From the second they enter your parking lot, guests begin making impressions of your ministry. Are they the impressions your church wants to make? Here’s your hands-on tool to help you evaluate your church’s “Wow Factor.” At one time or another, someone in your life has probably told you that first impressions are important. Mom may have reminded you to comb your hair or wipe off the milk from your mouth. A coach or teacher may have encouraged you to “put your best foot forward because you may not get a second chance.” If you’re a pastor who has ever given a trial sermon to a congregation, you know the importance of first impressions. As the pastor of connections at Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind. (gccwired.com), I know that first impressions matter for churches. Before you’ve even preached the message or the worship team has sung the songs, your guests have already formed opinions of your church based on their first impressions.
Churches that understand the lasting nature of first impressions also understand that people matter. When people matter, guests are “wowed.” And when guests are wowed, they know they’re valued.
Here’s how seriously we have taken the challenge to define our guests’ experiences in advance: If our guests can’t say, “Wow! I’m impressed!” within their first 10 minutes on campus, then we’ve failed.
Somewhere between the parking lot and the sanctuary, the 10 minutes pass. Somewhere between the restroom and the children’s center, a typical parent should be thinking, “Wow! I’m impressed!” Guests should know they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God.
What does the “first 10 minutes” principle look like in your church? What would a “Wow experience” look like in your guest-services ministry? Leaving first impressions that compel guests to return the next weekend is all about your environment, your community, your guests, and how you’ll best communicate that they matter to you.
Support and Structure
You may be fired up. Other people may be fired up. But unless you have the support of the senior leadership in your church, you’ll never get the fire to spread. At a recent Innovative Church Conference (wiredchurches.com), I heard our senior pastor say to pastors, “The stuff that happens outside the auditorium is every bit as important as the stuff that happens inside the auditorium.” Because he believes in and supports the idea of wowing guests, our whole church is also behind it.
If you’re not the senior pastor, schedule time with him or her to talk about your dream for your church’s ministry to newcomers. During your discussion, address the following questions thoroughly, so that you can clearly communicate the vision of the new ministry as it develops:
On a sheet of graph paper, plot your campus footprint (no one’s checking for artistic ability). Include the parking lot and buildings. Indicate all entry points—both to parking areas and to buildings. Identifying these entry points may suggest prime locations for posting team members to greet or assist guests.
Have you ever shopped in a store that was understaffed during the height of the Christmas season? Staffing was probably adequate for a Monday morning in mid-March, but the need for more employees is much greater on the day after Thanksgiving!
Prevent similar problems in your parking lot by evaluating your current traffic flow. What are the peak times in the parking lot? When do the largest crowds come through your front doors? What special needs might this suggest?
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