Though first impressions never represent the whole picture of a person or place, they can hold great power in how people perceive your church. Whether we like it or not, visitors will make judgments about your church based on a very short encounter. In fact, research indicates it only takes a tenth of a second for someone to make their first impression of another person. The same rule can be applied to experiences, such as walking into a new church.
To help you make a positive first impression, here are seven ways to have an impactful guest services ministry.
Tip #1: Church Website
A quick Google search can lead people to your church website. Oftentimes, they’ll visit the website well before attending a service. This means their first impression of your church website is also the first impression of your church. If it’s disorganized and unappealing, this could sway them from even attending a service. Conduct an audit of your website. Ask a group of church members to check it out and give honest feedback. Is it intuitive? Can they find their way around it easily? Is it attractive? If they weren’t already members, would this website convince them to give your church a try?
Tip #2: Parking Lot
When a first-time guest pulls into the church parking lot, what do they see? Is it clear where they should park? Oftentimes it’s obvious, but some churches need to take extra measures to ensure guests feel at ease the moment they arrive on location. To do this, consider having signs or volunteers in the parking lot to direct traffic and lead guests to the main entrance.
Tip #3: Campus Appearance
Take a walk around your church facility (inside and out). Try to view it through the eyes of someone who has never been to your church before. Are there large cracks in the sidewalk? Is the landscaping well maintained? Are there areas of chipped paint on the outer walls? Is it easy to find the main entrance? Is there dust on light fixtures or stains on the carpet? No one expects your church building to be perfect, but many small issues can add up to an overall appearance of outdated and dingy.
Tip #4: Greeters
In addition to parking lot greeters, positioning extra greeters at each entrance is a great way to be even more welcoming to visitors. Walking into a new church is intimidating for anyone, especially if they don’t know a single person there. Putting greeters upfront is key to an impactful guest services ministry. And, of course, make sure your greeters smile!
Tip #5: Childcare Check-in
Most churches provide childcare during service times. Though your members don’t need obvious markers for drop off, guests do! Make sure the check-in area for your nursery is extremely obvious and organized. Having helpers waiting to assist parents as they check-in their children is also a great idea to ease the transition for them. If they’re new, their kids are likely to have a hard time being dropped off, so be mindful of these challenges for parents.
Tip #6: Info/Guest Services Table
Do you have an information booth or guest services table in a central area of your church? Do you have volunteers there who are equipped to answer questions about the church? This is going to be one of the most important parts of your guest services ministry. For guests who don’t know anyone at your church, it may be uncomfortable for them to ask questions. By providing a designated guest services location, you’ll make it easy and convenient for them to learn more about your church’s mission and ministries.
Tip #7: Requesting Contact Info & Follow-up
Another way to make guests feel like they’re wanted is to follow up with them a few days later. To do this, get their contact information while they’re at your church. You can provide Contact Information Cards at your guest services table (see #6 above) or in your church pews. It’s also a good idea to offer both paper and online/text options for their preferred method of contact. And make sure it’s known that you’d like to connect and will be in touch soon.
As you begin a review of your church, these above examples are a great place to start. Notice this list doesn’t include the worship or sermon aspect of your service. While those are significant factors for visitors as they decide whether to return, they are likely already given great attention. It’s the smaller items that often get overlooked when it comes to the first impression people may have of your church. Before taking a closer look at your on-stage performance, take review of your off-stage areas first.