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The Dos and Don’ts of Church First Impressions

John Gilman February 16, 2016

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A recent Harvard Study says that we make two snap judgements every time we meet someone. Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? If we can’t answer, “yes” to both questions, we move on and look for other relationships.

When people walk in your church they’re making decisions about you that will impact their coming back. Here are a few “Dos and Don’ts of Church First Impressions”

Do keep things clean. Don’t make them artificially “sterile.” Church should feel more like a home than a clinic. Create a space that feels like home.

Do smile often. Don’t be creepy. Smiles break down walls, and others welcome them. However, don’t come on too strong. You’re welcoming them to church not selling them a used car.

Do acknowledge people. Don’t embarrass them. It’s not 1993 anymore. Don’t make people raise their hands in church the first day they show up. Have your people trained to find new people.

Do have lots of signs. Don’t assume places are easy to find. New people will not like wandering around your campus looking for the restroom or nursery.

Do save parking spots for first time visitors. Don’t overwhelm them. Keep your signs and your parking spots simple. Don’t have your team rush the car.

Do inform visitors about kids ministry options. Don’t force them to do things. People want to know the procedures for kids’ ministry, but don’t be a dictator. You should encourage kids’ ministry, but let parents make decisions for their children.

Do greet people first. Don’t stop there. I went to a church where 20 people treated me on the front steps. I felt like a celebrity, but then reality hit when they didn’t speak a word to me after I entered the building.

Do have a process. Don’t forget it’s the people who make the impression. A fancy bulletin in the hand of a grump with a scowl, won’t do any good. Find the right people and give them the right tools. Cell phones or tablets connected to a church management software work great for gathering data and keeping people connected.

Do have a hospitality team. Don’t remove the responsibility for hospitality from the entire group. Everyone should be nice. Everyone can welcome new people. Everyone should be glad to see new faces, even if they’re in their favorite spot.

Do have a partner. Don’t go in a pack. Meeting one or two people at a time produces less stress then meeting a whole crowd. A partner will help you remember key information about visitors.

Do train people thoroughly. Don’t think it comes easy for everyone.  Model proper greetings for those interested in joining the job. You can even create a video training module that covers the basics.

What other dos and don’ts are important to remember?

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