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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Showing posts with label First_Impressions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First_Impressions. Show all posts

How To Turn First Impressions Into Lasting Connections

As we are on vacation during these next couple of days, Ministry Best Practices will be posting the "Best of" articles on different topics that have been some of the more popular posts over the years.

Today we look at creating memorable and "WOW" first impressions at your church. It has been said that the sermon begins in the parking lot. In other words what happens to a visitor (for better or for worse) before they even hear the sermon will make a lasting impression. An impression that will most likely determine whether they return or not.

Just the other day friends told me that during a visit to a new church, no one spoke to them during their entire visit. Truth is that they are unlikely to return, regardless of how great the sermon or the music was. This truth has far reaching implications. It means that what a guest sees (i.e. your website or goofy church sign) for the first time matters. It means that whether or not you are a welcoming church will really matter! The little and big details of how you treat and respond to visitors matters!

Enjoy a sampling of some of the best articles from Ministry Best Practices on how to best create "WOW" first impressions for your church every Sunday morning.

How To Create A Great First Impression

Remember This ONE Simple Thing!

5 Ways Your Church Can Improve A Visitor's Welcome

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

It's NOT All About You!


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:2

5 Ways Your Church Can Improve A Visitor's Welcome



Don't allow your church website to become out-of-date and be hard to navigate. Make sure important facts such as service times/location & directions/what to expect are clear and easy to find.

Make sure you have enough parking lot volunteers to show people where to park and where to enter the church. It is often said that the "sermon" starts in the parking lot - and it is true that the first impression and assistance given in the parking lot will help set the tone for the visitor's experience.

Have adequate exterior signage that identifies buildings and points a visitor in the right direction. It is ok to make your church look like the bat cave...can't have enough signage.

Make sure your indoor signage is clear and not confusing in which it uses ministry names that a visitor won't understand. Avoid jargon and clever ministry names without explaining what they are/who they are for. For example, don't just post signs for "Discovery Cove" without posting more info about what age group that ministry is for.

Smile, Say Hello & Talk to Visitors! This is everyone's responsibility - not just staff and certain volunteers.

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep



from Steve Kryger:

I’ve noticed that a lot of church websites promise a ‘warm welcome’ to potential guests.

This may be well intentioned, but I don’t think it’s wise.

Despite your best efforts, the newcomer may not receive a warm welcome:

All of your greeters may get sick or decide to take the week off.

The newcomer may sit next to someone who for whatever reason, isn’t feeling like providing any warmth to anyone that week. The person who is depressed. Whose wife just left them. Who had a terrible morning with their kids. Who is not sure what they believe anymore.

Churches are messy places – full of broken people in the process of being rebuilt into the likeness of their Saviour.

The church isn’t the Apple store. You can’t pay people to ensure a consistent experience.

Promises create expectations that must be met. Therefore, steer clear of making promises about warm welcomes, or anything else that cannot be completely controlled (which is just about everything in a church service!).


What are your thoughts? Can a church, especially on their website, communicate that they are a warm, welcoming church without over promising and setting up potentially unmet expectations?

It's NOT All About You!



Too often many of us approach church like we're a consumer or a guest - that our purpose is simply there to have a good experience, we think that church is all about US!  But rather than behaving like a guest perhaps we should consider the posture of being a host, there to provide that experience for other people - especially those who may be visiting our church for the first time.

In his book The Welcoming Congregation,  author Rev. Brinton writes:
Whether congregations build coffee shops or offer ESL classes, it is critical that church members begin to think of themselves as hosts. This is an enormous step for any of us, but it is the key to making good decisions about creating appropriate sites for hospitality. Unfortunately, we often go to church with the attitude of a guest, not a host—we are concerned more about ourselves than about those who visit with us. Consider this mindset: as guests, we are focused primarily on having a good time. We enter the church, and look for our friends. We pass personal judgment on the furniture, decor, and feel of the place. We sit where we want to sit, with little regard to making room for others. We listen to the church’s music, and decide whether we enjoy it or not. As guests, we are basically consumers, concerned about our personal comfort. The experience is all about us. 
How different it is to be a host. In this role, we are focused primarily on serving others. We greet our guests at the door, and look to connect them with people they would enjoy. We make sure that the church is set up in a welcoming way—decorated appropriately, well-lighted, and conducive to people getting to know one another. We sit in places that will leave room for others, and help them to feel comfortable. We pick church music that our guests would like, even if it is not our favorite. As hosts, we are concerned about the comfort of others. The experience is all about them.
How would this perspective not only positively alter our own experience Sunday morning, but also that of those who visit our church for the first time?

