I began Part 1 by saying that we have all heard and understood the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Because revolutionary Sunday School takes no chances here, plans are made to ensure that first impressions are good ones. In this series, I am sharing some thoughts about the relational side of first impressions–making guests feel welcome. I have written on this subject before in a blog post entitled Helping Sunday School Guests Feel Welcome. In Part 1, I shared about greeters and class greeters. In Part 2, I will share about how to express genuine interest in/including guests and about giving a welcome gift.
GENUINE INTEREST. The class and teacher should be genuinely interested in the guest. Class members should try to get to know the guest without appearing pushy, rude, or nosy. The attitude should be a desire to begin a friendship that extends beyond the day of the guest’s attendance. Listening is a skill that communicates interest and warmth. Using name tags can help the guest to get to know some members by name while allowing the members to use the guest’s name in conversation. Another way of expressing your interest is to invite the guest to enroll in the class and to invite the guest to the next class fellowship.
The teacher should work to include the guests in the teaching-learning experience without embarrassing him/her. This means that the teacher should not ask the guest to read out loud or pray without prior permission. Doing so could lead some guests to experience the number one fear in America: public speaking. The teacher should explain or avoid all churchy language. Breaking a larger group into smaller groups can help guests to connect in a less threatening manner.
WELCOME GIFT. Consider sharing a welcome gift for all class guests. I read an interesting article entitled Welcome bags for Sunday School: A Warm Way to Make a Newcomer Feel Special. In the article by Denise Oliveri states an important truth right at the beginning of her article, “Making a visito r to your Sunday School class feel welcomed will increase the chances of them returning.” She offers suggestions for welcome bags for kids, teens, and adults. Her suggestions for adults include pen and paper to take notes, study guide, and a book of devotions. I was a guest in a class in January that gave me a welcome bag that also included some candy and some information about the class. It is a great way of expressing your hospitality!
Don’t forget that follow up is important in order to continue the good first impression that was given. Assess your class and/or Sunday School as a whole. How are you doing at making a great first impression with your guests? Which of these areas and those from Part 1 need to be addressed to strengthen that impression? What steps can you take this month? Don’t let another guest slip away because your impression was poor. Greet them with enthusiasm. Be genuinely interested. Give them a gift. Be revolutionary!