This Simple Gesture Can Revolutionize Your Ministry

(Unsplash/Vinicius Wiesehofer)

How do you feel when you walk into a place of business and you're met with a blank stare or even a frown? Probably makes you feel apprehensive, uncomfortable, as though you're about to be a "bother"... that you're entering a place that is not welcoming, doesn't it?

Compare that to how you feel when you walk into a place of business and you're met with a friendly smile. How does that make you feel? Welcomed. Valued. Comfortable. Happy? Warms your spirit a little, doesn't it?

There is so much power in such a simple thing as a smile. Look what it says in the Bible. "A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones" (Prov. 17:22).

Our attitude shines through our face when people walk into our ministry. And it either helps people or hurts people. It's up to us.

But often we forget this. We get so busy greeting people, helping people, checking people in and serving them that we forget to smile at people. We can become a robot that's just going through the motions.

When first-time guests visited our ministry, I would send them a brief survey to see how well we served them. I told our team to make sure I got the ones where people expressed a concern. One of the surveys that came across my desk was from a mother. She said our team did a great job helping them get checked in, explaining the safety process and walking them to her child's classroom.

But she said when she got to the classroom, the teacher never smiled at them. It obviously made an impression on her (a negative one), because she remembered it and told me about it. I was thankful to receive this feedback, and we brought a new element into our training because of it. The training was to smile.

Out of this experience, I realized how big a difference a smile can make in a ministry. But it takes intentionality.

Here's how to bring a smile to your ministry.

If you smile, your team will smile. Your ministry team is a mirror of you. If you've been leading them for more than a year, they are a reflection of your attitude. Make sure you are smiling if you want them to smile. A smiling culture doesn't happen by accident; it is created by leadership.

Do a "smile check." Walk around your ministry and look at your team member's expressions. How many are smiling? How many are friendly? How many have a cheerful attitude? How many have a blank expression? How many are frowning? How many have a negative attitude?

Write down the numbers, and from that, determine what percentage of your team is smiling. How can you improve that percentage? How can you raise the smile factor?

Place people whose default facial expression is a smile in strategic places. It's important for people to be met with a smile everywhere they go in your ministry. But there are a few places, where it is really important to the point, that it's critical. Places like front door greeters, first-time family check-in and classroom greeters.

It is critical to have friendly, happy, smiling people in this role. These should be people who would be smiling whether you reminded them or not.

I remember one time when I came in to lead a ministry. I soon realized that one of the greeters shouldn't be in a greeter role. She never smiled. She basically grunted at people as they entered. Even after being asked to smile and show a cheerful spirit, she quickly defaulted back to the frown. And I watched as it impacted families—in a negative way. I had to have a hard conversation and help her move into a behind-the-scenes role where her frown wouldn't be seen by families.

Too much is at stake not to have smiling people in roles that primarily interact with families.

Share with people why they need to smile. If you want your team to smile, you've got to share with them why they should be smiling. Share with them the impact a smile can make. Share with them the one opportunity they have to make a good impression with guests. Share with them how a smile is "good medicine" for broken families who walk into your ministry.

Train people to smile. Make smiling a part of your new volunteer training. Set this expectation with new volunteers from the get go.

Help them see that while no one owns the guest, everyone owns the moment they are with the guest. A guest's experience is the sum total of their interaction with everyone they come in contact with.

Each time you meet, remind people to smile. Did you know science says our emotions often take cues from the reactions in our bodies? Studies show, if we look in a mirror first thing in the morning and smile, it will put us into a good mood. Smile, and a good mood will follow.

When you meet with your team in a pre-service or pre-event huddle, have team members turn and smile at each other at the end of the meeting. This will not only remind them to smile, but improve their attitude as well.

Smiling really can make the difference in your ministry.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry, 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool Ministry, Children's Ministry in the 21st Century, Sunday School That Works, the Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

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