How do you get first-time visiting families to return to your children's ministry?
How do you get first-time visiting families to return to your children's ministry? (Lightstock)

This is one of the most important strategies your children's ministry can focus on. We recently implemented a new tweak in our strategy for connecting with first-time guest families, and we are seeing great results.

I got the idea for the new tweak from my friend, Carolyn Burge, who is the children's director at a great church in Canada. If you haven't checked out her website,, do so. She has lots of great ideas.

So here's our strategy. In step No. 4, I'll tell you about the new tweak we've added that's making a big difference.

1. We have a guest services team that helps new families check in. This team is made up of volunteers. Make sure you pick people for this team who are friendly, outgoing, positive and know how to make new people feel welcome and comfortable.

2. We have separate check-in areas for first-time families. We don't want new families having to wait in line. We also moved these out from behind a desk and put them at tables so we can greet people more personally.

3. After we get the family registered, we personally walk them to their rooms. This is a biggie. Always walk, never point.

4.Here's the new tweak we've added that I want to tell you about. After we've helped the new family get to their rooms, the guest service volunteer who helped them writes a personal note to the family.

In the note, the guest service volunteer mentions something unique that he/she noticed about the family. Maybe a cute haircut one of the kids had, maybe the way the preschooler smiled, maybe the town they just moved from, etc.

This lets the family know that we took the time to notice them personally.  In the note, the guest services volunteer also tells them know how much he/she enjoyed meeting them and hopes to see them again soon. This gives the new family a personal connection with someone. This is huge.

The guest services volunteer then gives the note to us before he/she leaves and we mail it to the family that week.

I would also mention that our guest services volunteers are fired up about doing this. It is such a blessing to them to be able to write the notes to families they meet. It has taken their ministry experience to a whole new level. They can't wait to see the families come back because they have made a personal investment in them. 

We provide the postcards for the volunteers to write the personal note on. There is a space for the note on the postcard.

The postcard also has a coupon they can bring back for a free t-shirt on their next visit.

In closing, I would like to mention two other things. First, a personal handwritten note is a huge deal in today's culture of digital communication. A personal note stands out and means so much more than a letter, email or text.

In addition to this, the kids of the guest family also get a handwritten postcard from our leaders in the kids' areas. For a kid to get a postcard in the mail is a double big deal.

Whatever your strategy is ... make it personal ... nothing impacts a family more than a personal touch from someone who welcomed them and cared for them.

Dale Hudson has served in children and family ministry for over 24 years. He is the director of children's ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the top 20 influencers in children's ministry. He is the coauthor of four ministry books, including Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children's Ministry.

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