We all know that a church’s first impression matters. You may have heard the stat that suggests a first-time visitor will decide in the first 7 minutes of a visit whether or not they will return to your church. This means that long before they even hear the pastor’s sermon, they have formed their opinion about your church and have already decided if they will return.
As a result of this fact, church leaders should give significant effort into improving their church’s first impression. Here are three ways that can be accomplished.
Improve What Is Seen Outside the Facilities.
Is your church’s sign clean, up-to-date, and free of silly or attempts at clever messages? You don’t need a digital sign, but you do need something that looks nice. Is your parking lot free of weeds? Is your landscaping tidy? Has trash been picked up? Is there signage showing guests where to park and where to enter? If you have services at night, is your parking lot well-lit?
You don’t have to have the latest and greatest facilities, but you do need to take care of what you have. It does need to be neat and clean. You need to communicate that you value what you have and put effort into maintaining it.
Improve the Experience Entering the Facilities.
Once a visitor steps out of their vehicle, their focus is 100% on entering the facilities and on the dreaded first contact with another person. At this point, their focus is not as much on facilities but on entering the building. Is it clear where they should enter? Are there friendly people standing outside, ready to welcome people? Are they smiling? Do the members of your welcome team reflect the demographics and the dress of your church? Are they equipped to answer a guest’s questions?
Once visitors enter your facilities, is it clear where they should go for worship, where they drop off children/youth, and where the restrooms are located?
Improve the Perception of the Inside of Your Facilities.
Are the inside of your facilities clean, neat, and bright, or are they cluttered, dingy, and dark? Are your decorations dated or modern? Does it smell musty or fresh? Is the carpet clean? Are there watermarks on ceiling tiles? Are the restrooms clean?
Are there people inside the building who will greet and talk to guests? Do you use insider language that a visitor might not understand?
Please understand that I am not suggesting that we cater everything to visitors. But I am suggesting that we be aware that our first impression will go a long way to whether or not they hear what we have to say – and that matters.
Improving your church’s first impression does not necessarily require major changes or a significant financial investment. Often, it simply requires viewing everything through a different lens and being willing to put forth a little effort to make small changes.
We all need to remember that the first 7 minutes matter.