As you may have noticed, we have two complementary programs going on at the moment at UUCA. We have the construction/fundraising program called “The Welcome Project” and a membership/connection program called “Wide-Open Welcome.”
Wide-Open Welcome describes the way we want to be as a community of people who are very happy that others have found their way to our doors. We want to share our good news and reassure our guests that they have found a group of people who have chosen to covenant together to nurture our individual searches for meaning and work in community for freedom, justice and love.
Each and every person who is a part of this community has a role to play in the way we throw our doors wide – welcoming is an ongoing project that requires broad-based participation and constant engagement. Last weekend, we had a very exciting and idea-filled Wide-Open Welcome workshop which helped to clarify the goals of our Sunday morning greeting process. We came up with lots of great ideas for how to be more consistent across the board, and most importantly, we introduced a new role: The Connector. You will see Connectors roving in the Sanctuary and in Sandburg Hall in the weeks to come – they will be wearing large blue “Ask Me” buttons. They will be available to help Newcomers by answering questions and helping to (you guessed it) connect people with each other as well as resources & activities.
But whether you are an official Connector or not, you have a job! No matter where you are in this building, no matter when you are here, it is everyone’s job to make a guest feel welcome. It’s not just staff job, it’s not just the job of your chairperson, it’s not the job of “someone else,” it’s your job.
This is true on Sunday mornings, too. Because not everyone is a natural at small talk, here is some help provided by the Wide-Open Welcome Team.
Conversation Starters (to break the ice):
If you see someone with a Guest (handwritten) nametag OR anyone you do not know:
- “Hi! I don’t think I’ve met you before. I’m_______”
- “What brings you here today?”
- “Where are you from originally?”
- “Why did you select a Unitarian Universalist congregation to visit?”
If you see someone with a Newcomer (lavender) nametag:
- “Hi! I’m _____. I don’t think I’ve met you before. Have you recently started attending?”
- “How did you find out about UUCA originally?”
- “What do you think so far? Is there anything you are wondering about?”
Welcoming Questions (to better introduce newcomers to others)
Who are we welcoming? Listening is the most important way we can show our welcome:
- “Have you lived here long?” (where do you hail from?)
- “What do you do the rest of the week?”
- “Are there any questions I can answer for you?”
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- Don’t forget to share something of yourself & your UUCA experience.
How to End the Conversation without Ending the Welcome
Finishing up greeting a newcomer can be almost as hard as beginning. Suggestions:
- Lead them to the Welcome Table if they have not yet been there
- Introduce them to someone else, perhaps with something in common
- If they ask you a question you can’t answer, say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but perhaps _____ does. Let me introduce you.”
- Walk them to the coffee table
- End your conversation with “I hope to see you again.”
Benefits of Signing In at the Welcome Table
- Weekly e-newsletter
- Guest Nametag, request a Newcomer Nametag
- Enrollment for Beginning Points
- UU and UUCA Questions Answered
- Connect with members during coffee & conversation (Connectors)
- Request more information from staff about programs
The hesitant newcomer is someone who does not want to sign in at the Welcome Table or even get acquainted. They’re still trying to decide whether this community is one they want to get involved with. Instead they:
- Run out at the end of the service (but a quick hello-and-welcome may be tolerated)
- Don’t want to put on a Guest nametag (it’s an option, not a requirement)
- Don’t want to sign in at the Welcome Table (it’s okay to wait until they are ready to get more involved)
What We All Can Do to Welcome Newcomers
- Wear your nametag. It makes it easier to get to know people. Encourage others to wear theirs, or to sign up for a new one.
- Look for hand-written and lavender nametags. These are the people who want to meet YOU!