I SEE YOU! Welcome New Staff with Open Arms
Do you have new staff members in your building this year? According to the National Center for Education Statistics (March 2022), the answer is probably, “Yes!” Almost half of the public schools had full-time or part-time teaching vacancies in addition to numerous support staff openings. Undoubtedly, there will be many unfamiliar faces walking the halls of our schools this year. Will they be seen? Will they feel accepted and valued? How can we as Christian educators welcome new staff members with open arms?
Before I share some thoughts on the how, let’s spend just a moment talking about the why. We all know God has a purpose and a plan for our lives (Ephesians 2:10). If we believe this, then we know God places people in our paths for a reason. This includes those new to our schools. They are not there by accident. As believers, we are called to serve and love others as Christ did (Mark 10:45, 1 John 4:7). Loving and serving new staff members could easily open doors of opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. We don’t want anyone in our sphere of influence to be unseen or devalued. This would be tragic! With this in mind, let’s consider some practical steps that can be taken to welcome new staff with open arms.
1. Create authentic connections.
It is so easy to be superficial these days. Social media provides the illusion we really know people when all we truly see are snippets of personal highlights. As believers motivated by love, we need to care enough to ask questions. Starting with questions like How are you feeling today? or Are you having a good day? can open the door to deeper conversations. Being intentional and consistent communicates the message, “I see you!” It demonstrates to others that they are important to you. Don’t rush the process. New relationships take time. Look for open doors and seek God’s guidance as you allow His love to flow through you. Never underestimate what God can accomplish when we make authentic connections.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
2. Serve without expectation.
Our flesh desires reciprocity. We live in a “What’s in it for me?” world. If we aren’t careful, our open arms will end up taking instead of giving. I am reminded of Jesus’s ultimate lesson on service in John 13. After Jesus, the God of the Universe, washed the disciples’ feet (hard to imagine), He told them, If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14-17)
I wished I could have been sitting quietly in the corner observing this exchange between Jesus and his disciples. I imagine Him being tender, taking His time, and making eye contact with each one of them. This is just conjecture, but I have to think each one of them felt seen and valued. Jesus expected nothing in return from them; instead, He relished in the joy of serving. He wanted to give them and us a picture of what He had been saying all along—it is better to give than receive (Acts 20:35). We should never put conditions on our service to others. Serving as Jesus did is an expression of His love and expects nothing in return.
3. Express the best.
Everyone appreciates a compliment, especially when it is sincere. I remember what it was like to be a new staff member. There is a time of insecurity as you navigate the new culture, curriculum, and unfamiliar setting. Many friendships are already established among current staff members, and figuring out where you fit in can be tricky. What better way to put someone at ease than to compliment them? What better way to communicate “I see you” than to identify an area of strength? We not only love others by connecting and serving, but we also love by validating others.
It is unfortunate, but many educators today are facing increased levels of negativity. This can be devasting, especially for a new employee. Experts say it takes five positive comments to offset a negative one. Maybe this is why it is so important to heed God’s words in Ephesians 4:29.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Having worked with many different personality types, I recognize some need a pat on the back more than others. However, even those who appear shy or confident appreciate being acknowledged even though they may not act like it. We never know what someone is going through at any given moment. Proverbs 25:11 says, “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.” I can’t think of a better way to welcome someone with open arms than to express the best about them.
If you work in a large building or office, you might have too many new staff members to count. If this is the case, pray and ask God who you should welcome personally. If you don’t have any turnover, pick someone from your staff who is relatively new or someone with whom you have not established a strong relationship. God is always up to something, and He wants to involve you! Let His love shine through as you create authentic connections, serve without expectation, and express the best in others!
Open your arms, and let God open doors!