I think the problem that we sometimes run into when trying to solve things like creating a welcoming environment is that we miss the target because we aren’t looking at the root of the issue. The actual root of the issue is the social need that isn’t being met. Some of the biggest needs that teenagers (or people in general) have are to be seen, to be known, and to belong. If you can create an environment that helps meet those needs, you’ll have a student that sticks around.
Seen– One of the most important elements of your youth group should be an at-the-door greeting. For a brand new student to be welcomed before they even set foot in the room is huge. Even though the greeting wasn’t incredibly personal, it tells the new student that someone noticed them. Try to include some way of getting their contact information so that someone can follow up with them later in the week. A simple phone call or letter saying how excited we were to meet them means the world!
Known– I would hate for our only interaction with a new student to just be an at-the-door greeting. We push our adult leaders and student leaders to be caring for new students or students that just aren’t connected yet. That means the new student isn’t sitting by themselves all service, that there is someone at this church that knows their name, their school, what they like to do, etc. That connection is essential for creating community within your youth group.
Belong– Keep in mind that new students are from all walks of life. Some are all-in with Jesus and some have yet to meet him. When you are onstage make sure they know, no matter what they are struggling with or what they believe, that they belong in your ministry. Invite them to events, tell them about small groups, and invite them to camp. Let them know you want them there.
What do you do to make your youth group welcoming?