Navigating a New Church

Tonya Langdon —  April 26, 2012

Going to a new church is a nerve racking for many families. They are nervous, overwhelmed and are not sure where the sanctuary is, where they are supposed to go to drop off their children and how to pick them back up after service. For families who have children with special needs, changes churches are often a major undertaking. They may have experienced their child being rejected (asked not to come back), their child melting down from the crowds and sensory overload. Just getting to the front door of your special needs ministry maybe a quite an adventure for them.  Does your church make it easy for these families to attend church? What improvements can be made to help assist them?

Drive onto your church campus from the perspective of a parent who has children with special needs. How would they know where to park? Best way to navigate their way to the special needs classroom? Are there a lot of crowds or loud noises?
After speaking to new families so I could better prepared for them as newcomers, I found the following tips to be the most helpful:

• Pictures of your classroom on the church website so that the parents can show the child prior to their visit. By providing pictures it helps to reduce the anxiety that a new child may feel during their first few visit.
• Clearly marked parking stalls for families with children who have special needs.
• Warm and friendly greeters who are able to help families find the best route for families with children with special needs for the incoming families (less crowded and/or noisy).
• Have a sandwich sign outside to help new families find where they can go to reach your room
• When registering that they can check in all the kids at one location before going to their classroom
• Have an a designated point person who will be able to answer the families questions

Family life is very challenging and stressful for these families. When we take the time and energy to make it easier to attend church services, to be greeted by warm and welcoming people, it will can make a significant difference in their lives.

Going to a new church is a nerve racking for many families. They are nervous, overwhelmed and are not sure where the sanctuary is, where they are supposed to go to drop off their children and how to pick them back up after service. For families who have children with special needs, changes churches are often a major undertaking. They may have experienced their child being rejected (asked not to come back), their child melting down from the crowds and sensory overload. Just getting to the front door of your special needs ministry maybe a quite an adventure for them.
Does your church make it easy for these families to attend church? What improvements can be made to help assist them?

Drive onto your church campus from the perspective of a parent who has children with special needs. How would they know where to park? Best way to navigate their way to the special needs classroom? Are there a lot of crowds or loud noises?
After speaking to new families so I could better prepared for them as newcomers, I found the following tips to be the most helpful:

• Pictures of your classroom on the church website so that the parents can show the child prior to their visit. By providing pictures it helps to reduce the anxiety that a new child may feel during their first few visit.
• Clearly marked parking stalls for families with children who have special needs.
• Warm and friendly greeters who are able to help families find the best route for families with children with special needs for the incoming families (less crowded and/or noisy).
• Have a sandwich sign outside to help new families find where they can go to reach your room
• When registering that they can check in all the kids at one location before going to their classroom
• Have an a designated point person who will be able to answer the families questions

Family life is very challenging and stressful for these families. When we take the time and energy to make it easier to attend church services, to be greeted by warm and welcoming people, it will can make a significant difference in their lives.

Tonya Langdon

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Tonya is married with three children. Tonya currently spearheads The Agape Connections (special needs ministry), teaches the 4th & 5th grade Sunday school class and leads a support group for parents who have children with A.D.H.D. and Behavioral Disorders at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Ca. The Agape Connections work with families who have special needs children so the entire family is able to attend church services and age appropriate church activities. In Tonya’s “free time” she is studying for ordination, writes articles and co-owns an office products business with her brother.

One response to Navigating a New Church

  1. Years ago, I had a guy (grown kids, not involved in our children’s ministry) who worked as a customer service manager for a local company. I asked him to observe our Sunday morning activities, focusing on how we welcome guests, and all families.

    He observed 2 or 3 Sundays, and then I took him to lunch where he gave me the low-down. It was so helpful to get an “outsider” perspective.