Visiting a new church is seldom easy. Unless they have been invited by someone who already attends, visitors may not know anyone or anything about your church.
Some may not have been in church for years — if ever. They may be new to the area or leaving a previous church home. For families with kids, the children’s ministry is often the front door to the life of the church, so leaders and volunteers should be ready.
VIP of the day
Regardless of their situation or background, guests should be treated with love, care and sensitivity to their recent church history. Take a moment to speak individually to them. Make this first visit to your church special, as if this family is the VIP of the day. Your goal is to keep them coming back so they ultimately become fully engaged in the life of the church.
Here are five keys based on the word “VISIT” that will help you welcome families to your church and ministry:
- Keep the VENUE clean and up-to-date to offer a good first impression on visitors to your children’s ministry area. If parents see a well-designed and cared-for children’s area, they can feel confident you will take care of their children too. Being neat and tidy works out in the long run. Use signs to direct parents where to go. Remember, new visitors have no idea where anything is, so if you have signs to help parents navigate the children’s area, they will feel more comfortable.
- Be INTENTIONAL when speaking to each family who visits your church. Make some form of connection with them, and write it down so you will remember it for later. Perhaps they mention their child plays basketball, or they just moved to your town from Kansas. Reach out to the family during the week and mention this intentional connection you had with them.
- Make visitors aware of the SECURITY measures in your children’s ministry. For example, at our church we have a secure check-in system, cameras in all of the children’s rooms, two volunteers with a background check, someone from our security team close by and a deputy on campus.
Parents, especially new parents, enjoy hearing the extra precautions you are taking when it comes to their children’s safety. You may not be able to provide all the above, but consider if there are changes and improvements to make sure your children are protected, first and foremost for the sake of the children. The confidence your security systems will bring to parents and their desire to return is an added bonus.
- Show each child he or she is IMPORTANT to God and to you. Get to know the children. Say their names frequently. You may think you aren’t good at remembering names, but don’t use that as an excuse. Work harder at it or take simple steps such as using name tags for everyone. Getting to know each family member’s name and important information helps build relationships and shows each individual is important to you, your ministry and to the Lord we serve.
- TOUCH BASE with parents and children after their initial visit. The first four keys happen while the family is on campus. This fifth and final key happens during the week following their visit. Some churches and children’s ministries have an intentional plan for following up with each Sunday’s guests.
I recommend some if not all of the following steps for reaching out to guests who do not have a church home:
- Write the family a letter or card. Let them know how glad you are they visited and include a newsletter with more information about your children’s ministry.
- Send an email inviting the family to a Bible study at your church.
- Call or send a text and ask if they have any questions about your church or ministry.
- Invite parents to like or follow your children’s ministry social media pages.
- Share contact information with other Bible study or Sunday School leaders. Encourage them to reach out to the parents and invite them back to church. If you or your church feel comfortable visiting homes, make a front door visit and leave church and children’s ministry information in a bag on the front door.
All of the above might seem like a lot of effort, but you will be surprised at the results. Guests who are seeking relationships will be impressed with the attention you are giving them. And since so many avenues of communication are available today, reaching out in multiple ways will assure at least one way reaches the intended recipient. While one might not read an email, he or she may read a text. Another might toss snail mail as junk, but children are often intrigued by a handwritten letter or note. What matters is the follow up. While you do not want to be pushy, you do want your visitors to be prayerful and intentional about engaging in ministry and joining your church.
Put a plan in place
Maybe you are reading this and thinking that it’s been a while since any new families have visited your church. Go ahead and put a plan in place anyway. Create an environment of reaching and welcoming others. Encourage children and adults to invite lost and unchurched friends. You might be surprised who the Lord sends your way when you make a plan under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Be their cheerleader
As a teacher, volunteer, children’s minister or children’s director, you can be parents’ biggest cheerleader.
- Provide breakfast once a month before Sunday School for young families.
- Write notes to parents telling them they are doing a great job. Make each note as personal as possible.
- Give small gifts to support and encourage them as Christian parents.