Why It's Important To Pay Attention


via Inside North Point

“First impressions can greatly impact the emotion consumers feel for a brand. What are first impressions like for your customers?” - The Disney Institute via Twitter

First impressions of your church and Sunday worship are important to guests. Therefore it is so important that you get your head out of the clouds and pay attention to the right things. You want to be able to look at them with fresh eyes. Here are some things to consider that will help you answer the question: What are first impressions like for your guests?

1. Pay attention to your physical environments:
  • architectural design
  • landscaping
  • lighting
  • color
  • signage
  • design on carpet
  • texture of surfaces
  • focal points and directional signs
  • music/ambient noise
  • smells
  • furniture
  • floor plan
2. Pay attention to your volunteers:
  • Where are they?
  • How easily identifiable are they?
  • What do they have permission to do and say?
  • Are they sensitive to guests?
  • Do they know how to spot a first-time guest?
  • What are they wearing?
3. Pay attention to your systems.

Systems are how you do things or how you ask people to do things. In churches, systems are things like . . . how someone registers for camp, how a new volunteer signs up to serve, how someone signs up for online-giving, how parents enroll their children into a class, how someone joins a small group, etc. 

Make sure your systems are…
  • clear – This is what I do.
  • easy – This is simple to do.
  • results – This gets me where I want to go.
(ht: Inside North Point)

Remember This ONE Simple Thing!


Someone's NAME!

Remembering names is one of the most important things you can do when you are meeting guests on Sunday morning. I remember reading in college, Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win friends and Influence people ( a pretty manipulative title, I know!) and it had one point that I will never forget -
A person's favorite sound is hearing their own name.
Using a person's name provides a point of connection. It communicates care and that they matter. We shouldn't just remember names for self-serving reasons, but rather because every person we meet is special, they matter to God.

But on a Sunday morning, if you are anything like me -meeting a lot of new people- it can be difficult remembering all the people you meet.

The key to remembering names isn't all that revolutionary. Paper and pen.

A Chinese proverb says that the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

You can't rely on your memory. You got to keep a piece of paper, or small pad of paper, and a pen with you at all times. Just remember that ONE simple thing.

How To Spot Visitors In Your Church

Enter Church At Your Own Risk


This sign made me laugh! I think it's great that the church welcomes people, even though in doing so they need to explain the fish smell and possum damage. Classic!

Sign from Maori Anglican Church at Raukokore, East Cape, New Zealand.

(ht: Arbroath)

Lower The Barrier For Visitors To Your Church With Social Media


From Internet Toolbox for Churches: "In this episode of the Internet Toolbox for Churches show, I discuss 4 ways your church can “lower the barrier to entry” for a potential visitor by using social media (why would you not want to make it as easy as possible for someone to walk through your doors?)."

You can GO HERE to listen to the podcast

(ht: Internet Toolbox for Churches)

Think Before You Post


The saying may sound pithy and clever, but it's simplistic and sexist.  Who really thinks these kinds of signs are going to draw people into the church?

(ht: FailBlog)

Top 10 Tips for Welcoming

Although this video by be a bit formal and stiff, it has some excellent points to consider.  Also it is refreshing to observe that it isn't just only hip and contemporary churches that value doing this well, but even more traditional churches understand its importance.



5 Tips For Remembering Names


If you are in ministry and part of the church then you are always meeting new people - especially on Sunday mornings.  But how can you effectively remember people's names and prevent their name being lost to you only seconds after you meet them?  Here are some tips excerpted from Wisebread.

Look for Distinguishing Features
When I meet someone, I always look for something unique in the way they look or act, and try to make an association with that feature and their name.

Associate a Name With an Occupation
Usually people tell you what they do for a living. I find that it's often easier to remember occupations than names because there is always a story to that occupation. All you have to do is to weave a person's name into your mental image of that person's occupation.

