Over the past almost 3 years I have been involved with a task force that is entrusted with the task of helping "churches start new churches" for our regional denominational body of congregations. This has been a tremendous learning experience for us, and it has raised my awareness to and commitment for welcoming new people into the family of God.
A common theme of all the writing that we have studied is that successful new church starts have a sincere commitment to effectively reach the children of the people who come to visit. It is not an after thought. In fact, most experts agree that there should be a children's minister or children's program director as one of the very first staff in the new church. Many churches even start with a children's ministry staff person from the first day.
If you are a parent, you will probably understand that. You will go to great lengths to make sure your kids are safe and happy. If you visit a church (or a new school) and your kids are not happy, it is likely that it will be harder for you to consider going back -- even if you believe it might be the best option for yourselves or even your children.
Wise church and school administrators recognize that making a place kid friendly, involves more than simply creating a colorful environment and adding a good curriculum. When a child is happy in a new situation, it is typically because that child has been made to feel as if he or she belonged there. They are included by the other children, they have a positive relationship with new friends.
Children typically do not learn these values by themselves. They are taught to be welcoming, they learn when they see hospitality modeled and they are encouraged and given opportunities to practice hospitality.
This issue provides lesson plans to help children develop and awareness for and the skills to welcome new kids to their church or classroom. There is one lesson plan for church leaders and a separate one for school teachers.
Read the lesson plans. Forward them or download copies and pass them out to your leaders and get ready for the kids who will be coming to "check you out" during the summer. Many families relocate during the summer months! Don't miss the opportunities to have them be welcomed by their "First Friends." We would also appreciate it if you would refer any families who are moving into or out of your community to the Exodus Network and the agent who is sponsoring this newsletter and the church and Christian school databases in your local community. The agents who sponsor this ministry are eager to introduce the families to the housing market! Since a REALTOR is often one of the first people that a moving family meets in a new community, having a REALTOR who is a real professional and who is committed to Biblical values can be a real blessing!
By the way, why don't you suggest that all your staff sign up for the Welcoming Community newsletter. It is free and it can be a great way to provide training and build awareness. Sign up is at www.WelcomingCommunity.com.