Justin Knowles is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church. You can check out his blog at http://justinknowlesblog.com and his Twitter at @justinknowles3
Making someone in your youth ministry who is new or considered an “outcast’ is something that is a key issue to be aware of when it comes to your services. For a new student, it can determine whether or not they are going to come back or not. For the outcast it will determine whether or not they feel loved or not. So how do we make them feel like they are welcome and loved and be intentional about it?
For our ministry, we make it a point to connect with every single student who walks in our doors. Does it always happen? No, but we try to connect them with as many as we can and be intentional about it. Here are some practical ways that you and your ministry can work on and help new or outcast students feel welcomed in your ministry:
- You Never can have too many volunteers– The more quality volunteers you have the more ground you can cover. The better the student to leader ratio can be, the more likely you are going to make sure that every student feels connected with at your group. We recently recruited a ton of weekend leaders and this has helped us make sure that every student is talked to and greeted when they walk in.
- Have “zones”– We have our leaders in zones. Each leader is given an area to sit in and hang out in the service. Their sole responsibility is to get to know every single student in their zone. Know their name, school, grade and a hobby. If you have every zone in your facility covered, then every new student and outcast student will be connected with and talked to and feel welcomed.
- Look for the loners– Sounds sort of mean, but it helps! Chances are if they are sitting by themselves they are either new or they are an outcast. If you have student leaders or volunteers who are trained to specifically look for students sitting by themselves and have them go connect with them, every new student and outcast will feel welcomed.
- Weed out the newbies– Don’t make them stand up in service or anything, that would terrify them. Give them an incentive to make themselves known. What we do is announce at the top of the service that if a new student fills out the little info card and turns it into one of the staff or volunteers, they will get a free gift from us (something like a Goldenspoon or Starbucks gift card). One, they turn in their info to get the gift and then you have their info to get in contact with them later that week. Two, they immediately make a connection and talk to whomever they turn the card into and it cause conversation with a new student.
- Secretly play 20 questions- With new or outcast students, some of the toughest things to get them to do is open up and talk. So I like to play 20 questions with them without them knowing and just ask them questions until something finally sparks a conversation. There is this one outcast student in my ministry who loves hardcore music. That is the only thing he likes to talk about. I found that out just by asking him questions and I finally asked him about music and he went on and on about it. So that’s what we talk about and now when he gets to church he looks for me to talk about it. For now, that’s what we talk about and I hope later we can talk about more, but I got my foot in.
Making a new or outcast student feel welcomed and loved can be tough, but its essential. We just need to know what to look for and know how to create a connection to make them feel loved.
[Question:] What are some other ways that you can add to make these students feel welcomed in your ministry?