It only took me two seconds to realize, “I didn’t belong here.” but it felt too late. Heads turned, I was spotted. I had walked into the wrong room for a meeting. No one asked, “Can I help you?” they just stared.
Ever have that feeling? Like you don’t belong? It’s a feeling many teenagers risk feeling walking into your ministry. They walk in not seeing anyone they know and begin to question, “What on earth am I doing here?” The challenge youth ministry’s face is to be a hospitable environment. If not intentional it can get really uncomfortable for them.
To create a hospitable environment where teenagers can let down their guard you need to make sure you:
- Greet Them At The Door: You can take their fears away by placing a caring adult or a loving peer at the door to welcome them and even ask, “How can I help you?” Make it seem normal that new people are coming in all the time. Get the relationship started on the right foot.
- Give Them Clear Direction: The first couple of minutes before everything gets started can be intimidating. Give them someone to talk to by going up and breaking the ice. Introduce them to others or invite them to engage in a variety of activities(i.e. deck of cards, ping pong, video games).
- Be Weary Of All Calls And Silly Games: There is nothing wrong with having all of your students involved in an activity or to invite a new person to participate in a game. Just be mindful of the embarrassment or discomfort factor involved. Give new people an out if they feel uncomfortable. Be hospitable by providing baby steps to engagement.
- Thank Them For Coming: Collect contact information and follow up with an email, text or phone call thanking them for coming. Let them know you really enjoyed their time and hope to see them the following week. You might even want to say, “If you have any questions, let me know.” Show them that you were glad they came.
- Share The Vision: Encourage your leaders and regular students to be aware that from time to time you’ll have visitors. Empower them to be hospitable by reminding them that your ministry is about growing disciples. Expand your capacity by having them on the lookout for new teens.
Creating hospitable environments means being intentional with what you do and say. Build systems that lead to irresistible environments. Let anyone who comes in through the door, “We’re so glad to see you.”
How do you make your environment hospitable?