How did readers answer last month’s question:
“How does your congregation or school welcome visitors? How do you make new parishioners and students feel welcome?”
Here are some responses.
Rev. Steve Carretto, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church and School, Boca Raton, Fla.:
“We have a welcome team in place for both the church and school. A normal Sunday would have greeters at every door entrance to the sanctuary as our first line. Our second line is our welcome team stationed at our welcome center in our narthex. The greeter (who is a consistent attender/greeter and knows the congregation well, most likely one of our elders) leads guests (we don’t use the word ‘visitor,’ as these people are our guests for the day) to the welcome center, where they meet someone from the welcome team who has a gift and information pamphlet about the church. Guests are then taken to the usher to get a bulletin and on to worship.
“While they are at the welcome center, guests are asked to give their email address, if they’re comfortable with that, and then on Monday or Tuesday the person in charge that day at the welcome center sends an email to them, personally addressed, like this: ‘Dear Tom and Mary: Thank you for your recent visit to St. Paul Lutheran Church and School. We are so happy you joined us and pray that you found the service to be uplifting and encouraging! We were delighted to have you as our guests and we hope to see you again soon! Blessings to you and your family!’
“The pastor is copied on that email. During the week, our pastors pray for the guests, and then let them know they were prayed for, asking if they have any questions about the community.
“For our school, the morning welcome team is usually the pastor and vicar, who stand on the front curb as families walk in and welcome them. We try to get to know the names of the children so we can address them by name. When we have an open house at school, students’ parents, rather than school staff, take guests on tours, which really exudes the parents’ participation in the education but also the comfortable feeling that these are parents and not staff, so they have less of a bias toward the school from a working standpoint. Parents are welcomed and invited to every chapel service on Wednesday mornings for the school.
“Overall, we continue to talk to the membership of church and school and help them revisit their first time coming onto campus so that hopefully, as they remember that from their own perspective, they then would step closer to those first-time guests, offering a friendly face and warm welcome to the community!”
Carol Mueller, principal, Redeemer Elementary and Middle School, Austin, Texas:
“Redeemer Lutheran School in Austin, Texas, has a desire for all people to be part of our family. Whether they are planning to join our church or not, we want to be able to reach into their lives with the life-saving Good News of Jesus Christ. As a school, we are very intentional about creating community within our families.
“With new families, it is very tricky to create this close-knit feeling immediately because our strength can also become our weakness. We are strong at creating community, that closeness, but it also can leave newcomers feeling like they need to break into the ranks. With that in mind, we work intentionally to create opportunities to bring our new families into contact with each other and with our current families.
“Before school even starts, we have an event called ‘Popsicles on the Playground’ for our kindergarten families, one of the main entry points into the school. Current parents are asked to be there to help answer questions and navigate the stress of starting a new school. Using the natural gift of play in children allows the children to make friends quickly as their parents visit.
“Early in the school year, we partner current families with our new families based on similar characteristics. Our current families call the new families to answer questions, go out for coffee, enjoy a quick snack after school, etc., with the new families. This has been extremely successful.
“We also have learning community events where teachers bring families together for an event. While these can promote learning in the school, their main goal is to allow parents to see each other. These events can be anything from a project-based learning presentation to a school ‘Music Drum Night’ or a service event.
“We have found that providing opportunities for interactions allows us the chance to lead families closer to Jesus as they connect to each other.”
Rev. John Schubert, pastor of Living Hope Lutheran Church, Kennesaw, Ga.:
“The vast majority of our first-time visitors first visit our website, so we strive to have the very best website possible! We have a Ministry of First Impressions Team to prepare our campus each week, demonstrating our passion for guests and visitors experiencing God’s house at its very best. We have teams helping direct people in the parking lot on high-outreach Sundays. We try to think like our visitors, put ourselves in their shoes, and provide the best signage possible to help direct them to the sanctuary, nursery, children’s ministry, youth ministry, etc.
“Once our visitors arrive in the building, we have a team member opening the door and welcoming people. We have other members of our Sunday Morning Outreach Team welcoming people, engaging in conversation, answering questions they might have, directing them to coffee and refreshments, etc.
“We work very hard at teaching the congregation that ‘every member is a greeter’ and our congregation excels at loving, welcoming and making guests feel comfortable. We go to great lengths to explain what is happening during the worship service. We follow up with each visitor through a pastoral letter, emails, texts, social media, etc. — and continue to do so, inviting them to our new-member class, small-group Bible studies, etc.
“Once people become new members, we celebrate that with a new-member potluck, which everyone always enjoys. We then continually encourage people to engage in our discipleship process, ranging from 101 – New Member Class; 201 – Connecting People with a Ministry to Serve In; 301 – Bible Study; 401 – Joining a Small Group; and 501 – Serving, Outreach, Mission Work.”
Ashley Hale, director of Admissions at Trinity Klein Lutheran School, Spring, Texas:
“At Trinity Klein Lutheran School, we strive to build a strong community of faith life founded in Jesus Christ. One of our main goals at Trinity Klein is to empower our students in their faith development as they learn to apply God’s Word in their daily living, so that we can continue to make disciples for Christ who worship, serve and grow. At Trinity Klein, our community is so very important to us, and making sure our families understand that they are truly welcome is priority. Parental and family involvement at our school is highly encouraged, because it is through these opportunities that parents feel welcomed and find fellowship to thrive and feel included.
“EPIC (Eagle Parent Involvement Community) is our family organization that is focused on building community and fostering fellowship within our school and also church community. Through this organization, families can join us for coffee and attend chapel on Wednesdays, parent socials, and find opportunities to become involved throughout our school year.
“We have many avenues that parents and families can explore beyond joining our EPIC community to become involved and feel welcome, such as serving as guest readers in classrooms, room parents, teacher office helpers and library volunteers. Throughout the year, we host a back-to-school barbecue to welcome both current and new families, and we also have family socials, family fun nights and many more events during the year.”
Our next “Share it!” question:
How does your congregation or school encourage the support of mission work and/or missionaries?
In brief, please share your ideas in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Include your name, title, church/school name and its city.) We’ll publish as many as we can in the May Reporter.
Posted April 3, 2018