by Bev Robertson/ May 12, 2016
First impressions are vitally important, especially when it comes to those initial connections that your church makes with parents. For first-time visiting parents, leaving their children with strangers can be very unnerving because of its uncertainty.
Here are a few things that we do at our church to help parents feel at ease both before arriving and when they arrive.
When families find our church on the web, there is a tab that allows them to “plan” their visit to our church. There is an explanation of parking, a map of the church, and a short questionnaire about the ages of family members and what is most important to the family regarding church experiences. Directions are given to meet one of our greeters at the “Starting Point” desk. Once they submit their family inquiry, a copy is given to our First Impression greeters so they are prepared when the new family arrives. The First Impression greeters welcome the family and give welcome information.
Next, parents are taken to the children’s check-in area, where First Impressions greeters are there to check in the children from birth through 5th grade. If parents have youth age students, they are also taken to the appropriate check-in area. First-time parents of young children are given information about our children’s ministry programs and are shown the check-in process. Each child receives a printed name tag and the parents are given a printed receipt to present when they pick up their child. The first-time visiting child’s name tag has a happy face sticker to notify children’s workers that this child is a visitor. The child is then recognized by the children’s pastor during the “Welcome New Friends” segment of the children’s church service. An orange backpack is given to every visiting child from preschool through 5th grade. The backpack is a signal to the First Impressions greeters to invite the family to return as they leave after church.
If a family has a baby or toddler, a special welcome packet and diaper bag tag is given to the parents. There is also a pager given to all families in the event that a parent is needed in the children’s area during service.
All visitors, both children and adults, receive a phone call during the week. The caller welcomes the family to return to future church services and also checks to see how well their first-time experience met the needs of their family.
It is important for parents to feel comfortable about knowing what their children are doing, who is teaching them, and what the children’s area is like. If a parent requests, we allow parents to visit and observe their child’s classroom or children’s church service. A special lanyard is given to the visiting parent. We allow them to visit for up to two weeks. We then encourage the parent to attend a service and small group while their children enjoy the children’s ministry.
Good parents are very concerned about the welfare and security of their children. A security team is desired by all parents. At our church, we have a full security team that walks all buildings on our campus. We always have at least one security team member in the children’s area during times children are present. The children’s pastors and leaders have access to radios so they can get help or assistance immediately. Parents are comforted to know that our church takes all precautions in ensuring the safety of their children.
All of this information is available on our website, but our pastors and staff always welcome questions and comments and take time to make sure all visitors feel welcomed, safe and secure. We want each one, young or old, to be ushered into the presence of the Lord!