Repeat and Reintroduce
When you just meet someone new, try to say their name a few times while talking to them. Repetition always aids your memory, so introduce that person to some of your friends. You can also ask people to spell their names if you don't have nametags. If someone has an unusual name, it is especially helpful to get the pronunciation correct by repeating the name a few more times.

Associate Real Words With Names
Many names aren't real dictionary words, and that makes them harder to remember. If you see a person's name and associate it with a real word, somehow it is much easier to remember. For example, when I hear a name like Jaden, I think of the word "jade," and I associate the color green with that person. When I hear "Gladys," I think of gladiolas and associate that flower with the person's face.

Use Social Media
If you happen to like people you just met, you could friend them on Facebook or Twitter, where they will have pictures of themselves and links to their personal sites. When you have faces and names show up on your social media feed, then it is much easier to remember who they are when you see them in person.

What are your tips for remembering names of new people you meet? What do you do when you can't remember someone's name in a social situation?

(ht: WiseBread)

How To Create A Great First Impression


Carlin Flora, writing for Psychology Today, points out that our brains have a tendency to take a little snapshot each time we meet someone and that snapshot colors how we view them going forward. Flora explains:
The answer lies in part in how the brain takes first-impression Polaroids-creating a composite of all the signals given off by a new experience. Psychologists agree that snap judgments are a holistic phenomenon in which clues (mellifluous voice, Rolex watch, soggy handshake, hunched shoulders) hit us all at once and form an impression larger than their sum.
What ends up being most relevant, however, is the presence of a genuine smile. People can pick up on a smile from up to 30 feet away, and tends to make them feel welcome and good.

So the next time you are at church and you are meeting new people and shaking hands, don't forget to smile. Make sure though that smile is genuine, and full of energy.  A smile is a simple yet powerful thing, especially when you consider how snap judgments play a huge role in creating first impressions.

A smile is the most powerful asset you have in helping make people feel warm and welcomed at your church.

(ht: Psychology Today)

Telling YOU Who We WERE!



"Before we tell you who were are, we want to tell you who we WERE"


Would you come to this church if you saw this video?  I sure would.  Being in a community of real, authentic, forgiven ragamuffins - you bet!

First Impressions Fail


Don't you just feel the warmth?

Church Greeters And Hand Sanitizers


Making Lasting First Impressions


Since I am going to be traveling to Honduras for the next nine days, I am posting the "best of" Ministry Best Practices relating to certain topics.

Today's topic is Making Lasting First Impressions - enjoy!

First Impressions - Somebody is Watching.

Mystery Worshiping

Mr. Over-Zealous Greeter Guy!

Are you a welcoming church?

10 Ways to Draw Me To Your Church

How to Make a Lasting Impression

Mixed Messages

First Impressions - Somebody Is Watching

Those who serve on a First Impressions team of a church (parking lot, greeters etc..) are some of the most important roles on Sunday morning. It is true when it's said that the sermon starts in the parking lot. But even though it's important, it doesn't always get the kudos and recognition as other more on stage roles may receive.

But just know, God is watching, and your work is done for Him, and to glorify Him. (Col 3:17)

Potential - First Impressions from Flamingo Road Church on Vimeo.

Mystery Worshiping


My wife and I have a hobby that allows us to enjoy restaurants, shopping, entertainment and travel for free. It is called Mystery Shopping. For instance we may go into a restaurant and pose as an average customer. During our visit, we evaluate the facilities, food and service and report our results back to the company.

This kind of feedback gives the restaurant an objective and unbiased report on "how they're doing".

What would happen if your church initiated something like a Mystery Shopper, perhaps a Mystery Worshiper?

Read the following article posted in the WSJ about how churches are leveraging this service in order to get objective feedback on how they're doing and how they can improve?

Read the article HERE!

Related Posts:
Recap of great series of posts of Church from a Visitor's Perspective.
Mystery Guests Made Easy

Lasting Impressions

I am encouraged to hear from Tim Stevens, that Mark Waltz, has finished his latest book. It will be on the shelves this December, and I will be getting my copy of this book!

This is the book that picks up where First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church, his first book, leaves off. His book on First Impression has been central to creating and training our First Impressions team.

You can
pre-order this from MBP right now!

Related Posts:
Mr. Over-Zealous Greeter Guy
Are you a Welcoming Church?
Fusion by Nelson Searcy