Yesterday, I wrote about the need to make our entry points kind to people, not simply attractive or student-drawing or student-retaining.
Today, a few ways you can do that with your “front door gatherings” (like Large Group Meetings):
Train your greeters (including yourself) to acknowledge new visitors’ plights. For those new to your scene, nothing may be clear. Where do I go? What do I do? Who are you people exactly???
But more than that, it’s important to think about what those new guests are looking for or thinking about. A student who is unsure about “this whole Christianity thing” is far different from a student who’s “trying to find a great college ministry.” But both of those students need someone who’s empathetic, listening, and offering words that are helpful – not just “selling.”
So here’s a surprising exhortation: Choose kind greeters over friendly ones. (Of course, it’s nice to have people who are both.)
Make access easy. Your Large Group Meeting may simply require students people to walk into the front doors of the main building on campus, and all your students are at the same college. If that’s the case, then maybe you’re off the hook here.
But visiting many ministries requires driving someplace, or parking in a tricky parking lot, or walking down a few halls of a campus building not all of the students have had class within. If that’s the case, then you have to do whatever it takes to make getting there easy – not simply so they get there (because they’ll likely get there), but because it’s kind.
Connect with the non-newbies, too. It’s easy to make new visitors the VIPs and leave others in the dust. We have to be careful: The new student may be important to connect with, but so is the student who’s been there for awhile (especially if they haven’t found connections yet). In ministry world, sometimes we “value” the first-time-guest in a way that makes the whole thing seem rather inauthentic.