Most churches have greeters to welcome new families arriving for worship. Many congregations excel at this first point of contact, but follow through with welcome beyond the front door and into the Sunday school domain can prove to be a challenge. As faith formation leaders, we have a natural opportunity to extend this welcome and create meaningful connections in children’s ministry for our Sunday school visitors.
Recognize that when a new family arrives for Sunday school and develops a first impression, you may not be physically present at that spot, or you might be welcoming another new family, or tending to a child. Invite a team, young and old, to walk through your church spaces as if you were a visitor. Are there signs that help people find their way to Sunday school? To the bathrooms? To other important ministry areas? Address any first impression gaps and then move to the question: what do your surroundings say about you as a church and how you share and celebrate your children’s ministries?
Visible talking points
Make it easy for someone who may be shy about asking to find out something more about you and your ministry programs. Create talking points through what you display on bulletin boards, walls, doors, monitors, information racks, and table displays. Be intentional with every nook and cranny. Your Sunday school space might appear to be set-up perfectly for welcoming, but if visitors don’t feel your welcome appearance is carried through in your actions, it will ring hollow.
Structure your Sunday school time and schedule to allow you to focus on welcoming your Sunday school visitors as they arrive. Preset some activities around the classroom or large group space that participants can engage in on their own, so you can be attentive to people walking through the door. Beyond a welcoming period, establish routines each week to help everyone with transitions. If your regular attendees feel they know what to expect, they are better able to be a guide for others.
Structure gives us security, which in turn helps us to welcome. Go a step further and weave deliberate conversations about welcoming throughout your Sunday school time together. Welcoming people is a skill that we can all improve.
We can work with our children, youth, and leaders on empathy, on emotional intelligence . We can imagine what it’s like to be new some place, and what would make us feel like part of the community.
Being able to empathize for the purpose of welcoming kids and their families into your Sunday school program is something they’ll be able to take with them wherever they go. And, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Helping our kids to be the face and hands of God in the world, to welcome our Sunday school visitors and neighbors.