Helping New Families Feel Welcome...Tips from One Family's Experience

You only get one opportunity to make a first impression with new families.  And it normally determines if they decide to return to your church or not.  Follow up is in vain if a family has a bad first experience.

That being said, how do you make a new family feel welcome?  I recently read about a family that had a great experience not at church...but with an airline.  But what they shared translates right into your ministry.  You see, when it comes to first impressions and customer service, families don't differentiate between a church and a place of business.  If you give them a crappy first experience, they're not going to give you a pass, just because it says "church" on the sign out front.

Let's take a look at this mother's response to the airline and what caused her to say it was a great experience.  It reveals some great tips on making new families feel welcome and cared for.  I've highlighted these parts in blue.

"As a mama who has flown with small children dozens of times on your airline, I can honestly say the kindness you gifted us today went above and beyond.  I shall share my tale because the good in our world is too often swallowed by the not so good.  Not by me.

Today, a cold December morning, my four children and I made our way to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).  Flying alone with my pack is not for the faint of heart, though I was gifted with the realization that the ease of one's journey has much to do with the kindness encountered.  This mama and her four children, the youngest with special needs, was shown gentleness and warmth at every turn.  It really matters.  Did you know that?  I never knew that.  I had decided to drop off our luggage outside, before parking, so as to avoid hauling it on and off the shuttle bus.  Your smiling agent waiting on the curb, seemingly just for me, whisked my bags away and encouraged me to wait in the warm car as he did all things necessary.  Within minutes, he returned to hand me my license and five boarding passes.  Merry Christmas, he said.  Kindness.  Once we finally made our way inside, kindness again.  Please come this way, no need to wait in the long line.  This one is for priority customers.  Our precious Amos, still in his footy pajamas so often makes things tougher, but not with your airline.  My older children were enchanted with this preferred treatment and so was I.  Nothing seemed to be a problem.  Today, I needed nothing to be a problem.  We made our way to the gate and though we weren't first class customers, much to my daughter's dismay, we were ushered forward.  Yes, smiling gate agents beckoned my motley crew to the front of the line, spattered with ketchup and Amos, still in those feety pajamas with his right big toe peeking out now.  Early boarding meant plenty of time to get little people settled and comfortable.  This new plane had individual screens with movies and games and we were all given head phones, no need to pay, the gentle eyes spoke.  Before I knew it, another jovial flight attendant had gotten ahold of my phone and was snapping pictures, a kind gesture recognized by a mother that is too often absent in the snapshot.  Michele with her kind eyes and Frank with his necklace of blinking lights, reminded us that people really do care about families like my own.  "They think we're important, Mom.  Amos is important."  Thank you.  Before, during and after flight 1266 today, you made a mother and four children feel awfully special.  What a Christmas gift.

Wow!  This letter is full of tips for making new families feel welcome!  Let's take a look at a few of them.

Kindness - people will remember how you treated them.  How do you make new families feel?  How do you treat them? 

Went above and beyond - How can you go the second mile to make families feel welcome?  What are some little things you can do?

Gentleness and warmth at every turn - Families will remember every interaction they have.  Disney has reminded us that while no one owns the guest, everyone owns the moment they are with the guest.

Smiling agent - Smiling makes a big difference.  People remember this.

Seemingly just for me - How can you give undivided, individual attention to each family?

No need to wait in the long line - People hate waiting in line.  How can you keep your check in, drop off and pick up lines short?  Do you have a separate check-in area for guests?

Nothing seemed to be a problem - Do you make people feel like they are bothering you or blessing you?

Individual movie and game screens and we were all given head phones - What are some little things you can give families to make their visit easier and more convenient?

Jovial flight attendant -Volunteers' attitude and appearance makes a difference.

Snapping pictures - provide opportunities for families to take pictures together.

Kind eyes - People can tell in your eyes if they are welcome or not.

Necklace of blinking lights - What are some little fun things you can do to create a fun environment for guests?

Feel awful special - How can you make new families feel special?

I would encourage you to sit down as a team and walk through these points.  Hit these and you'll see more families have a great experience and return.