These Few Keys Create Great First Impressions

The first ten seconds matter, and in the first ten minutes decisions are being made.

For example, when I walk into a hotel, a concert venue, or a retail store, within seconds the first things I encounter have made an impression on me. Either positive or negative.

I’ve walked into restaurants that were so bad, I literally froze in the doorway and said to my wife Patti, “We are not eating here.” We were really hungry, but we left!

In contrast, I recently walked into an incredible hotel. It was stunning, and within minutes I told Patti, I’m not sure we’re ever going home!

Your church creates the same effect. One way or the other. Your guests make lightning-fast decisions about your church. No church is perfect, we are all working on stuff, but we can’t afford to mess up on the first impression.

If your first impression is positive, you gain instant grace for any other element of your church overall that needs improvement.

If your first impression is negative, it is far more difficult for a guest to overlook any less than inspiring element of your church.

8 Key First Impressions:

1) Clearly marked street signs directing where to turn into your church.

Not every church comes with several police officers and a couple of hundred orange cones to make plain where to turn in from the main road. Even with sophisticated GPS apps like WAZE, that final turn is often the most confusing. Make sure it’s marked and easy to see.

2) Friendly parking lot attendants.

I’ve pulled into churches on vacation or places I’ve consulted, and it seemed like the parking lot attendants were angry with me. Hey, I’ve never been there and don’t know where to go! At other churches, they seemed bored. But the ones I love have me smiling before I get out of my car! They are waving, saying good morning, directing, some even wearing giant Mickey Mouse hands! I instantly think… “I like this place!”

3) Well maintained landscaping and buildings.

Everyone notices when they drive onto a property and see a professionally maintained look. It signals that you care and subtly hints toward a good experience inside. You don’t have to spend a fortune; you may even have professionals in your church that will offer you a discount to take good care of your property.

4) Warm and engaging greeters and ushers.

Your greeters and ushers are of utmost importance. They are among the first smiles and personal conversations once a guest is out of their car. World-class hospitality is essential. A bored, untrained or distracted greeter might ensure your guest does not return. An usher who is talking to his or her buddies and doesn’t make eye contact can sour a guest’s experience. Nothing is too small to pay attention to.

5) Clear and informative interior signage.

The larger the church building, the more critical the signage is, but even in small churches clear signage is vital! For example, clear signage to the bathrooms can make a guest feel at ease rather than frustrated! Clear signage to the nursery is also a top priority.

6) A clean and well-staffed nursery.

For any family that has infants or toddlers, this is mission-critical. If your nursery doesn’t seem safe or clean, they will not likely trust their child to your care. And more importantly, they may not return.

7) Worship service starts on time.

Americans in general are time conscious. Perhaps we shouldn’t be clock watchers, but it’s part of our culture. When you start late, or your service runs over, that feels disrespectful. It communicates that the church’s agenda is more important than your guest’s plans for the rest of the day.

8) Elements of surprise and delight!

The first-time guests were seated, and the husband asked for a blanket for his wife. An unusual request, but the usher learned that his wife was undergoing chemotherapy and felt cold nearly all the time. The church didn’t have blankets, but the usher said, “I’ll get one right away.” He ran to his car and got a blanket from his trunk and gave it to the guest with cancer. This couple still attends that church!

Surprise and delight might not be that dramatic, but notice how simple it was. It can be humor during the service, or maybe a small gift like chocolate for first-time guests. Don’t underestimate the positive impact of surprise and delight!

> Read more from Dan.


 

Learn more about your developing your first impressions – start a conversation with Guest Experience Navigator Bob Adams.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Making Your First Impression a Lasting Impression

A common picture at many churches this weekend would look something like this: a couple of people – maybe even a literal couple – stand outside the church’s main entrance. Depending on the weather, they may actually be inside the doors. As people approach the door, they open it and give a brief “hello” or “good morning” or some other similar platitude. Across the lobby, at the doors to the sanctuary or auditorium or large gathering room used for worship, the scene is repeated. Only, this time, the doors are usually propped open and an usher is standing there with a stack of bulletins, giving them out as people enter.

After all, isn’t that the purpose of greeters and ushers? Don’t they have a job description that outlines what they do each weekend?

