle the "nitty gritty details". They weren't her strength and it freed her up to do what she did best--make people feel welcome. When I was the group meeting leader, I was more about the details...but I forgot one very important one. I should have deputized someone to make sure everyone felt they belonged. This does not necessarily mean "icebreakers". If you aren't an extrovert or part of the inner circle, those may make you want to run for the exit. And, I'll be right behind you!
The difficulty, of course, is that if you are already part of the group, you want to catch up with the people in your group. It's a lot more work to look out for the lost. Besides, then you're missing out on your chance to catch up.
And...how embarrassing is it to greet someone as a newbie and then find out that they're not? This is a particular problem in churches with multiple services. You're never sure if someone is truly new, or if they're just at a different service.
Of course, we've all been at events where the newbies are "marked" at the entrance. Cuz nothing says welcome like a 2 lb. mum on your shoulder marking you as "fresh meat" to all the regulars! But, perhaps there's a way to cue the regulars without making the newbie feel as odd man out? Maybe you could use blue nametags for regulars and red for newbies. Maybe members of your group would walk alongside the newbies and introduce them around. As long as the regulars "know the code", and it doesn't make the newbies feel uncomfortable, any system will work!
So, this holiday season, look for the newbie. If you are comfortable with the environment, introduce yourself to people and bring them into your circle. Many churches will have visitors over the next few weeks. See if you can make a new friend every week. Don't expect the newbie to come find you (that was actually suggested to me by a pastor once)! That's like expecting someone on their first cruise to captain the ship! Be Jesus with skin on!
Feeling blessed, how about you?