Becoming a Welcoming Church for New Canadian Families
According to the Government of Canada webpage, in 2022 Canada welcomed an historic number of newcomers to Canada and the plan is to continue to welcome over 400 000 newcomers each year for the next several years. We, the church, have a great opportunity to welcome families and support them as they settle into life in Canada. On this page are a few simple ideas and tips for you to consider regardless of whether your church is intentionally engaged in immigrant and/or refugee ministry or not as we all have a biblical mandate to “welcome the stranger“.
A good starting place as you consider how you might welcome new Canadian families to your church is to recognize how you can create a culture on belonging, not simply inclusion. With that in mind, it is important to begin before you even have any families show up at your church! There are lots of resources available, following are some ideas that you can begin right away!
Consider your physical space. Will a new family walking into your church for the first time be able to find where they need to go? Do you have adequate signage for things like bathrooms, childcare area or nursery? Are these signs in English words only or are there visual depictions that could be understood by anyone?
Consider your greeters. Have you trained your volunteer greeters to be on the lookout for new families? Are they able to extend a warm greeting, smile and offer helpful information? Do your children’s ministry volunteers know effective ways to minimize any barriers in language or understanding in communicating the expectations for children’s programming?
Consider your existing families and children. Are they prepared to welcome new families? Creating a culture of welcoming and belonging in your children’s ministry and resourcing families with simple ways they can be ready to welcome whomever they meet is to ensure you are intentional, whether it is in sunday school programming, in resources you provide or in the conversations you have with children. Teach your children about what it means to show hospitality and welcome others. Include lessons in your sunday school curriculum. Model ways of showing welcome to kids.
This is a great resource you may want to use or encourage families in your church to use at home. Each page introduces you to a country, some key facts about life and culture, as well as provides information about religions in that country and ways you can pray for the Christians in that country. You can order your copy from Bernice at Read On Bookstore.
Looking for a simple lesson idea for kids? Try the following.
Prepare a welcome banner with cutouts of hands.
Facilitate a conversation with kids using the following prompts:
- What does the word welcome mean?
- What does the word hospitality mean?
- How do we welcome others?
- How do we show hospitality to others?
- We can find several stories in the Bible about how important it is to welcome others, to show hospitality. Can you think of some?
(be sure to let the children share stories they think of. You may be surprised by what they offer!)
Here are 2 Bible verses you could share with the kids: Matthew 10:40-42 and Matthew 25:35-40.
Jesus told people that when we receive and welcome others, it’s like we are welcoming Him, and welcoming “the One who sent Him.” God! He said that we will receive a blessing for welcoming others, whoever they are. Jesus had a reputation for welcoming people who might otherwise be looked down on. He demonstrated love for children, even though kids in that time were not valued.
Let’s think of some ways to show welcome to others – at school – at church – in our neighbourhood.
(have kids think of ideas and write them on your large welcome banner.)
Consider ending with an activity where they create their own welcome banners (tracing their hands and cutting them out) or making a welcome card. Consider sharing any personal stories of being a newcomer in a place and being welcomed in.
What are ways that you are welcoming new Canadian families to your church?
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