Danny Franks, Connections Pastor at Summit RDU, gives a brief and compelling argument that hospitality teams serve more than just a utilitarian purpose. While acknowledging the importance of system and process, he challenges us to look at the beauty of hospitality:

The beauty of guest services is that it serves as a signpost to the gospel. Our planning and strategizing and vision casting and volunteer recruiting may indeed reduce combustion points and increase efficiency, but that shouldn’t be the reason we do it. Guest services should ultimately point to the kindness of Jesus. Our hospitality should be a catalyst.

What about your church? Your hospitality teams, in whatever form and name you give them, are literally the first face of your church as guests engage your campus and worship environments. What kind of gospel-impression are they making?

image

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Be Your Customer’s Hero by Adam Toporek

On the front lines of customer service, every day presents new and unexpected challenges—and even the most dedicated employees can be caught unprepared. They need confidence. They need training. They need help.

Be Your Customer’s Hero answers the call. The book provides customer-facing professionals with short, simple, actionable advice designed to transform them into heroes in the eyes of the customers they serve. Quick chapters show readers how to:

  • Achieve the mindset required for Hero-Class service™
  • Understand the customer’s expectations—and exceed them
  • Develop powerful communication skills
  • Avoid the seven triggers guaranteed to set customers off
  • Handle difficult and even irrational customers with ease
  • Become an indispensable part of any frontline team

Armed with the tools and techniques in this book, readers will start each workday knowing they can conquer whatever problem comes their way. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

You see that guest pulling into your parking lot? What are his or her expectations? Who set them? How will you know if you met them, let alone exceeded them?

The first interaction or comment your guest encounters initiates two very valuable aspects of the rest of your guest’s experience:

  1. It creates a first impression
  2. It sets the expectation for what the guest is about to encounter.

Creating a First Impression

As a starting point, here are some points to a positive first impression:

  1. Everything matters – the more important the impression is, the greater your focus should be on everything
  2. Focus on the other – as in the other person’s needs, wants, and concerns
  3. Be your best self – making the effort and discipline to present the best of who you are to the guest in front of you

Setting the Level of Expectation

You should examine carefully and think thoroughly about the initial impression and expectation-setting ritual you follow when a guest first approaches you. Think about it: when you go in a store or a restaurant, and if you are greeted at all, does it sound genuine and sincere – or just a bored, memorized greeting with no emotion behind it?

The initial, front-line team in your Guest Experience ministry is crucial to establishing a high expectation, and then exceeding it.

When a customer walks into your world for the first time, seize the opportunity to start the relationship off well by making sure you create a great first impression. You only get one shot at it, and the payoff is well worth the effort.

What I love about first impressions is that they are an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the experience. When a customer comes to your location for the first time or interacts with you for the first time, you have an opportunity.

On the front lines, understanding the importance of first impressions is essential to knowing how to start off customer interactions on the right foot. Customers are making up their minds about you and your organization in the briefest of moments, and these early impressions have a direct impact on their subsequent expectations.

The characteristics of first impressions can be broken down into two basic categories: environmental and interactional. Environmental characteristics are the things the customer observes as she walks through the door. When a customer enters your door, she is analyzing everything – even when she doesn’t know she’s doing it.

Interactional characteristics are the details of your first exchanges with the customer. Did you seem genuinely helpful or like someone who was just going though the motion because it was your job? Everything about you – your posture, your tone of voice, and your actions – is being evaluated by the customer in those first moments.

Adam Toporek, Be Your Customer’s Hero

A NEXT STEP

The expectations that you set for guests are obviously very powerful – as are the expectations they have of your ability to fulfill their needs and desires.

Read through the following questions and take time to answer them for yourself:

  • How do you currently understand the expectations that guests have of you? How could you do a better job of discovering what they really want?
  • Take a look at one specific interaction that you have with a guest. Develop two ideas of additional steps you could take that would enhance the connection you have with the guest in that situation.
  • Describe in as much detail as possible the first impression that you are delivering as a guest pulls into your parking lot. How could you enhance it to create an even more powerful impact upon the guest’s expectations?

Next, in a team meeting with the leaders of your hospitality teams, write the questions above on three separate pages of a chart tablet and display them. Go through each question with the leaders, noting their answers.

