Rick Ezell has written a great article called 5 Must-Know Facts about First-Time Guests.
Church leaders need to be aware of these five significant facts about first-time guests looking for a church home. It has been my experience that churches that are growing pay lots of attention to folks who come through their doors. It is not an afterthought. They also have a strategy that focuses the church outward not inward. They know that their church will not grow without new guests.
Here are Rick’s 5 facts (in bold).
1. Guests make up their minds regarding a new church in the first ten minutes of their visit.
Often, before a first-time guest has sung an inspiring song or watched a compelling drama or viewed a well-produced video vignette or heard a well-crafted sermon, they have made up their mind whether or not to return. Most pastors would rather not hear this: The church’s ability to connect with first-time guests is not dependent on you but on those first lines of people who represent your church.
Are parking attendants in place?
Is there appropriate signage?
Are your ushers and greeters performing the “right” job?
2. Most church members aren’t friendly.
Churches claim to be friendly. In fact, many churches put that expression in their logo. The truth is that most church members are friendly to the people they already know, but not to guests.
Observe to see if your members greet guests with the same intensity and concern before and after the worship service as they do during a formal time of greeting in the worship service. A lack of friendliness before and after the service sends a mixed, if not hypocritical, message to new people.
The six most important minutes of a church service, in a visitor’s eyes, are the three minutes before the service and the three minutes after the service, when church members introduce themselves, offer to answer any questions, introduce them to others who may have a connection, or any number of ways to demonstrate to the guests that they as a church member care.
3. Church guests are highly consumer-oriented.
“If Target doesn’t have what I need, I just head to K-Mart.” “If the Delta airfare is too high, American might have a sale.” Capitalism has taught us that if we don’t find what we want, someone else down the street or at another Web site will have it. If your church building is too hard for newcomers to navigate, if they have to park in the “back 40,” if your people are unaccepting and unfriendly, another church down the street may have what they’re looking for.
Pastors and church leaders need to look at their churches through the eyes of a first-time guest.
4. The church is in the hospitality business.
Though our ultimate purpose is spiritual, one of our first steps in the Kingdom business is attention to hospitality. Imagine the service that would be given to you in a first-class hotel or a five-star restaurant. Should the church offer anything less to those who have made the great effort to be our guests?
Hospitality is almost a forgotten virtue in our society. When was the last time someone invited you to their home for a meal? But it needs to be reawakened.
Church members can extend hospitality to guests by offering to sit with them during the church service, giving them a tour of the church facilities, inviting them to lunch after service, or connecting with them later in the week.
5. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
First impressions are lasting ones. Your first-time guests have some simple desires and basic needs. They decide very quickly if you can meet those criteria. The decision to return for a second visit is often made before guests reach your front door.
• Are you creating the entire experience, beginning with your parking lot?
• Are you consciously working to remove barriers that make it difficult for guests to find their way around and to feel at home with your people?
• Do newcomers have all the information they need without having to ask any embarrassing questions?
• Are your greeters and ushers on the job, attending to details and anticipating needs before they are expressed?
• Does anything about your guests’ first experience make them say, “Wow!” and want to return?
You may be the most skilled preacher, and your church may have excellent small groups or the best children’s ministry in the city. Your first-time guests will never know unless they make a second or third visit. Will they come back? It all depends on the impression you’re making. Make it the right one the first time.
Keep the Son in Your Eyes,