April 5, 2012

Don't Lose Them In The Crowd

 
Courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University/
Creative Commons License  
It's easy to get lost in a crowd, I know from personal experience.  When I was a kid I lived in Hong Kong for a few years.  When I was about 6 my family took a trip to Tiger Balm Gardens.  The place was packed with people and it was a little nerve racking.  My dad was taking my sisters and I through the crowd to see the sights as my mom waited for us on a bench.  Because the crowd was so large it was hard to keep up and no matter how hard I tried it didn't matter I lost them.  I panicked as I searched the crowd for my parents, I shouted through the crowd, "Mom!", "Dad!", "Mom!", "Dad".  Finally, I heard my mother's voice as she yelled, "Chris, I'm over here!"  As soon as I saw her, I felt at peace and safe.
Walking into a youth ministry for the first time can be like getting lost in the crowd.  Doesn't matter if it's composed of 200 teens or only 5.  A new teen might feel lost because they weren't welcomed, they aren't connected to another teen, or they aren't sure how to break the ice on their own.  What we need to figure out as youth ministers is how to make sure each teen walking in for the first time feels connected.  And it all starts by:
NOT ASSUMING
You never want to assume that teens:
  • Know who you are
  • Know someone at program
  • Have been welcomed
When you take for granted that a teens is connected just because they show up, you aren't living in reality.  As youth workers we need to make sure we have systems and structures that connect teens as they walk into your church.  To prevent this mistake:
  1. Greet Them At The Door - Having someone at the door to say, "Hi." to your teens shows them that you  were expecting them.  When someone's at the door it's usually a sign of, "Come on in, we're glad to see you."  Even opening up the door for them to walk in can go a long way.
  2. Have Plants - Now before you go buying that fica what I'm talking about are student leaders and adult ministers who's main responsibility is to go up to a teen who is new and break the ice.  The majority of new teenagers walking into your ministry aren't going to strike up a conversation, they're waiting for someone to accept them.  
  3. Plan Icebreakers Beyond The Beginning Of The Year - Icebreakers should be revisited every so often, especially if your ministry is growing.  Doing one in the middle of the year will help the new teens catch up and enter in on an even playing field.
  4. Follow Up - Whether it's at the end of the night or a text/email thanking them for coming, make sure the teen knows you appreciated their time.  After all your follow up might be the reason they come back.  
The reason teens come to your ministry is because they are looking for a connection.  If they don't feel that, they aren't going to come back.  It's hard to join a group the first, second and even third time, so don't assume just because they show up, that they are 100% confident about being there. The more encouragement you can provide up front, the higher the chances a teen will feel connected, return and commit to your ministry.

How do you make sure teens feel connected in crowd programs or events?




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