Church attendance is on the decline. In 2000, 58% of adults had attended church in the last month. In 2015, only 46% of adults had attended church in the last month – a change of 12% in just 15 years. Making your church’s first impression as a lasting impression is important to keep people coming back.
Jesus left a clear command. Some of His last words were “Go and make disciples.” – Matthew 28. To understand the impression you are making within your community, you’ll want to understand the numbers that measure success and engagement. Making a great first impression is important, but making a lasting impression is how you help your visitors find community, engage when they are ready, and feel cared for within your church.
Here are seven suggestions to help you make a lasting impression:
#1 – Your Website is Now Your Front Door
Over 90% of people visit your website before visiting your church in person. It’s important that your website is easy to understand and provides easy-to-find information for your guests and visitors. Be sure to include these items CLEARLY on your homepage:
- Services Times – Include whether you provide children’s ministry or nursery at each service.
- Location – Include the address, at a minimum, or link to Google maps.
- What to Expect – Explain how long your service is, what people wear, when the children’s services are available, and take an opportunity to share your mission & vision. If you want to get into details of your theological beliefs, there can be another page devoted to that – it doesn’t need to be on the homepage.
- Information on Kids’ Ministry – Do you have the ability to check-in online, do you provide safe areas for their kids to learn, how do you break up your kids’ classes, and where do families need to go once they arrive at your building?
- Contact Information – Including a phone number and a monitored email is sufficient.
- Include the “Why” – Make the vision of your Church and culture easily viewable.
Including these six important areas of information will help people be more confident in their decision to check out your church. Be sure you do NOT make online giving a focal point – that’s for your internal people, right?
#2 – Use Social Media
Be careful about ONLY sharing your weekend services and event information. Your strategy should encompass your church mission and showcase you living that mission outside of your Sunday services and events. Tell a story of loving God and loving people. Share encouraging Scripture, engage followers in dialogue, and share the impact of mission trips, service projects in your community or events to support your community (celebrate your city).
#3 – Seven Minutes for a First Impression
Many people that study church guest statistics have been saying for years that first-time visitors decide whether they want to return within seven to 10 minutes of driving into your parking lot. It’s important to show that you are prepared and ready for all of your guests, first-time or regular. Church hospitality is an art; it’s a challenge to greet people the way they want to be greeted. You can under-greet some and over-greet others.
The key to a successful welcome team is providing the next steps when your guests are ready.
When it comes to greeters, it’s important to recognize there will be extroverts and introverts coming to your church. Half of them want to have personal interactions with everyone. The other half will be okay sliding in and not talking to anyone. Recognizing the difference is crucial to making all of your guests feel welcomed, but not overwhelmed. A handshake or conversation is great for some, but a smile can be a blessing to others.
#4 – During Service
If you want to make a big impact on your visitors, consider these five areas when thinking through your services.
- Introduce Yourself – Everyone that is communicating from the stage should introduce themselves. Quickly mention their role or a short reason why they are on stage.
- Don’t Use Inside Language and Names – Use language that you would use in everyday conversations. Talk like you would talk if you were hanging out with your friends (do you “fellowship” or do you “hang out” with friends)? Be aware of “church” words that you might have heard growing up, but aren’t words that we use in this century. If someone didn’t grow up in the church, they might not understand what the “blood of the lamb” means or what “redemption” means.
- Explain Your Processes – This doesn’t have to be a long explanation and can be done smoothly and naturally. Whether it’s simple prompts to sit or stand at certain times or a little longer explanation at communion or offering, be sure you are explaining it every week. Remember, even experiencing your service one time, you would pick up on these things. But a new guest has either never experienced a church service or has experienced many, neither of which helps them understand your service.
- Announce a Time to Capture Guest Info – There are varying opinions on how to capture guest information. Your church will have to figure out what works for your congregation and church management systems. Whatever you decide, make sure to do it every week. Consider the timing, method of gathering, and any other rituals around sharing this information. Explore digital options, too.
- Every Sunday is Someone’s First Sunday – This is an important thing to remember. Giving the same instructions every week seems monotonous to regular attendees. But there’s always someone in the congregation who is there for the first time.
#5 – Personal Follow-Up Without Threatening Personal Space
A personal touch makes people feel valued, and it can even be automated within your church management system (Church Community Builder calls this process queues). Be creative with these and have fun.
Remember, your FIRST goal is NOT to integrate your first-time visitor into your church. The FIRST goal has to be to get them to come again. Check out 4 Ways to Welcome and Follow-Up with First Time Guests.
#6 – Introduction to Your Church
Talk about this step often. It’s tempting to give your guests a potluck of ways to get “involved” at your church. Be sure to give them clear and obvious steps…one at a time. Create a space for people to get to know your church.
What’s your vision and mission?
Make this step fun and relational. Not everyone is ready to dive into a discipleship step right away.
#7 – Develop a Discipleship Path – Not Programs
When you give people too many options, they won’t pick anything. Define your discipleship path. Resist the urge to ask or expect everyone to jump through the steps all at once. Use phrases like “if your next step is” or “if you’ve been in a group for a while, your next step might be to jump in and serve.”
Allow your church management system and technology to help you invite your people to their next faith step in a personal and intentional way. You can customize reports to send personal and intentional invitations to their next step. For example, if someone has attended two to three times or more, but not attended your introduction class, invite them. That class will give them ONE next step to take. If you begin small groups at specific times of the year, be sure to personally invite people who have attended your introduction class but not joined a small group.
Every person that walks through your church doors, whether they are first-time visitors or a graduate from seminary, has the next step of faith they could take. Your church can provide the necessary steps to help all your worshippers continue to grow, but first, you must make a lasting impression. Be the first to try the powerful and easy-to-learn software from Church Community Builder – all the features you love, newly updated to include worship planning. Churches under 300 in weekly attendance can explore the software by starting a free trial.