When a church adds new members, it’s a very special time. The church is adding to its body, and the new members have a new family. Sometimes, especially if a church is large, it can be challenging for new members to connect and feel like they belong. So what can a church do to help new members feel valuable and loved?
Make a Great First Impression
This almost goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway. It’s vital that new people have a good impression from the start. How? Something as simple as clear signage can help newcomers feel comfortable because they can easily find the nursery, bathroom or sanctuary. And when they find what they’re looking for, it’s important that they find it clean and neat, of course.
If new church-comers have children, it’s critical that they and their kids have a positive experience in the children’s ministries. Make sure that the check-in/check-out process is clear, that the rooms are clean and orderly, and that parents understand how they will be contacted during service if there is a problem with their youngster.
Be sure to sincerely greet new attenders and direct them toward children’s ministries, visitor information or toward the sanctuary. (Consider assigning new member liaisons to assist with this.) Distribute helpful information guides about the church including a map, service times, ministries and pastor bios.
During worship, make sure that the words are available so that new people don’t feel left out or awkward. This is a practical way to include everyone.
New Member Potluck
Something as simple as a potluck lunch or dinner to honor and celebrate new members can help them feel valued and more connected. The believers in Acts did this on a regular basis: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).
Consider inviting some key members, board members, ministry leaders and pastors to the event as well so new members understand who is who. Distribute a questionnaire to learn about the new members and what their gifts and talents are along with their experience in previous ministries.
As a member of the church, consider inviting new members over to your house for a meal. Fellowship, get to know one another, play games, and share a meal, of course. Be willing to share about yourself and your personal story – you never know, your story could encourage and inspire them.
Get Them Plugged In
If new members have filled out a questionnaire about their gifts and talents, get them involved in a place of ministry as soon as possible. When people feel like they are needed and that they have a part to play, they will feel more invested and valued. Compare the church’s needs with new members’ abilities and invite them to contribute to the ministries.
Find Out Their Needs
Everyone has needs, so there’s no shame in it at all. New members often don’t know other members very well at the beginning, so they may be shy about sharing their needs. But reaching out (or even just being observant!) to discover what needs they have and meeting their needs is a way to help them feel like a part of the family.
Perhaps it’s a single mom who needs help with childcare from time to time, and an older lady in the church who loves kids can help her out and enjoy the kids as the same time. Maybe a family just had a new baby and has a need for infant items; throw a baby shower or bring them a meal. Or maybe an elderly gentleman needs his lawn mowed; enlist a teenager to take care of that.
The bottom line is this: meeting another person’s need can really help them feel connected and valued.
It’s amazing what a simple phone call or email can do. It communicates that you care and that you’re thinking about the person. You can also reach out with a simple plate of cookies or brownies along with a welcome card. Consider inviting them to get a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop; share your heart and life which will encourage them to do the same.
It’s never a mistake to be generous, and it helps the other person feel like they really matter.
Share the Church’s Story
It’s important for newcomers to feel connected to the church’s story and to the church family. New people may not be aware of the history of the church, so a short class or brochure can help them to understand where the church has been and to see how they can become a part of the church’s present and future.
Finally, every church is different, so gather the church staff and some prominent members to brainstorm ways to help new members feel welcome and valued in your church. Then, put together an action plan and get other members involved in welcoming new people.
~ Jennell Houts