We are in the process of launching River City Evangelical Church in Swissvale (Pittsburgh, PA). Until we are able to have regular Sunday morning services we will be visiting churches every week. We are using this time to learn what it feels like to be a visitor through a process we call “Strategic Church Hopping.” In the first two posts, I discussed the importance of making your church easy to find on the internet and in person. Today, I want to discuss the important topic of first impressions.
It’s been reported by Forbes.com that you have seven seconds to make a good first impression with a business associate. What you say non-verbally is crucial. One writer claims that first impressions are hard to change because non-verbal signals are four times as powerful as words. For many churches this would mean that they need to think through parking. Thom Rainer has an excellent blog post in which he encourages all churches to have a parking lot ministry. For churches that have visitors arriving in a car I couldn’t agree more. One of our best church visits happened while we were on vacation in Alabama. It was raining the day we visited and we were able to find a parking spot reserved for visitors. Our son was a toddler and so it’s hard to carry him, our Bibles, his bag, and an umbrella all at once. We were surprised that when we pulled into our parking spot we were greeted with a person from the church carrying an umbrella for us. He walked us into the church and made sure we talked to the right person about getting our son to nursery.
We have noticed that small, thoughtful acts of kindness can go a long way in a person’s view of a church. If you don’t have a parking lot then have a greeter at the main door helping to direct people where to go. Open the door for a person, smile, shake the person’s hand, and see if they need any information. Little things make a big difference.
What has been your experience with being welcomed at a church? What are some good, first impressions that you have had when visiting a church?