It takes only 7 seconds for a first-time guest to decide whether to return to your church. Let’s make that first impression the best it can be! Rommel Manio, Saddleback Church’s Pastor of First Impressions shares 7 tips for creating a positive experience for your first-time guests.
- Environment Matters The environment of your church communicates three things: who you are, what is important to you, and who you are trying to attract.
- Be Clean and Organized Cleanliness and organization tells your guests you’re ready to receive them. Be sure your church campus is operationally and visually in order 30 minutes prior to people arriving. No last minute scrambling!
- Keep Things Fresh When we think about “first impressions” our focus tends to lean toward first-time guests, but it’s also important to keep things fresh for those in your core. Needs and budgets vary, so a refresh can be anything from new furniture in the lobby, to simply moving the furniture around in the lobby. Small efforts like new art, planting a few new bushes or fresh flowers can make a world of difference!
- Create Memorable Moments Lead with your heart and not with your task. Always keep in mind that with every weekend comes the potential of a welcoming a first-time guest. That warm smile from a greeter can go a long way!
- All About the One We all have that first-time guest who is secretly hoping something will go wrong, giving them an excuse to not return. Always think in the head space of, “If I were coming here for the first time, what would make me feel the most comfortable, welcome and at ease?” Look at your campus experience through those eyes, not just through the eyes of familiarity and efficiency.
- Pause To avoid making a bad first impression on “The One,” pick a Sunday and “secret shop” your church. Visit like a guest! You can also have a friend, (churched or unchurched) play the role of secret shopper. What things work and don’t work? What things need some fine tuning or eliminating? Evaluate the building, the volunteer encounters, the restrooms, food service, cleanliness, etc. Then be ready to make changes.
- Making Next Step Connections They came for the first time. They had a great experience. Now we want to make sure they know we want them back! How do we do this? By having a clear plan in place. Create an easily noticeable and accessible space for first-time guests to ask their questions and learn more about your church. Have information available such as what you believe, programs, events, classes, children and youth ministry services and opportunities, etc. Make sure you have a staff member or volunteer at the location who is able to answer the types of questions a first-time guest may ask. Have a free gift available like a coffee mug with your church name and website. Most importantly, be ready to offer them the opportunity to take their spiritual next step. It may be an invitation to coffee with the pastor, attending a new believer class, maybe even baptism!