This season of my life has led me to visit great churches. And they’ve all been beautiful and sincere communities. It’s been a privilege to worship with each one of them!
Each visit had been due to a different reason. Whether to teach, lead worship, seek advice or even give advice, or just to worship, it’s been a joy! I’ve been able to learn from every one of them.
Except for a few experiences I had that I wish I could “unlearn.”
Because, unfortunately in some communities the unthinkable can happen…
You may be able to identify with this experience. When you walk into a congregation and no one greets you.
Not one soul!
When it happened to me it made me feel like the invisible man, which is torture for an extrovert like me!
What if I was someone far from God, looking for Him for the first time, and I decided to just go into a church like this? Or, what if I was a brand new believer looking for guidance? Or a long-time Christian in a new town looking for new friends?
In any one of these cases I think the reaction would be anything from departure to loss of faith.
Please, don’t let this happen in your church!
Instead, try one of the following antidotes:
1) Train all your church members to be “ushers.” Without having to invite the whole church to join the First Impressions Ministry, every member should be on the lookout for people who are new to their community, and should try to approach new faces. Not everyone will heed the advice, but usually extroverts with people skills tend to abide and engage!
2) Train your First impressions ministry members in the CONNECT LOOP:
The connect loop is 4 steps: CONNECT, DOWNLOAD, WALK-AND-TALK, UPLOAD: Here’s how it works out…
- Connect: First Impression Ministry volunteers should be scanning the crowd to make contact with guests, and make the first step to engage with a smile, a welcome, and a “how can I help you today?”
- Download: upon making contact with a new guest, we must seek to understand in a short period of time why they are there, and if they have any needs. Upon finding a smiling face and a warm welcome, guests should feel free to “download” information about them and their request. For example, they may share their name, and their need to find the nursery for their kids. Or in other cases, they may share their need for someone to pray with.
- Walk-and-talk: “The West Wing” fans may recognize this dynamic of conversation where characters would literally have deep and short conversations while walking. First Impression Ministry volunteers should lead guests in a similar fashion quickly after making contact and learning their current needs.
- Upload: at this point the volunteer can educate the guest about how the church can fulfill their current need, and the answer should be above-and-beyond what’s expected. For example, if they are looking for the gym, the answer can include directions as well as other activities held in that location. Or, if they need pastoral counseling, the answer can be the name of a pastor or leader who can provide that, as well as some success stories of people who’ve sought out the same kind of help in the past.
- BONUS: What if the question is so simple and obvious that all they need is a short answer? In that case, the Disney Institute has written an article entitled: “How Would You Respond If Asked: What Time Is The 3 O’clock Parade‘?” that answers that question beautifully! Just follow the link.
- Connect: Here’s where the loop closes and begins again. The guest has been welcomed, educated, and guided to a new location or person. Hopefully at this point the volunteer can connect the guest with another volunteer in the church, a pastor or a leader, and create an opportunity for a relationship.
3) Train yourself to welcome new people! Whether you are a leader or not at your church, you can welcome those who are new and need God! Scan the crowd! Smile a lot! Barge in! You might find your next best friend in the process!
If this is already happening, celebrate and engage! If it’s not, don’t let this happen in your church!