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I’ve been on staff at my church in preschool ministry for 13 years. When you’ve been in the same place doing much of the same thing for so long, it’s easy to get in a rut, stay in your bubble, and forget what it feels like to walk into your building and experience your children’s ministry for the first time.
It’s easy to get in a rut, stay in your bubble, and forget what it feels like to experience your children’s ministry for the first time.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to visit sister churches in the area to help me gain perspective. It’s eye opening to step back and think about what it must be like for that first time guest to walk in your doors, not knowing where to go or who to ask for help. Here are five important things that parents are looking for when they encounter your church for the first time:
A Welcoming Website
A parent’s first impression begins before they ever walk in the building.
A parent’s first impression begins before they ever walk in the building. How do most people find your location and service times? Your website. Is your website guest-friendly? Do you have a section for first-time visitors full of information that will guide them through their first visit? This extra step can make a guest’s experience smoother and more enjoyable. Ask someone who has never looked at your church’s website to take a look and try to gather information as if they were a first-time visitor. You may be surprised how helpful it can be!
A Friendly Face
There is nothing better than a warm, friendly, smiling face at the door to greet a family as they walk in.
As far as first impressions go, there is nothing better than a warm, friendly, smiling face standing at the door to greet a family as they walk in. This person should be easily identified as a greeter so the guest knows they can ask questions. This person should be knowledgeable about the general information of the church, and especially the children’s ministry so they can point guests in the right direction. Encourage your greeters to be proactive. If they see someone in need of help, offer assistance without waiting to be asked.
Your security procedures should be visible to the guest as they are getting their child settled into their room.
Parents today are very interested in the security measures that keep their child safe while they are in the care of your ministry team. Your security procedures (for instance, check-in labels, security guards/team, doors that lock, etc.) should be visible to the guest as they are getting their child settled into their room. Be sure your greeters and teachers are able to answer any questions that parents may have concerning the security measures in place to provide the best care for their child.
Make sure parents know that teaching the Bible is a top priority in your children’s ministry!
If you’ve been in ministry long enough, sometimes it may feel like parents aren’t interested in what we are teaching their children while they are in our care. But the truth is many families – if not most – do care. They want to know that we are teaching biblically sound lessons and not just entertaining their kids with random games and craft projects. Don’t get me wrong, we should play fun games and provide a variety of activities, but we should be sure that everything we do is meaningful and Bible-based. Make the most of your time with the children and make sure parents know that teaching the Bible is a top priority in your children’s ministry!
A Final Farewell and Follow-up
Teachers should make every attempt to be at the door and interact with parents.
When parents come to pick-up their child, they are looking for a good report. Be intentional when you know you have a first-time guest. Teachers should make every attempt to be at the door when that child is picked up and be sure to interact with the parent. Parents want to see the face of the person who was caring for their child, and they want to know something about what their child did in the classroom.
Following up with first time visitors is the icing on your already delicious cake! Parents may not even realize the importance of follow up, but when they hear from you via email, phone call or text, they are impressed and hopefully think, “I’d like to visit that church again.” Make the effort to reach out and you won’t regret it.
It can be a healthy, eye-opening process to ask yourself, “What does someone experience when they walk down our halls for the first time?” I hope you’ll take some time to ask yourself that question. Find a friend from another church and ask them to come be your “secret shopper” on a Sunday morning. Then empower them to give an honest assessment. Ultimately, we want to give our guests a great experience not just to fill our rooms, but because we know that when kids are in our rooms they will encounter Jesus in a powerful way.
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