After you have completed all three, compare and discuss your individual answers with those of the team. Reconcile any differences, and outline the steps needed to make sure your first impression is consistent across all your hospitality teams – both in practice each weekend and in training new team members as they come on board.


Taken from SUMS Remix 42-2, published August 2016

 


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Questions to Improve Your First Impressions

Your first time guests often decide if they will return within the first ten minutes. Some are more forgiving and will give you a second chance, but most won’t.

The unchurched look for reasons not to return. Even though they were probably invited by a friend, even friendship can’t override a blown first impression.

It’s like your first visit to a restaurant. Your first ten minutes usually determines if you will return. Even if your experience “gets better” through the meal, your initial perspective is so skewed that it’s difficult to see past those first impressions. The way the hostess greeted you, the way you were escorted to a table, and the way you were treated for the first few minutes largely determines the remainder of the experience.

The same is true in your church. Your first impressions absolutely determine if the first time guest returns for a second time.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:5-6

Here are three simple questions to help you improve your first impressions.

1) How do you Greet people?

We’ve all been in a restaurant where it seemed like we were intruding on the hostess’s reception area. It’s a terrible experience. We wait and wonder. We check in and are told, “As you can see we are very busy, we’ll get to you when we can.

In stark contrast, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in San Diego always has a wait. They learn your name, bring out free chips and salsa, and if you wait too long, bring you a free iced tea!

How are people greeted in your church? What do your guests experience in the parking lot – smiles or impatient waving and pointing? Do your greeters make people feel like a million bucks or an inconvenience?

2) How do you Seat people?

That twenty second walk means everything. I’ve visited restaurants where the hostess walked slowly, made pleasant conversation, and asked if I was happy with the table. I’m already smiling. I’ve also experienced hostesses who seemed to sprint off, look back impatiently because I stopped to say hi to someone, dropped the menus off at the table and leave.

Whenever I see an usher pointing rather than walking a guest to a place to sit, I cringe. If the visitor knew where to go, they wouldn’t need an usher. Especially when a guest is late, they know they are late, so make them feel even more welcomed! Worship has already started, it’s dark, they can’t see well, and people are standing. That’s intimidating. You can put them at ease. You can make the difference that inspires them to come back! It’s the little things that matter.

3) How do you Treat people?

Whether it’s the leaders in the nursery, the person serving coffee, or the prompts from the worship leader, your guests should know if you care about them.

Treat each guest like they were a king or queen!

Go the second mile. If you don’t know the answer to a question, find the answer. Do all you can to make their experience warm, personal and engaging.

Serve with joy.

Be real, be yourself, and help each person feel right at home.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12

> Read more from Dan.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The REAL Front Door: Guests Visit Online Before Onsite

Imagine if it was your first day on staff and you just discovered that your church’s front door was:

– hidden from view and hard to find

– still decorated from last Christmas

– covered in dirt and cobwebs

– cluttered with ministry flyers and notices.

Without hesitation, you would clean and repaint it immediately. You would then find a way to use people and signage, while leveraging every resource possible, to make the entrance beautiful, easy and obvious to find.

Your church website is more important than your front door. 

In fact, nine out of ten first time Guests visit online before visiting onsite, so your church website IS your front door. In 2015, the number of networked devices (phones, tablets, laptops) more than doubled the global population. Today, your church website is your digital front door for nearly everyone who will consider visiting your church, and then reconsider based upon what they find, or don’t find.

Here are 23 ways your website may be driving away first time Guests: 

