Who wants more visitors? Who wants your visitors to come back? We all do!! Several years ago, Outreach Marketing did a survey of the top reasons people come back after their first visit. Preaching wasn’t very high on the list. Actually, the top three were Music, Children’s Ministry, and Rest rooms. Rest rooms? Yep, why? Because a good rest room can make as good a first impression as a friendly greeter and a bad one can do just the opposite!
First impressions matter!
It’s hard to emphasis how important it is to make a good first impression. The first impression skews all other impressions. Often, if you don’t make a good first impression, you don’t get an opportunity to make a second one.
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I’m a relatively new father (first year under the belt!) This new place in life has caused me to evaluate churches I visit differently. Places that I have visited in the past are now seen through the eyes of a parent and those eyes see things differently. Bennett is so incredibly precious to me, if I see something that makes me uncomfortable about the kids’ ministry, then he’s not going in. Interestingly enough, it’s not the flash or pizzazz that draws me in. Those things are fun, but not necessary. Simple is fine – if I make it past the check-in in desk. And surprisingly, that’s harder than you think.
When I visit a church, I’m typically going to arrive 5-10 minutes before church starts. If I show up as a visitor and you’re not ready for me, it’s a BIG turnoff. If I show up as a visitor and you don’t know where I need to go, it’s a BIGGER turnoff. Honestly, these two things will probably be enough for me to decide to keep Bennett with me. But if I show up and I’m told “the teacher hasn’t arrived yet” or “I don’t know who’s supposed to be here, I can take him until they show up”, that’s the BIGGEST turn off.
One of the mistakes churches make is treating everyone like they’re already part of the “family.” You want to be welcoming, but first time guests need to be treated different. Don’t assume they’ve made the choice to call your church home. You need to spend some extra energy to “woo” them.
Here are some simple things you can do to help create a positive first impression:
- Have you check-in computers (or papers) ready 20 minutes before church begins.
- Have a knowledgable volunteer (knows where classes meet, etc.) stationed at the desk 20 minutes before church begins and stays all the way through service.
- Make sure the area is clean and free of clutter.
- Have your classrooms staffed 20 minutes before service begins.
Are there other things you can do? Absolutely. But it’s the simple things that help make a good first impression. Bad programming can wipe out any gains you make on your first impression, but if you make a good first impression you may have a chance to correct those challenges. While good programming will have a hard time overcoming a bad first impression.
So, take a look – what is the impression you’re leaving on first time guests?