My oldest child is 6, but I still remember the first time I dropped him off at children’s church on Sunday morning. We’d kept him with us during church while he was an infant, which meant his first time experiencing our church’s kid ministry would be as a toddler.
It didn’t go well. He was mostly a quiet, easy going kid, but that Sunday morning he found some inner store of panic when I handed him to that poor volunteer and walked away. I could still hear him screaming from 30 yards away…on the other side of the door. At the end of the hallway.
My experience is pretty normal, though. There’s likely someone like me at your church almost every week who goes through something similar.
Dropping a child off in a room with a stranger at church can be a tough experience. There are so many emotions and questions for a parent, especially a new parent, that can make this moment difficult.
What’s more, for new church visitors, this moment can be a make-or-break experience that affects whether the family returns another week. A great experience could mean the family becomes long-term members. However, a poor experience could mean the family tries another church the next week.
As a leader in your kids’ ministry, you have the opportunity to make this influential experience wonderful and pleasant. Make sure that your volunteers are setup to share the Gospel in fun ways, but also make sure that your check-in process is as positive an experience as possible! Here are a few things to help you do just that.
1. Be calm
Peacefulness (and anxiety) is contagious. If the parents perceive that a room leader is frazzled, they won’t feel comfortable leaving their child with you. So, even if some of your volunteers feel a little on-edge, help them take a deep breath before they meet a parent at the door.
A ton of positivity is conveyed in a simple smile. It’s the easiest and most effective way to calm the nerves of a parent and their child. Flashing a bright smile tells both the parent and child that this room is a happy place.
3. Speak to the child directly
Don’t ignore the child at the door. You want to communicate to the parent that you value their child and can speak to them on their level. Speaking to the child at the door is a great way to let the parent and the child know that you see them and that you care for them.
4. Have clear steps and directions for the parent
One of the worst experiences you can give a parent is to take their child and leave them with no information on pickup time, schedule, or a way to get in touch with the room leader. Make sure to give the parent the information they need in order to have some peace-of-mind while away from their child.
5. Ask about allergies
Even if the child has a sticker or slip that covers that information, it’s always a good idea to ask about allergies. Sometimes you’ll find out specifics about what the child can have for a snack or that there’s more to the child’s needs than is explained on the sticker or slip. If not, you’ve still communicated to the parent that you’re aware and will actively ensure that the child is kept from harm.
6. Reassure the parent
If the child is upset upon arrival, reassure the parent that most kids calm down within the first few minutes. Children will get upset and the parent is no stranger to crying. However, leaving a crying child with a stranger can be stressful and embarrassing. Letting the parent know that most children who cry at first eventually calm down will help the parent to be at ease. If it helps, remind the parent that you’ll contact them if the child cries past a certain time frame.
Again, it’s this moment that can often make or break an experience for the parent or the child, especially if they’re new. Do it well, and it could be the difference between a one-time visit or a returning family.