Visitors and the Holidays
For many parents, visiting a new church can be somewhat nerve-racking and overwhelming, especially if they have small children. Their experience of your church can hinge on how their children were cared for. These powerful first impressions speak volumes about your ministry—whether you want them to or not.
Hopefully, they’ll experience great music, a compelling sermon, and friendly people. However, if visitors bring children, they are looking for more than just friendly faces or an inspiring message. Parents want to know that teachers are both kind and competent, that the classroom has age-appropriate toys and activities, and is cheerful, bright, clean—and that their children are safe and secure, and will only be released to them.
Create a smooth, simple procedure to help visitors and their children feel welcome, no matter when they visit and train your volunteers and staff to follow it. Your plan should include:
Greeting: Assign a volunteer (or team) to welcome and greet visitors with a smile and direct them to the check-in area or correct classroom, introduce them to their teacher, and tell them what they can expect. Also be sure to assign someone to say goodbye with a smile, to thank them for coming, and invite them to return.
Training: Make sure your volunteers know exactly how to check in and welcome new children. Teach volunteers to be intentional about being friendly (smiling, making eye contact, etc.), answering questions, and including newcomers.
Reassuring: When visitors check their children in, gather information without overwhelming them. You’ll need the parent name, telephone number (that you can text or call during the service if necessary), and email and/or mailing address (for follow-up). Get the child’s name, gender, birthday, and any medical or allergy information (see Chapter 2) so that they can be safely checked in. Reassure the parent by clearly and quickly explaining check-in and check-out procedures, and how you’ll contact them in case of an emergency or incident. Encourage volunteers to follow those procedures consistently, for both visitors and long-time attendees.
To make the child feel welcome, here are a few more ideas:
- Designate visitors with a colored sticker on their name tag, so volunteers can quickly identify children who may need more attention or assistance.
- Assign an older child or one who’s been around for a while, as a “buddy” for visiting kids. • Find out if newcomers would like to be introduced to the other children – a more outgoing child may enjoy this, but a shy child may find this intimidating.
- Talk with the parents about how they’d prefer you handle any anxiety if that happens. For example: how long should you let the child cry before contacting the parent?
At certain times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, or even Vacation Bible School, you may have extra visitors. Hopefully, you’ll have the good problem of many visiting children, and most likely you’ll have to bring in additional volunteers. Families who have never been to your church may show up for the first time during the holidays.
This means there will be more “strangers” on your church campus, and a need for simply being aware and carefully discerning whether someone is coming to church to visit, or to cause trouble. Communicate with your staff and volunteers prior to these special events to remind them that this is a critical time for outreach and putting “our best foot forward” as well as being aware of any potential emergencies that might arise. Train volunteers to be observant and to notice anything out of the ordinary.
During the busy holiday season, an electronic children’s check-in system provides extra safety and keeps a record of all visitors. This technology plays an even more important role during these special times by providing extra safety and allowing ministries to gather tracking data to help them plan well for future outreach events.
The above is an excerpt from “Technology Spotlight: Children’s Check-In”, a timeless resource that shares information on key topics such as volunteer security – your first line of defense, how to effectively utilize background checks, a game plan for tracking, managing, and responding to child allergies, welcoming visitors, the benefits of electronic check-in and much more.
Click here to learn more and download your free copy of Technology Spotlight: Children’s Check-In.