Creating a welcoming environment in your family ministry is critical to making a great first impression on guests. It’s also, perhaps, the most important factor in their decision to return – or not!
Here are 5 steps you can take to Create a Welcoming Environment for Family Ministry:
Communicate your family ministry culture
Share through multiple mediums if you have Children’s Church or encourage Kids in Worship. Do you offer childcare? If so, for what ages? Where is it located?
Keep different personality types in mind when you plan your communication strategies. Not everyone wants to have to ask where the children’s wing is. For more introverted guests, they may prefer to seek information out on their own before engaging in conversation. Make this information available for them so they don’t have to ask questions until they have gotten their bearings. No one wants to feel like they have broken the rules or crashed a family gathering so help everyone to know what the general culture of your church is so they can engage at their own pace.
Seek out visitors
Take a few minutes pre-service to scan the attendance. Look for faces you haven’t seen recently or have never seen before. I have learned the hard way not to ask “is this your first time here?” I have found since that a good starting place is “Hi, I’m __. Have we met before?” This allows a great opportunity for self-deprecation if you just met last weekend and prevents embarrassment if they are a long time member that was out town for a few weeks.
Talk to the kids
I have found that as I bend down and put a child first, we move from introductions into relationship building. We go directly to the heart of the family. Parents are often the first to speak up for their child offering gentle excuses. “She’s shy” “He takes a while to warm up to people.” “His name is …” “She is ___ years old”. I like to share with parents that this may be helpful but it’s not necessary. We’re beginning our relationship together and starting with trust building – I don’t really need these answers yet and there’s no reason for excuses here. We have time and I accept you where you’re at.
That’s what I like to think kids & family ministry is … growing together. We are all in this together. I can wait until your child is ready to share and he/she wants to tell me all about his/her good day at school or his/her bad day when a friend moved away. We have nothing but time for that.
And if you do nothing else– remember the child’s name and welcome them next week with a smile a fist bump and a personal hello! That makes both a huge impression on kids and parents – and shows that kids are important at your church.
Do you have two or three other families that generally care about the growth of your church or are great at conversation? If not, work to find some because they are vital to the growth of your family ministry community. If the opportunity allows, introduce the new guest/family to one of these ambassadors. Share one thing about each person with each other. (ie – I’d love you to meet the Smith family, they also have a 1st grader that goes to ___). This is a great next step to building connections and community. So many guests attend church over and over without connecting with anyone. If they have no personal connections, it is really easy to stop attending. Make sure guests are not only connecting with the staff of the church, but with the church community.
Drop a note, email, text, Facebook message to the new family letting them know that you’re glad to have met them and are available if they have questions. Parents in our community are hungry for resources in parenting and connecting as a family. They are appreciative of knowing there are communities of people who care about their child’s spiritual journey, personal growth and well-being. Providing resources in this area is integral to family ministry and a great way to grow together!
What have you learned about welcoming new families?
(please share in comments below)