One of the biggest issues we face as we try to grow our ministries is simply how can be more welcoming. How can we make sure that first-time visitors feel welcome while not dismissing the core of our groups? How can we create an inviting environment so that our mid-week groups thrive?
I sat down with John Paul Basham, Publishing Team Leader of Bible Studies for Life: Students, to discuss these very topics and to glean some ideas on how we all might be able to do this better.
First and foremost, and much like in anything, you have to start intentionally with a plan. Many times, churches have a plan in place – greeters that wave to you as you drive in, a system in place to recognize visitors, and a barista ready to offer you coffee, but during mid-week student fellowships, there is rarely a structured system ready to greet that nervous teenager walking into your space.
Creating a welcoming environment in your student ministry might be as simple as having the right greeter at the door–and perhaps having that greeter usher around the visitor to find friends their own age. Creating this volunteer team will take some practice on verbiage. Instead of saying “Is this your first time?” (which will alienate visitors that have shown up a few times, seemingly unnoticed) use phrases like “Great to meet you! How long have you been apart of this student ministry?” This simple twist of words will allow the visitor to offer this is their first visit.
The goal of your welcoming team is to make the visitor feel the most comfortable in this new group. Check-in spaces should be obvious, happy faces excited to see them there should be ample, inviting teams should be everywhere. Ultimately, having a simple plan in place will allow for your church and student ministry be a welcoming church.