The human mind is a peculiar thing. It’s amazing how based on past experiences, current realities or different perspectives, we often jump to conclusions about people or things… usually to our loss. This is why first impressions are so dang important. If you don’t put your best foot forward, that person is going to jump to a conclusion about you or your ministry that may be totally false. It’s human nature.
Here are some of my experiences.
One of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of kidmin was The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School. A co-worker handed it to me one day and after reading the back cover, I handed it back and said “no thank you.” I didn’t have anything against Willow Creek, but for the past year I had been trying to transition an elementary ministry away from a Willow inspired theatrical model that wasn’t being executed well. I saw the book through the pain of my current elementary reality. My co-worker forced the issue and I ended up staying all night reading the book.
Another book was similar. Lead the Way God Made You came out several years ago. When I read the back cover and skimmed the content, I got the initial impression that the book was about theatrical productions. I put the book back on the shelf. I don’t do theatrical productions. Six month ago the author contacted me about doing a book review. I did it for the free book. The book ended up impacting me tremendously and inspired an staff reorganization. The book wasn’t about theatrical productions.
When I got to Gateway almost three years ago, I was very excited to be back at a church that used Fellowship One. I had been at a church that used it before and for some ridiculous reason, they switched to another system. The next 18 months were absolutely hellish for me. So, I was thrilled to get to have it again. However, my new staff HATED Fellowship One. It crashed on a regular basis on Sunday Mornings and was more of a stumbling block than any help. I’m not sure why it ever crashed (in the nearly three years I’ve been at Gateway, it’s never gone down), but now my staff knows how to use it beyond address look-ups and check-in and they see it as an effective tool.
A funny side note is that I was talking to Jim Wideman about check-in systems at one point and he was down on Fellowship One. I asked him why and he explained that he had coached the previous kids pastor at Gateway and every time he came to visit, F1 was down. Those experiences shaped his impression of the software.
I could go on listing things I’ve almost missed out on because of a bad initial experience or perspective. I could list example after example of people who are missing out on something great right now because of a false impression that I’ve witnessed. It’s a shame really.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do everything to give people a great first impression. Knowing this about human nature should cause us to be even more diligent in the first impression area. However, at some point we should know better. Don’t always make decisions based on an initial experience. Don’t write something off after talking to just one person. The truth is that a profound resource or life-changing experience could be waiting behind your second or third engagement.