Welcoming new kids into your ministry is exciting! It means that you are part of a growing and thriving ministry. So many times, I have prayed like Jabez to expand our territory or ministry to reach more kids around us.
“Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted his request.—from 1 Chronicles 4:10
God has answered our prayers so many times. Sometimes I wonder if I had enough systems in place to honor the gifts God sent. If I think back on the biggest moment that I wish I could do over in ministry, it was when I wasn’t prepared for the guests we had prayed would come.
Our church met in the local middle school for years until we got a permanent facility. We did a massive marketing push leading up to the grand opening. Members of the church community invited all our friends and spent hundreds of hours working on our new building.
Then, on the day of the grand opening, God answered our prayers. People came in from all over, and—let me tell you—I was not prepared for the guests who came that day.
Our welcome and check-in teams were well trained and ready. We had new brightly colored shirts for our team so people would know who they could talk to if they were new and had questions. The team was trained and ready to go … but not for the number of guests that arrived. Our follow-up plan was weak (to say the least), and we had no idea if anyone would come back.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”—Benjamin Franklin
That seems harsh when first reading it, but it makes a lot of sense. We can plan for success. With a few simple steps, you can retain new guests in your church and develop healthier teams and an accepting culture.
Step 1: Run Reports
Do you know what your average attendance is during a service? If you have multiple age-level classes, how many kids are in each of those classes? There are different online programs that your check-in and check-out teams could use, or attendance could be tracked with a sign-in and sign-out sheet.
The key is to run reports every week to know the weekly attendance numbers. Not only will you be able to see what new families have visited your church, but you can also see who has consistently not been there.
In Matthew 18, we read the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus tells about a sheep farmer who kept track of the number of sheep in his care. He wouldn’t have known that one was missing if he hadn’t counted and reported one missing. In the same way, a healthy ministry knows who is new and who has been missing.
Step 2: Connect
The farmer in the Parable of the Lost Sheep went after the missing one. Plan on how your team will connect with new families and those you haven’t seen after a set number of weekends. Here are a couple of ways that you can connect with families:
- Send a card or postcard in the mail. Kids love getting mail, and it’s rare for something to come in the mail just for them. At our church, we pre-make postcards for new families with a simple puzzle on the back and leave room for their new teacher to write a short note. Several times we have had kids run in with big smiles to tell us they got our card in the mail. The kids were happy, and the parents were thankful we took the time to send something to their son or daughter.
- Invite them to your next event or upcoming service. Call or text the parents about a new family to invite them to an event coming up in your ministry. Emails are great, but often parents will respond faster to a text message or call. Let them know they are personally invited.
Step 3: Team Training
Your welcome and check-in teams know how to welcome new guests. Do all of your ministry teams? Encourage your team to pray and expect new kids to come each week. When they are united in praying not only for those who come each week but also for those who are yet to come, your ministry environment changes.
Here are some tips for your next team training:
- Ask your team if anyone enjoys details and knows how to run reports. There are gifted detail people around you who can use their skills to help follow up with new families.
- Brainstorm together ways that your classes and environment can be more welcoming. Your team probably already has ideas. Let them share new methods and what they have noticed.
- Does your classroom have enough space for new students? As a team, think through a list of supplies (curriculum pages, chairs, craft supplies, etc.) you’ll need when new families arrive.
- Invite teams to think of friendly kids with whom they can partner new friends for games or activities.
- Make it a habit during service to explain the order of activities, what your time together will look like, and how it will end. New guests will want to know what they will do while in your care and if there are snacks.
You’ve Got This!
God is doing great things in your ministry and will bring new families to you throughout the year. Taking the time to think through how to best care for families and what the follow-up will look like is key to their returning.
There are new kids out there who you still need to meet, and they will be an essential part of your ministry. I can’t wait for them to meet you!