With the seasons changing to Fall, many other changes come as well. Most churches and ministries have started or re-started small groups, Sunday School classes, or some aspect of their ministry. Whether you minister to college students or young adults or some combination, you are probably in the midst of change — and hopefully that change brings some NEW faces!
I’ve been involved with the same church, in the same small group, going to the same service for a while now, but this past Sunday I became the “new guy.” It was quite a switch from the familiar for me! I started helping lead our college community group. Ministering to college students isn’t new to me, but this group has been together for a year and already has some really strong relationships. For the first time in a long time, I was the outsider. I was the one unfamiliar with the group’s “systems.” I was the one trying to learn all the names.
Thankfully, this group is full of amazing college students who want to make people feel known and loved, but being the “new guy” forced me to look through a different lens than I’ve looked through in quite some time. I think it’s a lens that all of us who lead ministry to young adults need to think about from time to time. Because community and welcoming environments are so important to those we’re trying to reach, we can’t neglect the practice of putting ourselves in another’s shoes every once in a while.
So, from my experience being the “new guy” recently, here are 4 questions that I would encourage you to think about for your ministry.
1. Will anyone notice a new face?
Do you have designated people in place to notice and intentionally greet new people? It seems like an obvious thing to do, but as soon as I walked into the room, the first question on my mind was, “Will anyone notice that I’m here?” Me—a minister who has been involved in college/young adult ministry for over 20 years. I wanted to know that I would be noticed and known. Make it a rotating assignment. Give it to your most outgoing duo. Whatever you decide, just make sure that there is an intentional plan so that everyone doesn’t treat it like everyone else’s responsibility.
2. Is there an easy and intentional on-ramp for your main modes of communication?
If you are constantly talking about info being listed on the Facebook group, make sure you’ve offered clear instructions for how to find and add yourself to the group. Better yet, take on that responsibility for the new people. It always feels better to be invited than to have to ask to be included. Ask yourself, “Can new people easily get the info I want them to have?”
3. Are your ministry “norms” being clearly communicated?
You know that your group always sits on the front two pews on the left or that there is always a group that eats at Steak ‘n Shake on Tuesday nights, but new people will not. Be sure that you’re always looking for ways to not just inform new people about your group norms but to make them genuinely feel like they are wanted and would be valued at your activities.
4. Do you have a system in place for getting info for deliberate follow-up?
A note or message or tweet goes a long way in helping someone feel like you cared that they came. An elaborate welcome gift is even better. The most important thing is that you just do something that says you noticed they were there.
I made it through my “new guy” experience and can’t remember the last time I was so appreciative to be in a room full of young adults where there was some intentional effort given to making me feel noticed and loved. I know it didn’t happen by accident. May we be leaders who are intentional about welcoming the new faces that come our way.