Extending radical hospitality to first time guests should constantly be on our minds and ready for an upgrade. We’ve addressed signage and location to the best of our abilities, but what else?
Checking out images of a fellow blogger who visited and posted images at a mega-church, I stopped over a simple image he’d posted specifically for first time guests. A round table, set a bit higher than most tables, with a simple sign, ink pens, and a general form. Something so simple, yet so intentional.
I asked our facilities manager if he had a similar table tucked away in storage and he did. The taller round table meant that a dear Mom or Dad wouldn’t be bent over filling out forms (not attractive and very uncomfortable) and made it easier to keep an eye on their littles. The sign was printed with our logo with clear instructions for parents. Multiple ink pens were set in a plastic cup with stones to keep it upright. We set it all in the middle of the entrance used specifically for little people so it couldn’t be missed. Didn’t even need to man it since our greeters could easily see it and it’s purpose.
Week 1: Our greeters (we set up the table and gave no announcement or instruction) directed a Mama of 3 to the table where she easily completed paperwork and the kids had space to move around, yet didn’t stray far. Mama brought the younger two to the nursery and the older one to me with paperwork in-hand with time to spare for quick welcoming conversations and me being fully present to speak to her son as we explained what would be happening that morning. I paired her son with a welcoming buddy of his same age to show him the ropes. We didn’t have to hand her forms, ask her to step aside and fill it out in both the children’s area and the nursery, then try to come back to us when a whole host of people would be talking to us. Smooth, personal, clear and we were all fully present with time to spare for conversation and connection.
Week 2: A grandfather who is a member brought his grandson for the first time. Granddad went straight to the table to fill out paperwork and brought it to me as I was able to welcome the grandson by name. We introduced him to a great welcome buddy in the Children’s Ministry Welcome Center which was a student in his grade level and the transition into the morning was smooth and very welcoming.
Week 3: I watched as an older couple with no children went to the First Time? table and retrieved two forms. When I stepped up to greet them, they told me they wanted to welcome their new neighbors with two kids with the forms AND a monthly flier of what’s happening. These folks would not have come to me directly because it may look like I’m too busy, yet the table made it easier for them to pickup forms/documents for First Time guests as part of their welcome to their new neighbors.
I pass the paperwork on to to their Sunday school teacher. The Sunday school teacher returns it to me after class so that I can input their information into the database AND followup with a couple of postcards: Welcome postcard and any upcoming event postcard, as well as an email on the second week. It’s been up for only three weeks!
What are other ways to be intentional to welcome guests into your ministry with children?
“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:5