Summer is over and the first night of club is right here – just days away. You want to get off to the greatest start ever. How can you make the clubbers feel welcomed from the moment they step in the church door?
1. Know their names. Yes, the summer was good and you spent a lot of time boating and fishing and golfing … and the clubbers’ names took a vacation in your brain. Spend some time looking at last year’s attendance list or pictures taken during last year’s club to refresh your memory. No kid wants to be welcomed with, “Oh, what’s your name again?” by the person who was their leader for an entire year.
2. Help them learn each other’s names. You might know the kids, but do they know each other? For younger kids, ask them what school they attend (or if they’re homeschooled) so kids can connect with others who live in their neighorhoods or towns. Or, ask if they have a pet and if so, what kind?
3. Greet them at the door. Assign a leader to be there early and give all kids (and parents) an enthusiastic, “Hello! How was your summer? So excited to see you again.”
4. Music. Upbeat, peppy music playing in the background gives the instant perception that something exciting is happening even if that child is the very first kid to arrive and nothing is happening as yet! Music is easy to set up and can be a vital component.
5. Instant activity. Make sure something is going on right away – whether that is paper laid out on the table for a kid-drawn gigantic wall mural, a game of get-the-bean-bag-in-the-can or a DVD playing. You want the kids instantly engaged, rather than having them run around getting restless.
6. Enough books and shirts and whatever else you need. Nothing smashes a child’s enthusiasm more than being told (as they hand you their money, “Sorry, we ran out of handooks. We’ll have yours next week.”
7. Clarity for new kids. Isabelle and Connor haven’t been to Awana before. Make sure they have someone assigned to them (a leader or an outgoing veteran clubber) who can tell them what to do and when to go where. You don’t want them to feel lost and out-of-place. Maybe they just moved to the area or their parents just started attending your church. They might be extremely shy and are there only because Dad or Mom made them come. Do what you can to get them involved and wanting to return.
8. Organization. Yes, the first night of club is always a little disorganized, but when leaders aren’t sure what’s happening, kids can quickly get chaotic. Make sure you know what you’re doing and who is doing what. You want the schedule to run at least somewhat smoothly. a poorly-run club could discourage kids who don’t like confusion.
9. An understanding of what Awana is all about. For some kids, this might be the first time they’ve ever walked inside a church. Spend time either in Small Group or Large Group explaining the gospel of Christ and what Awana is all about. Explain that the handbooks will help them learn more about the Bible.
10. Explain what it means to memorize. Some kids might not know. Choose one of the verses everyone needs to learn or one of the verses from their entrance booklets and memorize it together. Some schools don’t require their students to memorize anymore (and with smart phones, we don’t need to memorize phone numbers), so make sure kids understand what’s expected of them. (Kids are very adept at memorizing quotes from movies, a dozen passwords and song lyrics, so it’s not as if they DON’T memorize.)
11. Goals. Get everyone off to a great start by being clear about what kids need to do during the year. (For instance, do your T&T clubbers know that if they complete one Discovery or Challenge each month druing the year, they will finish their book by the end of the year?)
12. Rules. The rules you choose to reiterate should not be a long list, but rather a few that are important. Talk about logistics like waiting for a parent before they leave or restroom guidelines. Also talk about behavior, You don’t tolerate kids calling each other cheaters or claiming that something is unfair. Be firm about consequences. Calling someone a cheater means 50 points taken away from the team, etc. (Of course, you and the other leaders will have gone over these at the leaders’ meeting so everyone is on the same page.)