Welcoming new kids into your ministry is essential part of what you care about as a leader, but it often happens in the middle of the rest of the “crazy” of club. What can you do to help do this better?
Have greeters ready and looking for these kids and their families. Do you have a way to get their information quickly that makes the process easy? Do the greeters know the exact procedure to get a new family set up for the child to be dropped off? There is a sense of security in children that comes when they feel like someone was expecting them and is ready for them. Don’t we all feel this way, really?
Make it obvious in a fun way when there is a new kid with you. Could it be a fun sticker, or nametag you use, or a flashy pin or a glow necklace? There are plenty of low-cost ways to give something for your visiting kids to use that makes him or her feel special. An equally important benefit of giving these kids something extra to display is that it also lets everyone in your ministry know that this child is a special visitor who can be greeted and may need extra help!
Be a connector
As immediately as possible, you or someone on your team needs to connect a new child to someone who can be a buddy for the duration of the time. Ideally this is a volunteer (student volunteers can be great at this), who can keep tabs on the new child while also doing their regular responsibilities. Is the visitor outgoing? It might be that the buddy will only have to introduce a few kids and then just keep an extra eye on the new child. Is the visitor shy? It might be that the new child is more comfortable as a “helper” to the volunteer, with tangible jobs to do, like helping set out snack or craft supplies. Whatever the new kid does, the leader buddy can help make sure there was help provided when needed, and can report back to you or the parent about the child’s experience in your ministry.
Short on leaders? Pick a child from your group who would like the special job of making the new child feel comfortable. When kids bring a friend, they might not understand that they need to help their friend feel welcome, and you can help them see this as important. This might be key next step in their discipleship process too!
As your club is able, devote a few minutes for each new kid to hear the message of the Gospel. The entrance booklets for each age group are a great jumping off point for this, but keep in mind that for many new kids the message you really want to get across to them balance both the simplicity of “God loves you” and the complexity of “there’s so much more to this story that we want you to come back and be part of this community where we learn about God together.” In any spare moments your leaders have, encourage them to pray silently for God’s work in the life of the visiting children you have with you!
Be a closer
As the time the child is with you winds down, check in with their buddy to see how the visitor did while he or she was with you. Be ready to be there, or have someone else be there, to give a report to parents on how the child did, and to say you hope to see them again!
In Mark 9:37, we read that Jesus told his followers that the effort of welcoming a child is worth the same to Him as welcoming Jesus Himself. Jesus put a high priority in welcoming each child, both visitor and regular attender, in His name. What a wonderful and important work we get to participate in when we welcome kids at Awana in Jesus’ name!