I recently returned from a trip to China. I was amazed at the hospitality the local people offered our group in a variety of contexts. Whether we were visiting area schools or village homes, there was always an ever-present anticipation of our needs that exceeded our expectations. As I’ve pondered this experience, it’s made me realize the importance of hospitality in the work we do as KidMin leaders. I’d like to challenge us all to heavily lean in when it comes to making the families we serve feel welcome, safe, and comfortable while they are under our care. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
- Implement a Welcome Team: Recruit people who have the gift of hospitality to serve on your welcome team. Encourage them to know the names of the parents and children who attend your church. Charge them with the task of seeking out new people who may be a little nervous or uncomfortable with where to go, what to do, or even who to talk to in a sea of church folk who all know each other. Look for these visitors and make them feel like family.
- Over-communicate with Parents: As a leader, be sure you know the parents of the kids in your ministry. Make sure they feel like they know you. This can be done in a variety of ways through weekly newsletters, Facebook groups, and generally making yourself available. However, don’t make your communication one-sided. Offer ways for parents and caregivers to talk back to you. Ask about their kids, be ready to help if you hear of needs in families, and most of all—make yourself accessible through email, phone, or in person.
- Follow Up Often: When you haven’t seen a child in a while, write to the parents either on a postcard (yes, many of us still do this) or in an email. You might even consider giving them a call or text if appropriate. Let people know they are missed.
- Be Aware of Needs: If there is an expectant mother in your ministry, ask if there are ways you can serve her. When the child is born, celebrate by writing a card or sending a small gift. If there is a family who has fallen on hard times, be ready to involve a deacon or elder to check in with them in a deeper way. You may be the first to know and need to let the broader church community help in different ways. Examples of this would be illness or injury in the family, financial difficulty, or signs of abuse or neglect. Be watchful and shepherd your flock well.
There are many ways to implement hospitality in your ministry. You alone cannot care for all the needs that arise in the families you serve; but, you can build a team to serve alongside you so that all the sheep in your midst are tended to with love and care. Most of all, let them know they matter each time you see them. Call them by name. Care for their needs. Cherish your time with them.
Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 (CSB)
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.