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 aren’t a “church person” 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.

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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.

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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 café.

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

I have a question that might bring us some interesting responses for you all today and it surrounds giving students a reward for bringing a friend or friends to an event. This is nothing new, whether a chocolate bar, a crisp picture of Honest Abe on a $5 bill, a discounted registration to an event or camp or as much as an iPad from a draw. Youth Pastors everywhere regularly and sincerely are rewarding students who invite their friends to an event.  So my question today is simply this:

Do you offer a reward / prize for students who bring someone new to youth and what is it? If you don’t why not? 

-Geoff @geoffcstewart



I am still somewhat new at this whole being a Youth Pastor thing and because of that I am still learning as I go about some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what its all about. One thing that has been on my heart is providing places and spaces for students to invite their pre-Christian friends to. But I found on at least a few occasions, I was ill prepared to reap the harvest and likely missed a great opportunity. A great example would be our Flashmob event that we held last spring, the students hyped it, we planned for everything, they brought their friends, in fact we saw a nearly 50% increase in students at the event, but I was not prepared to handle that. In light of this, here are a few things I am wrestling with:

Make it manageable: We only get one chance to make a first impression, and if someone is an invited guest in the Church, I would like to make that experience the best I can. If we host an outreach event with many new students, there is a chance they could not be personally welcomed, they might feel awkward and this could be the last time they set foot in the door. Our Flashmob event taught me a great lesson that I need to take an active role in greeting those new students so that they do feel welcomed. If you plan and event so that students can bring 10 friends each to, and they do, you might be doing more harm than good.

Unleash your leaders: If you don’t have a welcome and greeting team, you need one! This is the best way to meet students when you cannot do it themselves. This is one of the most important front line ministries; they are the friendly face of the Youth Group. Our greeting team has a ’20 questions’ form they hand out with questions ranging from contact info, to Bieber or Timberlake to Pancakes or Waffles. These questions are quite strategic in quickly finding if they are from a Christian home, if they are skater kid or a “Lightsaber kid” with apologies to Josh, these are the pseudo dorky 8-10th grade boys that grab the coat rack and pretend it’s a Lightsaber. The purpose is to find a small group that they will thrive and make meaningful connections with students with similar interests. On the first night they are there, they will meet at least 3 core students, their new small group leader and myself.

Learn their name: There is nothing more valuable that learning a student’s name, it says to them that they belong and that they are memorable. All that contact information we get from outreach events is entered into our database; they are added on Facebook that night, invited into our student ministry FB group and added to our SMS blasts each week. Once they accept a friend request, we print a copy of their Facebook profile pic, put in on the wall in my office and the next time I see that student, at their school or at Youth, you better believe I will do everything I can to remember their name.

Planning an event is easy, engaging, welcoming and retaining the student influx of students is the difficult part, it takes teamwork, intentionality, hard work and diligence. Otherwise, these events will be attendance spikes that will have little long-term value. If your objective is for big numbers at one off events that is one thing, but if your goal is creating more disciples, be prepared that when you cast your net, it might come back full.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. You can, too! See how right here.