First Impressions

10 “First Impressions” Done Well in Churches

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We usually get only one shot to positively capture the attention of guests visiting our church. Here are 10 things I’ve seen churches do well in their “First Impressions” ministry:

  1. Temporary, well-done signs on the adjoining streets – Their signage directs potential guests toward the meeting place, even before they get to the building or the parking lot.
  2. Parking lot attendants and greeters – They not only help direct traffic, but they’re a smiling face as soon as you pull in the parking lot. They make you glad you’re there.
  3. Obvious guest parking – It’s so obvious that a guest sees it, or is directed toward it, as soon as he or she enters the lot. Guest parking that’s hard to find isn’t helpful.
  4. Clearly identified “Welcome Center” tent in the parking lot – In fact, it’s hard for guests to miss it. They know someone’s thought about them. Somebody’s expecting them.
  5. Actually friendly people at the Welcome Center – This would seem to be obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. In bad examples, I’ve met “welcoming” people who barely talked to me.
  6. Obvious entrance doors – There might be more than one in a larger building, but they’re still clearly identified.
  7. Water and coffee visibly available in the entrance – It’s a good thing to offer these simple basics for attenders. It’s even better to make them so obviously available that everybody – even first-time attenders – know they’re welcome to have some.
  8. Identifiable greeters at every door – They’re there. They’re friendly. They’re clearly identified, often with a shirt or vest in addition to a nametag.
  9. Starting on time – Most churches don’t delay their starting time for guests; they delay because their regulars aren’t there on time. That’s disrespectful to guests, who are often on time.
  10. Welcoming guests without putting them on the spot – A simple, “We’re glad to see guests here. If you haven’t stopped by the welcome center, we invite you to do so as you leave” says, “We know you’re here. We’d love to talk to you, but it’s your call.”

What else have you seen? What would you add to this list?


Editor’s note: This post was originally published at

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MDiv Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

The Preaching and Pastoral Ministry track prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local church with a special emphasis on expository preaching.

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Chuck Lawless

Director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership

Dr. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, and Vice-President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, in addition to serving as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board. He previously served as a Vice-President for Global Theological Advance for the IMB. Prior to that, he was dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he also served as Vice President for Academic Programming and the Director of Professional Doctoral Studies. He received a B.S. degree from Cumberland College and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary. He is the author of eight works, including “Membership Matters,” and “Spiritual Warfare,” and has contributed numerous articles to denominational periodicals. He and his wife Pam have been married for over 25 years and reside here in Wake Forest, NC.

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