Have you ever walked into a place where you did not know anyone? Do you remember what you were thinking? Just imagine this story:
The day before Wednesday night, you were invited by a friend at school to come to church. Your friend even gave you an invite card with a cool design on it. Even though you arenâ€™t a â€œchurch personâ€ you decide to give it a try. Your Dad begrudgingly decided to take you but made a few comments on the drive. He said, “you know son, churches are all messed up, that is why I don’t go. I think it is good you are going but son, don’t get your hopes up, most of the those people are hypocrites anyway.” As he gets out of the vehicle, he quickly notices the buzz of people whizzing by. He sees people smiling. He watches adult leaders giving high-five’s and fist bumps. He is unsure. He thinks, “Is this church filled with uncaring people? What will happen when I walk in? Is my friend inside? I wonder where I will sit? I don’t have a Bible, I sure hope nobody calls on me to read or pray.” He decides to go for it. He walks in the door as an adult leader welcomes him with the love of Christ. He begins to wonder, “Will I belong here? Will I find people who truly care about my life?”
You see, this is a powerful moment. We must always think like this student. If we become too focused upon the status quo of the ministry, we can easily miss the people who walk in each week who need the love of Christ.
The key to building an environment of acceptance is by meeting people at their point of need. Each student who walks in the doors of the church is loved by God. Every student matters to Him so much that the heartbeat of the ministry should be to meet them with the unconditional love of Christ.
Here are a few steps we take on welcoming students:
First impressions. In the first 30 seconds of the student arriving, the goal is for a student to have some type of interaction. Any type of welcome (fist bump, high-five, kind word and smile) is huge to ease the pressure when each person enters.
Intentional Conversations. Some students do not have quality conversations. The intermittent attention spans of students are a result of our media saturated culture. We should make it a priority to have face-to-face conversations with students in our ministries. One of the goals should be for each leader to have 2-3 quality conversations with students each time. Whether it is a few minutes or if a student is pouring their heart out, the importance of an encouraging conversation is the key to building an environment of acceptance.
No One is Isolated. Look out for students who tend to isolate themselves and try to sit by themselves. Lead students and volunteers to always be looking for opportunities to build relationships with other students, especially those who are new.
Greeting team: We include a grade per month to come early and help the adult greeters welcome students. They help pass out information and encourage people as they enter. Each student has a name tag with “greeter” on the lanyard as well as adult volunteers.
New students: They will receive a Source tube filled with random candy as a gift as they arrive. Inside of the tube also has a wooden coin. The coin has our logo and it is a $1 token towards the cafÃ©.
Once a student has visited, I send out our first time guest postcard with a personal note thanking them for being our guest and some encouragement. On the postcard there is a note for them to bring back to receive a free Source Student Ministry t-shirt!
What tips do you have on welcoming students? Add to the conversation below in the comments!
Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at joshrobinson.cc or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson