You’re welcome!

By James Merritt

Never were truer words spoken by Jesus than these: “He who is faithful in that which is least will be faithful in that which is much.”

Those words are especially true in the most important five minutes: when a guest enters your church. They are sizing you up from the time they drive onto your parking lot until they walk into your lobby and beyond. That is why one of the most important volunteers we have at our campuses is our First Impressions Team. You truly only get one chance to make a first impression.

One of the best things you can do (and the best money you will spend) is to pay someone (preferably an unbeliever) to visit your church for the express purpose of giving feedback on the visit. Neither your staff nor your volunteers should be alerted to this. Have a template of things you would want the guest to be looking for and be prepared for honest (and, yes, perhaps brutal) feedback. We tend to get so used to what we see every Sunday that we miss the forest for the trees.

Our First Impressions Team begins at the entrance to the parking lot. We have team members greeting people as they drive in, and they are clearly marked as greeters and parking attendants. They may just wave as you drive in, or they will help with any questions someone may have. Once you enter the parking lot, you see signs instructing you to turn on your flashers if you want to be directed to guest parking. If it is raining, we have people to assist with umbrellas, or other needs in inclement weather.

Once a guest gets to the door, there are greeters at every entrance to welcome them. They are instructed not to try to shake hands or touch others, for reasons ranging from hygiene to giving people space, unless the visitor extends a hand or offers another physical greeting. Once inside, there is an information desk clearly marked with a number of volunteers ready to answer questions or give directions, and there is a staff of volunteers ready to personally assist preschoolers, children, and teenagers to their respective meeting places. All are registered by computer, and secure check in and check out is required from infancy through children.

Every guest is greeted as they enter the worship center, handed a worship guide, and if necessary guided to seating by an usher. We encourage guests to fill out a guest registration card and take the card to our Connection Pointe table for a free gift after the service. We also have a pastor’s table, where I and other pastors can meet guests at our various campuses.

Each guest gets a follow-up email and/or letter from our church immediately, and each child gets a note from the appropriate director or minister, thanking them for their visit and inviting them back, as well as informing them of upcoming events they might be interested in.

When guests pick up their children, they are individually thanked for allowing their children to come and are welcome back the next week. All who leave are bid a warm goodbye by a greeter at the door as they leave the building, and we have volunteers in the lobby who are doing the same before they get to an exit.

My one piece of advice is this: Think like a guest constantly, train your team to do as well, and you will be on your way to making a great first impression!

Published May 30, 2018

James Merritt

Pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.