  1. If it projects an “us vs.them” dynamic, using a term like Visitor instead of Guest.
  2. If it has your Christmas graphic on rotation… in February.
  3. When 80% of your web content is actually geared for members, making it little more than a very expensive calendar for a select group of people.
  4. If there are too many written words and the menu navigation becomes complex and confusing.
  5. When there are too many ministries and activities… because we all know today’s average family sits around looking to be busier.
  6. If your stock photography of diverse people projects an image far from your congregational reality.
  7. When you do not have a picture of the church building or of the front door.
  8. If your photos and videos are poor quality and improperly sized.
  9. If you have not given the Guest a clear next step to take in visiting.
  10. When you are missing a clear and obvious welcome of Guests with a link to critical information on visiting.
  11. If your service times are anything less than large and obvious, because that is really the main thing a Guest is looking for.
  12. When you have different service styles but they are unexplained… remember, one Guest’s idea of traditional worship might be another’s idea of contemporary.
  13. When your worship services or small groups have cute and creative names that are ultimately meaningless outside of those circles.
  14. When the pastor’s welcome letter is more about a Reformational Theology than a Great Commission Cardiology.
  15. When the pastor’s welcome video is too long and too creepy, and therefore not too inviting.
  16. If your photos are of lobbies and hallways instead of worship gatherings and people groups.
  17. When you are assuming that free coffee (which doesn’t taste all that great) is still attractional to lost people.
  18. If you have forgotten that social media is a great connector, because you still have a church directory and yellow page ads… it’s called Facebook.
  19. When you have made an obvious choice toward a low-cost and generic “church website” over a useful and attractive “digital front door.”
  20. If your content requires updating from multiple people, which never actually happens.
  21. When you post links for giving money when you have not linked giving to a vision beyond money.
  22. If the primary URL is a tagline or slogan instead of your church name.
  23. If there is no responsiveness to mobile device viewing, because smart phones are the new desktop computer.

At Auxano, we love serving as strategic outsiders to help churches realize breakthrough effectiveness on their website, through the lens of vision clarity. No service style or theological treatise will impact a true First Time Guest more than a clear sense of “who we are” and “what we are called to do” will.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about our Vision and Communication services.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

First Impressions: 10 Ways to Make Your Guests Feel Welcome

People never get a second-chance at a first impression. Neither do churches. My family recently visited a church (no, it wasn’t your church) and were able to get in and out undetected. Had it not been for our toddler’s need for childcare, we could have avoided human contact altogether. Needless to say, we didn’t feel very welcome.

Nearly everything about a Sunday morning worship service communicates something to first-time visitors. From the church bulletins to the parking lot layout, churches demonstrate how much – or how little – they care about people. Here are some things I learned from my last church visit.

1. Create a culture of hospitality

Hospitality is not just for Martha Stewart types. In fact, the Bible exalts hospitality as a godly virtue (3 John) for all believers. Emphasize, as often as it takes, the value of hospitality with your leaders.

2. Train your greeters

Not everyone at your church is qualified to be a greeter at the door. Not only should you be selective when you choose greeters, you should invest time in training. A genuine smile that engages the eyes, a handshake, and a friendly “Hello!” all go a long way to make visitors feel welcome.

3. Design a logical flow of traffic

This point applies both to large churches and small ones, both cars and pedestrians. First-time visitors can become easily frustrated when it’s unclear where they should go.

4. Spell-check everything

Typos on your website, signage, worship guides, and even song lyrics can send the message you don’t care. Set up a system to ensure all written communication is checked for spelling errors.

5. Mark your entrances

When visitors come to your church, do they know what entrance they should use? A well-marked entrance takes some of the pressure off of visitors who might be too nervous to ask for help.

6. Avoid awkward greeting times

Many churches include a time of greeting between members at the beginning of a worship service. For visitors, it’s the first day of school all over again. Explain the purpose behind the greeting time and coach your people on how to do it well.

7. Prepare a concise explanation of the child care system

Families with young children will be anxious about leaving their kids with strangers. Don’t overwhelm them with information, but explain your church’s plan for taking good care of their children while they attend the worship service.

8. Be careful how you gather information

Some churches are too pushy. While it’s important to gather information for follow-up with visitors, be careful you don’t send the wrong message in how you ask. Consider including a communication card in your church’s worship program. Ask everyone, including members, to fill out the card and drop it in the offering basket.

9. Train members to assume they’re the only point of contact

Unless everyone has this mindset, everyone will defer their responsibility to be hospitable. Don’t miss an opportunity to take an interest in visitors. Invite them to lunch after church if you attend a morning service.

10. Treat visitors like VIPs

Most of all, visitors want to feel respected and welcomed. Offer reserved parking close to the front door. Have volunteers escort visitors from the parking lot to the child care area and auditorium.

Remember, first impressions matter. With a well thought out, pre-service plan, your church can show visitors just how much you care and want them back.

This article reproduced with permission from Facts and Trends.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Devin Maddox

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.