Do you remember your first time as a guest at your Church?
It’s been a while since I was a first time guest at a Church. As a leader in my Church, I am always interested to know how we can improve the first impression we give to our first time guests. We have worked hard to create first impressions that last rather than allow first impressions to create themselves. Some might see this as a sort of manipulation; however, I believe that as long as we don’t create a false first impression (meaning it is not what they would experience on a weekly basis) then we are simply being hospitable.
Since Amber and I are still awaiting the birth of our baby girl, we decided to use this vacation time to attend another church in the area for the first time. I took advantage of this being our first visit to this Church. I didn’t voluntarily share that I was a pastor. We simply pulled into their parking lot and experienced what it was like to visit this church for the first time. Here is what I learned attending Church as a guest:
1. Received a warm welcome from staff and volunteers.
From the moment we walked into the front doors of the Church, we were genuinely greeted with a warm welcome and a smile from several individuals. I could tell that they volunteers or staff members who were staged a strategic locations to ensure that anyone who comes in the front door receives a warm welcome.
A friendly gentleman opened the door for us. A friendly doorman is a simple first impression that sadly many churches forget to incorporate.
Once we were inside, a lady quickly noticed that we were new (probably by the curious looks on our faces) and that we had a toddler with us, so she kindly directed us to the children’s ministry area. This was hugely helpful because we were running a little late and the worship service had already started. The fact that their volunteers were still warmly greeting latecomers was encouraging!
2. Friendly hospitality came from families sitting around us.
After an inspirational worship service, one of the families sitting behind us noticed that we had not previously met and they initiated a conversation and introduction of themselves. This really impressed me in that hospitality was not only the paid staff and a certain volunteer ministry’s responsibility. They even invited us to go to lunch with them. To be completely honest, if I were looking for a Church to attend, this alone would draw me back for another visit! From my experience, if every member of the Church made an intentional effort to be hospitable, the Church would grow every single week!
3. Finding a seat was challenging.
After arriving a few minutes late to the service and checking our daughter into the Children’s ministry environment, we came into the worship service after the first two songs. It was our fault that we were late. With that in mind, it was a little challenging finding a seat after the service had started. First time guests typically like to sit near the back of the room. Late first time guests appreciate being able to sit in the back row. Neither was possible as the isle seats in the back half of the worship center were taken. So we braved our way down the isle to a group of center isle seats towards the front.
4. Life-change was expected each and every week.
When the pastor gave his invitation to the message, he directed people who would like to respond to visit a “Decision Room” at the rear of the worship center. This was a place that was staffed by volunteers who would talk and pray with you as long as you needed. It was evident that this was effective because toward the end of the worship service, there was a baptism. After the baptism the worship minister directed the audience’s attention to several pictures on the screen introducing several families and individuals who had made the commitment to join as members of the Church (this is something I will be introducing to our Church). With all of these responses, I can’t help but think this is a regular part of this Church’s culture.
I was impressed by more than what happened on stage.
The worship service was incredibly compelling. A talented worship team led by a passionate worship leader led an inspiring song service. The pastor preached a relaxed yet challenging message. From my perspective they produced a very professional yet inspirational worship experience. But what was delivered from stage did not solely shape my first impression. There was a mood in the building from the moment I first arrived. And it was one that has taken time to nurture in the heart of every individual who calls this Church their home.
A great way to do this is to bring a first time guest with you this Sunday and then ask them for their impression. And if you are not impressed with the potential first impression your Church conveys, the ability to change begins with you!
What are some of the ways your Church is incredible hospitable in impressing first time guests? Keep the conversation going by leaving your thoughts as a comment.