Families with children add lots of life to your congregation! All churches love to have young families visiting and joining, and these young families have some special needs that churches must pay attention to in order to reach them.
What makes young parents want to bring their kids into your church and come again? Some churches are swarming with kids and those kids are a major welcoming factor.. For churches that don’t have an abundance of young families, you probably have some of the best resources around. The challenge to communicate that you are kid friendly is accomplished by utilizing your congregation of mature adults. Their wisdom, time, and a love to share; and their sense of fellowship is just as strong of a welcoming factor as if you had that abundance of those young ones we just mentioned. Does your church have specific strategies? A perceptive, welcoming heart?
Relationships are the key ingredient to connecting with new families. After that initial greeting and welcoming smile , is there a concrete effort to mobilize that above-mentioned wisdom, time, and love? Some suggestions are: partnering members of your congregation, or, at least, intentionally making connections with visiting families. It may be that a certain someone will make a conscious effort to introduce them to others. An invitation for supper or an offer to baby-sit is a great way to build relationships! It may also be a very effective way to reach out to young families living in your neighborhood. We moved to Kalamazoo, MI, when we had three small children at home and our kids grandparents lived in other communities. It would have been a true blessing to me if someone offered to watch my kids while I went and volunteered at the oldest child’s school. Those relationships coupled with an invitation to a church where it is obvious that kids are welcomed bring people to places of belonging!
So take a short assessment of your church’s ministry to young families. How are you doing?
Are there signs which direct parents to the nursery? (Are they “kid friendly” signs?)
What is your nursery like? Is it bright? Clean? Organized? Is there someone waiting to greet the children and sign them in? Do you have a system for labeling diaper bags and putting name tags on kids? Is there enough staff for the number of children in the nursery? Is the staff trained?
How will parents be notified if there is a problem? One possible solution is to use the same projection systems that is used to for worship songs. Most church worship software has a child notification system built right into the software. A child is assigned a number when signing in, and the parents are given a card that explains how they will be notified if their child needs them. The number can be projected right on the screen during the service.
You might consider using a post card system. We have a sample post card that can be downloaded, customized and printed for parents included with this newsletter. (And www.VistaPrint.com often offers a great special! They often offer 100 postcards free – you only pay for the shipping and handling! This is one of my favorite web-based print solutions! The website is amazing and so is the quality and pricing!) Even if you don’t use the projection system, consider ordering cards and handing to parents when they drop off their kids!
Are children purposely embraced in the worship service? Do children participate in leading parts of the worship? Is there a special children’s message? Are any of the worship songs specifically chosen because the kids know them? Are there programs specifically designed for youth listed in the Sunday program? Do you include a children’s bulletin?
What does your church do to help parents? A parenting class, a support group a list of names of youth/adults who are trained and responsible babysitters –these are ideas to could consider as your circumstances allow. Do you give away a certificate for an afternoon of babysitting? Do you have a group of women who are willing to mentor young Moms? Do you have a group of men who are willing to mentor young Dads?
How does your church help single parents? With their unique needs single parents sometimes require unique ways to reach out to them. Should we be identifying even one way to support that one specific single parent, one need that a pair of parents (mom and dad) do not need?
I have placed all the questions I asked into a survey. If there is not a strong ministry to young families in your congregation, see if you can bring the survey to the leadership group in your church. Work through the survey together. It is sure to create lots of discussion! As a practical step after the discussion, try to plan ONE activity or change ONE thing in your congregation that will make you more “young parent friendly”. BTW – If you don’t have any ideas even after your discussion---or if you can’t get the item on an agenda soon, read the article about Welcoming at Home in this newsletter! There is a very concrete idea that you can encourage all the members of your community to carry out with a neighbor! At the very least, pass out the article and encourage folks to try it!
FEEDBACK REQUEST -- I would love to get some feedback from your discussions and thinking! I would be thrilled to share some of those in future editions……
‘til next time,