I moved around a lot as a kid and I hated those first few days at a new school. It meant breaking the barrier from strange new kid to it’s totally fine I’m cool. Teenagers coming to your ministry for the first time have that same feeling.
As a leader you need to be intentional about your hospitality or else the default will feel more like hostile. When someone is coming for the first time they are going to be wondering:
- Is anyone else coming or am I going to be the only person there?
- Am I going at the right time or what if I messed it up?
- What am I supposed to do when I first arrive? (This is key if they’ve never been to church before)
- What if I don’t know anyone or see someone I like?
You need to be ready to address those questions, even if they are never asked. The best way to make sure teens are not only welcomed but feel like they are supposed to be where they should be is by:
GREETING THEM AT THE DOOR
First impressions are so important. If you have someone at the door welcoming students as they walk in you are communicating, “It’s so good to see you.”
The person for this job doesn’t need to have any other qualifications other than smiling, opening a door and if they can memorize names it’s an added bonus.
CONNECTING THEM TO SOMEONE CONSISTENT
There are teens in your ministry who are probably just as excited as you to meet a new student. Find those teens and ask them to be a connection for anyone new who comes along. The teenager you select should:
- Show them around the space (especially if you have multiple rooms)
- Go over what they can expect on a regular basis.
- Connect them with other teenagers.
Make sure the person you choose is consistent because a key to coming back is knowing that others will return as well. Not only will you create a welcoming environment but build leaders who are loving towards others.
ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR PRESENCE
Make sure you take the time to acknowledge the fact that there are people who are joining you for the first time. Be sure not to call them out specifically but address them by using phrases like:
- “Hey, I just want to thank everyone for coming out, especially those who are giving us a first try.”
- “If this is your first time with us, I just want to say welcome.”
- “If you’ve never been here before that’s totally fine, let recap where we are…”
Make it casual and a part of the routine. By acknowledging their presence you are affirming their decision to come and letting your regulars know that newcomers are more than welcome.
FOLLOW UP WITH A THANK YOU
If someone comes for the first time collect their email, address or phone number. Have someone on your team simply follow up with them during the week with a, “Thanks for coming, really hope you had a good time and we look forward to seeing you next time.”
A simple thank you shows your appreciation and reminds them that they are important. The more value you show your students the more value they’ll show your program. Never hesitate to offer encouragement.
If teens feel like they are welcomed they will return. It’s simple but often forgotten. Creating a hospitality strategy and team are key to any successful ministry.
Question: How are you creating a welcoming and loving environment for new teenagers? You can leave a comment by clicking here.