This post was written by Angie Hooie, a member of the INCM Blog team.
As visiting families are coming to church, maybe for the first time since the pandemic began, leaders have an opportunity to make an awesome first impression. Whether you serve at a small church or a mega church, welcoming new families and making sure they feel seen and known is vital to helping them connect to your church.
For the new family to even make the decision to come to your church on a Sunday morning was the first hurdle for them to jump over. The Sunday that they visit your church could be the very first time they stepped foot in a church, or it could be the first time in years that they came back to the church after being wounded someplace else. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is equally true in your church.
We desire to transition visitors from first-time guests to church family. But we don’t want to race past essentials to helping them feel welcome.
Here are a few steps to help you make a great first impression that will help visiting families feel welcomed and want to return.
1. Prepare for New Visitors
If you were having company to your home, you would clean your house, making sure all the clutter is hidden from sight. The same should be true about your church. We need to be prepared for visiting families. Make sure your kids ministry areas are clean, smell good (i.e. don’t smell like dirty diapers), the toys are in working order, and it is inviting to the kids.
Walk through your areas with the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. If you need help with this, you can also enlist a staff member or faithful volunteer to walk through your areas and get their feedback.
2. Welcome the Kids First
When you meet the family, make sure you smile and say hi to the kids first, and get down on their level. Parents notice when you care about their kids.
3. Stay Calm
Your Sunday morning may feel stressed and chaotic, but keep smiling. If you are stressed on a Sunday morning, your new families will feel it.
4. Give a Helpful Gift
When families visit the church I serve, Two Rivers Church, for the first time, we give them a red Welcome Bag. The bag includes information about our Kids Ministry, a map of our building, a coupon for a free coffee at our cafe, a pen with our logo on it, stickers for the kids and a calendar of upcoming events.
We give out the bright red bags so the “big church” greeters are able to notice the family and help them get seated. The Kids Ministry greeters walk the new families to their kids classrooms and introduce the family to the kids teachers.
5. Follow Up
We use a church database system that allows us to track the new families. However, if your church does not have a church database, you can simply make a spreadsheet to follow the format that I am going to lay out for you.
- I call the family the first week they attend to introduce myself, thank them for visiting with us, ask them if they have any questions about the ministry and how things went for them when they visited. I also make sure that I invite them back the next week. I make sure to take notes during our conversation, so that when I have a follow up conversation, I am able to mention something that we talked about the first time.
- I send them a welcome email that explains more about our ministry, the other ministries our church has to offer, what we do in Kids Ministry and why we do what we do in Kids Ministry, and how they can partner with us. The email also points to how they can connect with us on Social Media.
- When the family attends for a third time, I call them again to thank them for visiting with us again, make sure things are still going well for them, and invite the mom to coffee to learn more about our ministry and the church.
I have been shocked at how many new families we have attending our church right now. When I ask how they have found us, about 90% of the families have said they were watching our services online. I have worked tirelessly with our Communications Department to make sure that Kids Ministry is adequately and easily found on our church’s website.
Most times your church’s website is the first impression of your church. So when people arrive at your church, remember they have maybe seen you before and you want to be ready to welcome them in person with the same enthusiasm as you have done online.
Angie has been married for over 21 years, and has 3 kids. She has been volunteering in children’s ministry for over 20 years, and was called into vocational ministry 7 years ago. She oversees 3 campuses and has been deeply involved in growing and expanding her church’s special needs ministry.