The other day the HSM staff had a spiritual retreat day. This is a day in which our entire staff does not go into the office but instead we spend the entire day on our own reading and studying the Bible or any other books we want to which help us grow spiritually. There is no real structure, but our only restrictions are we take it seriously and we refrain rom social media and distractions as much as possible (which if you don’t do this regularly, you and your team should, its awesome). It is a great day to get away from the ministry norm and focus on you and God for an entire day with no distractions.
I started off my day in a Seattle’s Best Coffee place, which is weird for me because I’m a Starbuck’s junky, but I wanted to go to a place which was different to study and get out of my routine. I sat down, and I just was not feeling it. There was just something about the place that didn’t seem “right”. After some thinking, I realized it was the atmosphere. Nothing about it said, “This is a place to come hang and do work.” It was uncomfortable really. I realized I didn’t only like Starbucks for its coffee but I also loved it for the atmosphere they provide in the store to make you feel like you are supposed to be there and hang out for a while. So I left and went to a Starbucks to resume my day of Spiritual Retreat.
As I was driving to the Starbucks in which I usually post up at, the thought hit me, “Atmosphere makes a huge difference. In coffee places and in student ministries.” There is a reason why student flock to the Starbucks around their schools, because they feel like they are supposed to be there because the atmosphere tells them so. Same goes with our groups, the moment a new student walks through the door they will note the atmosphere around them and within seconds determine if they are “supposed” to be there or not. If Starbucks is intentional about creating an atmosphere then why shouldn’t we be doing the same thing? We are offering something way more important than coffee so we need to have the most inviting atmosphere which blows any organization out of the water.
When it comes to the weekends for HSM, our room is not the most inviting room to walk into as a newbie. It’s big, it’s crowded, and it’s designed to fit a ton of people in a small space. Outside is a narrow hallway which funnels right into the HSM Theater, again scary for a new person. But its how we make it look and feel out there, little subtle signs of invitation which makes you feel like it’s a place to hang out and feel welcomed. We have couches, coffee, chairs, music, leaders out talking to students, students welcoming students as they walk in, I myself stand right in the entry way to say hi or high five every student who walks in the doors. I can say our team tries our best to be intentional with atmosphere and making it feel welcome.
If someone does not FEEL the welcome the chances of them coming back is slim. Atmosphere makes a HUGE difference.
Some questions and suggestions when it comes to atmosphere at your group:
- Go into a Starbucks (or some other place that makes you feel like you want to hang out there) and take note. The furniture is set up in a specific way for a reason. Take note.
- Are you as intentional with your atmosphere as businesses are?
- What music are you playing? Are you playing your favorite music, or your student’s favorite music? Music makes the MOOD.
- Have you ever really looked at your meeting place as an “inviting” environment? Maybe you need to have a friend or even ask a new student how you can better the atmosphere as a first timer.
These are just some thoughts I am wrestling with and thinking through as well. Feel free to add anything or any other questions you might have so we al can figure this out together.
*There are some atmosphere related posts on new students, welcoming, greeting, etc. below: