We just moved from one state to another. Everywhere I go, I am new. I am new to the neighborhood, new to the church, new to my kids' activities. The roads are new to me. The way things are done in each place I go is new to me. I find myself having to preface everything I say with, "I'm new here, could you help me?"
I signed my youngest up for the neighborhood swim team, and even though I explained that we were new and had never participated in a neighborhood swim team before, I had to ask multiple times about the process and procedure. That's because there was a lot of information that everyone just assumed I knew. I just smiled and said, "We're new here."
What It's Like to Be New
Being new is a bit overwhelming. There is a common language everyone has that a new person just doesn't know. There are expectations and unwritten rules they aren't privy to. A new person can end up feeling overwhelmed and out of place.
For me, being in a new place has opened my eyes to things I had not considered before. It has made me think about those who might be new to our ministries. What is it like for someone to walk into our Bible study for the first time or attend a women's event or sign up for a discipleship group? How are they received, and do they feel just as overwhelmed, lost, and confused as I have felt in moving to a new town?
In ministry, when we've done it for a long time, we get in a rhythm. We get used to the way things are done. And everyone else at church is used to it as well. We don't think twice about all the unwritten rules or ways we do things.
Of course, everyone knows we don't actually start at 9:30. We talk for a half hour first.
Of course, everyone knows child care is not offered for the evening Bible study.
Of course, everyone knows you need to sign up on the website before attending the annual ladies' luncheon.
Of course, everyone knows their way around a Bible and how a ladies' Bible study works.
Of course, everyone knows Sue is the person to talk to about women's events.
Sure, everyone knows. Everyone but the new girl.
Consider the New Girl
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and consider what it's like to be new. Look at your ministry with fresh eyes. Consider ways to make your women's ministry more accessible for those who are new.
1. Is it user friendly?
How can you make your ministry user friendly for new people? Are there multiple places for them to access information about your ministry? Do you have a website, social media page, bulletin inserts, or brochures? Is it clear how to sign up for a study or gathering? Are contact people listed? If there are procedures, are they clear?
2. Assign people to look out for the new girl.
Imagine if you are new to a church and want to plug in to the women's ministry and a kind woman walks up to you, introduces herself, and shares about the women's ministry at the church. Such warm and personal contact can make a big difference in making someone feel welcome. Consider having multiple women assigned to be on the lookout for new people. Perhaps they can host a luncheon with new women and explain all the women's ministry offers. Maybe they can take those new women under their wing and help orient them to the ministry.
3. Consider the lingo.
Every church and ministry has its own lingo and acronyms. What are yours? How can you explain these for new people? This is especially true of Christianity in general. What if someone is new to the faith? How can you help them understand the theological terms we all use without even thinking about it?
On the day we moved in to our new house, our next door neighbor arrived with a box of cupcakes and her cell phone number and told me to contact her if we needed any help. She has been an essential resource for me in helping me find my way in our new neighborhood and town. When someone is new, it makes all the difference in the world when a kind, friendly face greets them and offers to help them navigate a new place. Let's consider how we can do the same for those who are new to our women's ministry.