“Shhhhh!” I whispered for the hundredth time.
I glanced at my watch as my two little girls squirmed and wiggled during church.
I tried to keep a pleasant look on my face, but I was running out of patience on our first visit to our new church.
This first visit and lots of other transitions were taking their toll on us.
When I glanced down and saw one daughter scooting under the pew, I just about lost my put-together appearance.
When the closing prayer was finished, I gathered up all our things before exiting the sanctuary.
Just then, a lady in the row behind me leaned up to my daughter and told her, “You were very naughty in church today! You should sit still and be quiet!”
I spun around and looked this woman in the face. She had pasted on a smile, but a scowl was hovering behind her eyes.
“I can see you have your hands full,” she said to me as she got up and walked out.
Swallowing back my tears, I picked up our puzzles and toys and smiled as we walked out. I wouldn’t cry there.
I still needed to meet the people in our new community and hoped we wouldn’t receive any more scowls at my one-and-a-half and four-year-old girls.
The next week, another lady approached me in church.
“It must be hard to be alone in the pew with the girls, so I’m going to sit with you every week,” she said as she took my oldest daughter on her lap.
She pulled a coloring book and brand new crayons out of her bag and patted me on the back.
I smiled back gratefully and brushed away tears of thankfulness.New families at church need our support, not our criticism.
A Family-Friendly Church Welcomes New Families
When a church has young families in its midst, there are relationships with the potential for more growth.
Without young families, a church will struggle and limp along.
The church needs young families to continue the cycle of mentorship and growing into leadership.
The church is better with a mix of ages and not just one generation of membership.
How do you cultivate a family-friendly church? Here are ten ideas to consider.
1 – Hold your criticism until you know their story, and then hold it some more. When a new family visits your church, they have a unique story. This may be their very first time in any church, or it may be what they’ve done their entire life. Either way, be very cautious about jumping to conclusions and certainly about sharing criticism (Rom 14).
2 – Visit with them after church. Ask about their family, what brought them to your church, and what interests they might have. Ask these questions because you are genuinely interested and not just collecting data (Rom 12:9)
3 – If the new family has young children, include them in the conversation. Often children will act shy in a new environment. But showing that you are interested in all of them will go a long way in helping them feel welcomed.
4 – Invite them over for a meal. Being invited to someone’s home is a huge opportunity for a new family to get acquainted. The early church shared meals and studied together because those activities drew them closer inside the comfort of their homes, and we can do the same (see Acts 2:42-47).
5 – Connect them with other families that have children the same age or might have shared interests. Then they can get acquainted with more people and feel like they could be a part of your church community.Knowing that you are seen, recognized and remembered can make such a difference for a new family at church.
6 – Ask for their phone number or email address. You can then reach out during the week to invite them to come again the next week or let them know about an event they would enjoy.
7 – Watch for them the next week and remember their names. When attending a new church, it can be easy to slip in and out because no one knows you yet. There is nothing better than knowing that you are seen and known (Gen 6:13).
8 – If the family has young children, offer to sit with them or bring some quiet activities with you that you can use to help them during the church service. If your church has busy bags or quiet bags for children, show the family where they are and how to check one out.
9 – Be prepared for new families and be ready to welcome them with open arms. Don’t just direct them to the church guest book and show them the door to the church, but take the time to get to know them.
10 – Pay attention. If you’ve attended the same church for years and years, you probably have a network of people you spend time chatting with at church. Watch for new guests and encourage your friends to watch with you. Then take action and start making new friends.Watch for new guests at church, then take action and start making new friends.
Create a Culture of Friendship at Your Family-Friendly Church
Most churches don’t really want a steady stream of one-time visitors.
Instead, they want members who are committed and feel loved and accepted in their congregation.
By reaching out to new families, you can slowly change them from visitors or guests to members who are a part of your family-friendly church.
If parents are coming to church with their children, they are looking for a wider support group.
What a blessing you can be as you get to know them, learn their interests and support and encourage them as they grow and develop.
When you reach out to families with children, you have the potential to become a wider influence to encourage them to love and follow Jesus.