14 things you can do to immediately improve first impressions

By Ted Traylor

Ed Gray was one of the most gifted and positive men I have ever known. He was the leader of the Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola, Florida. He often said: “When you walk into a room, you can move the temperature two degrees up or down. It all has to do with your energy.”

When guests walk onto your church property, it is important to have people who give a warm hello. At Olive Baptist Church, this is called our First Impressions Team.


1. Put the right people in place. Choosing people who are passionate and engaging is the first hurdle. Attitude and service make a difference when it comes to raising the temp.

2. We ask our greeters to personally walk people to the destination. With this in mind, plan for two people at the door. This way, when one goes on mission, there is one left. Our desire is to hand the guest off to another individual.

3. We ask greeters to be in place 15 minutes before the service and remain at least 15 minutes after the service begins.

4. We seek to place people with the right personality and temperament at appropriate entrances. You must have people who love kids greeting at the children’s building entrance. There are a few long hallways in our building. Our plan is to place a few people at strategic spots in those hallways.

5. We train our greeters to have eyes for guests after worship. That is a good time to thank people for coming and invite them to return. Those who serve as ushers are trained to watch for new people in their sections as people tend to sit in the same place. A simple handshake and welcome can raise the temperature.

Welcome desk

1. These volunteers must be trained with knowledge. They must be problem solvers who are flexible and creative.

2. “No butts allowed” comes right out of the restaurant industry. Never allow people to hang out at the welcome desk and lean on it with their backside as the thing people see as they walk up.

3. We have a small gift for second-time guests. A letter from the pastor to first-timers includes a card, that if returned can be exchanged for the gift. We use a written booklet by the pastor, musical CD, or something else that might be seasonal. Welcome desk volunteers need to have a supply of the things to be given.


1. Someone will extend a welcome to guests in the service. This often is the pastor or another staff member. We ask them to register with us, using their phone or with the card in the pew in front of them.

2. A smile from the one giving the greeting raises the temp. Let them know their presence is a joy to all of us at church.

3. We refrain from having guests be seated as members stand. Polls show that this makes most people very uncomfortable.

4. We do not shake hands at greeting time. We train our people to do that at the conclusion of worship to all those around them. The atmosphere in the service can be one of friendliness that makes the greeting very natural. You must train your people in this. Talk about it from time to time.

5. Not every pastor can, but I station myself at a different entrance before our early service and greet people. I keep someone with me to help with issues that may arise. Most of those are people needing help with something, and I can hand those off to another person to offer further ministry.

6. I bend down on a knee a lot to talk with kids. If the little ones like me, I have an advocate in that home asking to come back to our church. It works!

Published May 30, 2018

Ted Traylor

Since 1990 Dr. Ted Traylor is the pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. His weekly radio and television ministry, At the Heart of Things, reaches thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast and through weekly podcasts and streaming. Dr. Traylor’s bold and practical preaching brings people to a fresh understanding of God’s Word and challenges them to become bondservants for Christ. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Samford University in 1997 and a Master of Divinity (1981) and Doctor of Ministry (1986) degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to serving as First Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 and President of the Florida Baptist Convention in 1995, Dr. Traylor was President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2004 Pastors’ Conference, 2010 Pensacola Bay Baptist Association moderator, and was part of the 2010 Great Commission Resurgence Task force team. Currently Dr. Traylor is proud to serve on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes board for the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!).