Children face a lot of fears. Some are afraid of the dark while others are afraid of trying new foods. Childhood fears are varied and diverse except for one common fear that has plagued childhood for generations, the fear of embarrassment. Let’s face it. It’s an embarrassing moment entering a room full of people for the first time. If you are a child you kind of feel like Alice in Wonderland. “How did I get here?” “Why am I here?” “Where’s the door?” Entering a new place can cause even extroverted kids to take a step back. What’s a children’s pastor to do? Some kids need more than a hug or a smile. Do your kids a favor and take the fear of the unknown out of their children’s church experience. Here are 10 ways to make a kid welcome.
1. Name Your Child
When a child is first greeted repeat the child’s name back to them. Then in the initial conversation with them use the child’s name several times. Some ministries use name tags to help identify everyone. If you choose to do this, have everyone wear a name tag. That includes regular kids, teachers and new kids. New kids aren’t looking for ways to be set apart. Introduce the child to helpers and teachers. Pulling a child in front of a room of full of children and asking them to say their name is a no-no too. It’s better to just give a general ‘shout out’ to all the new kids that came today during the service.
At the welcoming table or in the welcoming area it is a fun idea to snap a picture of an incoming new kid. After the initial greeting, guide your visitor to a particular spot like in front of your church logo and ask them to take a picture with you. Have a volunteer or helper snap the photo. Send home the picture with your visitor and tell them to hang it up on the refrigerator or in their room. Write you name and contact number on the back of the picture. Kids will feel welcome and special. Don’t be surprised if they call.
3. Goodie Bag
Never underestimate the power of a goodie bag. After greeting time and photographs give kids a fun filled goodie bag. It should have inspirational novelties inside like a cross note pad and Jesus loves me pencils. Oriental Trading has some inexpensive toys you can buy that will last forever. Make the new kids goodie bag different than the one you hand out to regulars. It should be special and make them feel special.
4. Team Up
Children’s pastors have to meet and greet the children. But at some point the service has to start. Unless you want to get swamped with bathroom requests, hugs and questions you’ll need an assignment team. At the welcome desk, assign the child to a volunteer or helper. This helper’s job is to take the child on a tour of the facility, introduce him or her to everyone and lead them through the service. The assignment team is an important job. They can be older kids who make great examples, teenagers or even grown ups. Having a constant companion with them during this new experience will make new kids feel welcome.
5. Music, Music
While we all want to teach our kids variety and expose them to different types of praise and worship, there are times you should stick with what’s familiar. During start up times, intermissions or during some of the worship, use songs kids know. Comfortable music playing in the background will relax nervous kids. When bringing in new music during praise and worship we suggest changing one song a Sunday. A really great tip is to change the music once a quarter. Kids just love repetition. It makes new kids welcome when they know the music that’s playing every time they come.
6. Food and Fellowship
Jesus knew it. Food and fellowship work hand in hand in building a church. Have a time during your service, maybe towards the end that you share some Goldfish crackers and a juice box. Food makes kids feel welcome.
7. One on One
In order to build relationships with children you have to go beyond the Sunday service. You need one on one time with new kids. Ask kids these questions when they first begin attending. “What’s your favorite snack?” “What’s your favorite game?” Call ahead and talk to parents. Show up to visit your new kids at the parent approved time and spend some one on one time with them. Play their favorite game and bring their favorite snack. Building a strong church means getting out of our comfort zones and meeting the new kids in their world!
8. The Tour
This was mentioned earlier but bears repeating. Give new kids a tour of the entire facility. They should know where the bathrooms are in the main sanctuary and in the kid’s church. Show them where the snacks are kept, the games are played and where the worship occurs.
9. Kid Friendly Lessons
Now that the new kid had has ventured into your ministry, minister the gospel to them on their level. Use materials that are new kid friendly. Avoid a lot of complicated jargon that only churched kids understand. If you have to, break down your curriculum into better ‘street’ language. Nothing rude or distasteful of course. Just make it plain and simple. New kids and regular kids will love you for it.
10. Hug Kids
Is your new kid a hugger? Then give them a hug! Here’s a simple test. Touch your new child on the shoulder gently when talking to them. If they draw away then they aren’t ready for a hug or physical touch. These kids may take an extra bit of time to warm up to you. Hug the kids who want hugs. Tell kids openly you love them. Hugs make new kids welcome. And they will come back for more.
How Do You Welcome Kids To Church?
Leave a comment below to share you ideas for making children feel welcome at church. What practical ideas have worked in your ministry?