Visiting a new place is intimidating. For some visitors, just walking through the door is a great accomplishment. Often, a woman will decide if she’ll come back based on the first few minutes she’s in a new place. That’s why creating a welcoming environment in our ministries is crucial if we hope to make a difference in the lives of women.
Here are 5 tips to help you create and implement a plan to welcome women who walk through the door at your next Bible study or event:
- Prepare for her arrival. Anticipate guests and prepare in advance to greet them and help them get connected from the very first visit. If we’re not prepared for the possibility of visitors, we may miss out on the opportunity to make them feel loved and important when they come.
- Greet her at the door. Hostesses and greeters play a very important role in creating an atmosphere of comfort and welcome to guests. Instruct greeters to learn, if at all possible, the name of every new person. To make her feel special, learn the names of her husband and children. If this is especially challenging for you, list their names in a notebook to review. Train your welcoming team to offer appropriate greetings. Statements such as “I haven’t seen you in a while” should be avoided. Warm, welcoming words eliminate countless roadblocks.
- Consider using “silent greeters.” Choose and train greeters in advance to mingle within regular meeting groups. Choose women who enjoy visiting and demonstrate a positive attitude. Silent greeters work especially well in a Bible study or discipleship group. A silent greeter chooses a seat or position in the center of the meeting room or area, leaving an empty chair beside her. When a new member arrives she can greet her, introduce herself, and offer the chair next to her. She then uses this opportunity to become acquainted on a more personal level. After the meeting, the greeter can walk her to meet her children or to the sanctuary. She then can invite her new friend to sit with her during the service or introduce her to another silent greeter. Silent greeters are a wonderful way to eliminate apprehensions for visitors.
- Leave space for her to sit. Even if you do not utilize silent greeters, provide easy, accessible seating. Evaluate the room set-up and locate seats that are easy to reach yet not at the front or back of the room. Consider designating guest seating. However, if a guest knows someone in the group, be certain she sits near her friend. New members need to feel secure and welcome as they merge into a circle of new friends.
- Utilize seven touches. It takes more than one person to draw a woman into fellowship. It also takes more than one way of touching her life. Form a team of volunteers to exercise at least seven intentional ways to meet and follow up with guests. Here are some ideas:
- Shake hands, smile, and spend a few minutes getting to know her.
- Call her and schedule a convenient time to meet.
- Visit in her home and share information about the church and women’s ministry. Show her where Sunday School classes meet. Share details concerning children’s, family, or singles activities. Explain your intercessory prayer ministry, and ask how you and others can pray specifically for her and her family. Answer her questions about your church or community.
- Send a handwritten note welcoming her to your church.
- Offer to bring her to the next activity with a complimentary ticket.
- Invite her to your house or to meet you for coffee.
- Invite her to Wednesday night supper and Bible study.
- Bring her to your weekly women’s group and introduce her to others.
- Introduce her to other new members.
- Seek her out. Invite her to sit with you, especially if she is alone.
- Take her homemade cookies, bread, or flowers from your yard.
- Send a “Thinking of You” card to let her know she is known and cared for.
These are only a few suggestions. Be creative with them, and include several women in the hospitality aspect of your ministry. A personal touch that has been successful for several churches is the “Women’s Ministry Welcome Bag.” Place a variety of items in the bag like an emery board, a bookmark, a church ink pen, and a package of tea bags. Include information and brochures on women’s ministry events and opportunities, important phone numbers and email addresses, a schedule of office hours, and perhaps even a city map for women who are new to the area. Continue to minister to her until she finds her “niche” and is ready to reach out to another woman new to the church!
This article is adapted from Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, compiled by Chris Adams.