If you’ve experienced what it’s like to stay in a really nice Bed & Breakfast (B&B), you know that the best proprietors are hospitality experts. You’re a complete stranger and yet, within minutes of checking in, you immediately feel at home. Their attention to detail and the way they create a welcoming, hospitable environment . . . there’s much we can glean, especially when it comes to receiving a new pastor and his or her family.
Upon arrival, most B&B guests are presented with a prepared welcome packet that typically includes items like maps, local attractions, restaurant suggestions, services offered, and a directory of important numbers and services. Of course, your church’s lay and staff leaders will direct the overall welcome activities, but before the pastor even ‘checks in,’ wouldn’t it be nice to present him or her with everything they need to feel comfortable in their new surroundings? Just like a B&B!
Scrappers and Gatherers
Your congregation is sure to include at least a few scrapbooking enthusiasts, or “scrappers.” Explain your goal with them, and discuss items that need to be included in the welcome packet. Let them brainstorm about whether it should be a three-ring binder, a nice album, or a portable file box; they’ll know how to choose the right format and make it look great. In the meantime, ask Sunday schools, small groups, and even church employees to be responsible for gathering information for each section in this go-to source for your new pastor and family.
Borrow from the Best
Consider using the same type of resource categories in your welcome packet that you’ll find at B&Bs.
Printed maps have gone by the wayside, but online navigational aids won’t tell your pastor the shortcut to take back to church after making a hospital call, or how to avoid getting stuck at the nearby railroad crossing every afternoon. Ask a group of members to submit their tips on the best ways to get around town.
In addition to including brochures to well-known attractions, think about those that are much less publicized—like the drive-in theater that still operates every summer, or the swimming hole that’s not only fun, but also safe. Learning about these off-the-beaten-path attractions will make your pastor’s family feel like locals.
Every town has special, one-of-a-kind eateries. Ask that farm-to-table café for a menu. Take a photo of the best crab cakes in town. Ask members to share where they think you can find the tastiest piece of pie. But don’t leave chain restaurants off the list. Eating favorite food in a familiar environment might be just what your pastor’s family needs to feel more at home. And if a restaurant is owned or managed by a member, make note of that as well. Your pastor will want to know.
Members can be an unlimited source for all kinds of helpful services. Ideas might include:
- Tour Guide: Offer to give a tour of your city and church neighborhood
- Babysitting: List some names of sitters and their contact info.
- Maintenance: Include information on how to get 24-7 help
- Lawn Maintenance: Tell them not to worry about taking care of their yard until they get settled
- Food delivery: Make a schedule that shows when members plan to bring over dinner or snacks. Include phone numbers in case a delivery needs to be rescheduled.
- Sundries: Leave a basket of fruit in the kitchen. Put bottled water in the fridge. Gather up travel-size toiletries for the master bath. Don’t forget soap for the shower.
Directory of Who’s Who
Dedicate some space in the welcome packet to list the names and contact information for church staff, lay leaders and key volunteers. Your pastor would find it especially helpful if you included a photo of those listed.
Besides providing much-needed information for your new pastor, your welcome packet will show him or her that the church’s members spent a lot of time and care gathering and creating this resource and that, indeed, you may have this hospitality thing down pat.
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.