Collecting information from visiting students is a crucial part of being a welcoming community. It can seem impersonal to stick a form in someone’s face, but being able to follow up with them and learn about their family and life means a lot. When a new face shows up at your youth group meeting here’s how to capture their info.
1) Greet them personally
This is something you should be doing anyway. It makes sense that every student is greeted by a friendly face when they arrive. Part of creating a welcoming culture is being sure that whoever is doing the greeting knows to give special attention to a new person. Ask them their name, if this is their first church experience, and thank them for coming. Be sure to let them know they are free to ask any questions at all.
2) Provide a form
It’s helpful to have a form for people to fill out. Most students don’t mind taking a little time to tell you about themselves. The form also allows you to ask questions that would be weird or awkward in a first conversation. “Hi, welcome to our youth group. What’s your name? Awesome. What’s your home address?” Creepy.
We use a form that asks three main things. How do we contact you? What is your life like (grade, school, family situation, etc.)? And what are your favorites? This allows us to personally connect with a new student, and proves to be helpful information later on. For instance, we make sure to provide their favorite drink when they come back the next week. It’s a simple way to say, “We notice you” in a large group.
If the new teen is a friend of one of our students (which is the most common scenario) I ask the current student to give them the form. It’s a lot less weird for your friend to say, “Hey, fill one of these out. They’ll pick up a soda for you next week!” than it is for “some old person” to hand it to you.
If you need a form, you can download the one we use right here.
3) Follow Up!
If you don’t use the info, it’s worthless! It’s important to have a plan for what to do when you receive a filled out form. For us, that means getting them a gift when they return. When possible, I also send a postcard. Getting mail is rare these days, and a handwritten note is a phenomenal way to demonstrate that a student is worth your time.
That’s how we collect information from new students. What other tips do you have?