Over the past few years we have seen over 100 new youth walk through our doors. We have made plenty of mistakes when it comes to greeting and welcoming them. We have learned many things over the years…
- Bringing first timers up onto the stage to introduce them to the group.
- Having them take part in a “visitor challenge”.
- Asking them to share something embarrassing about themselves.
These would all go down in the “mistakes” category.
There are around 12 schools that feed into our student ministry. The chances of a student joining us for the first time and not knowing someone at Impact are small. As students arrive at Impact we greet them all. When we meet someone who is new we find out what school they attend. With that information we connect them with a student that they may know from their school who is a regular at Impact. The “regular” then will show the new student around the building, sit with them during worship and the message, and bring them to their cell (small) group.
We have an open-door policy for parents so if they come in with the student we get to know them and extend the invitation to hang around that night at Impact. The bottom line is that parents are trusting us with their kid. We want to ensure them that we will do what we can to help their kid connect and feel welcomed at Impact. If the student is dropped off at the door we do what we can at the end of the night to meet their parents (sometimes that means taking a walk out to their car as the student heads out for their ride.) We are intentional about doing this for a number of reasons.
- We are a family ministry.
- We want to know where the kids are coming from.
- We want to help ease any concerns that parents may have.
- As we strive to partner with parents we need their feedback on how their kids are doing.
We also try and follow up with each new student a day or two after they have joined us. That means that when they are in their small group the leader gets their contact info from them. We will send them a small card thanking them for joining us, send a quick email letting them know that we were glad they checked out Impact, and we’ll have their cell group leader give them a call during that week to answer any questions they may have after attending once.
Many times other students will get their email or IM and connect with them as well. As we try and involve students in all aspects of leadership at Impact it is their connections with the new students that seem to make the greatest difference on whether or not a student returns for a second time.
I personally try and learn all of the students names and learn something about them so that I can reconnect with them on their 2nd and 3rd times back. By remembering something about them it makes them feel really accepted and cared for. However, and I wish I didn’t need to clarify this, it’s not done as a gimmick to win over the students – we do all of this because we care for and are passionate about seeing this generation connect in relationship with Jesus Christ and One Another.
Are we missing the mark in any of these areas? Sometimes we strike out. While we are very intentional in our approach to making visitors feel welcome there are times when we miss a student. When we learn of this happening it just makes us work harder the next time.
thoughts from anyone reading this? additions that we could implement? always looking for ways to improve… let us know.
(This post was inspired by a list from Tim Schmoyer over at the Life in Student Ministry blog)