Serving at a local church with multiple buildings on the same campus, I can see first hand that parents can get easily frustrated if it takes 15 minutes to drop off all the littles all over campus before Mom and Dad can get where they need to be on Sunday mornings, especially if they are serving. This is why we opened a Kid’s Welcome Center for K5-5th grade. Every event, even Sunday school, will give parents a one-stop location to sign in their children and see their children immediately engaged in games and ‘friendship stations’ to begin the day/event. It also helps our church greeters to direct guest families to one location. And the benefits continue.
Adults engage in fellowship and community over coffee. Little people do the same over a shared game. If their hands are busy, their minds are calm. At the end of each week, the Welcome Center is set up with various ‘friendship stations’ so little people can play together. Playing together builds a sense of belonging. Learning to play together well builds connection to our peers and other members of the family of faith. Only a game can encourage even the shyest kids to talk and participate.
We add something new each month and even make a snack station with a water dispenser for those who are hungry and didn’t have time to eat. The first stop is a table at the entrance where students write their own name tags and this gives me the perfect opportunity to introduce myself, engage them in some chitchat with students and parents/grandparents, AND learn their names.
The bonus is for our parents who so faithfully lead a Sunday school class as a small group leader. They can register and drop off their littles, then head to their classroom to review the upcoming lesson or adjust the supplies that are provided…in peace. When Sunday school is scheduled to begin, the small group leader returns to the Welcome Center to gather their students to escort to their classroom. When Sunday school is over, the students are returned to the Welcome Center so the small group leader can tidy their spaces (we all share space with other ministries with children) and return unused supplies to their class carts. All I need to do is look down the hallway to see if their class roller carts are outside their doors to know if all the classes are finished.
If you look closely, there is usually a parent or even a Sunday school teacher in the mix…chatting and building with Lego bricks, setting up the Giant Jenga game again, or just touching base with a student who offered up a prayer request last week. The Welcome Center system has worked well and serves as an opportunity to extend extravagant hospitality and a sense of belonging. What other systems are you using to make for a smoother Sunday morning for your families?
“Welcome is the beginning of worship, for in welcoming one another, we welcome the divine ‘shekinah’, the holy presence of God that is in each person.” (Bath Church, Hospitality Team Letter)