Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Important Truths for reaching first-time visitors

Key `moments of truth' important for reaching first-time visitors
by Gary L. McIntosh, author ofBeyond the First Visit

To honestly appreciate the new person's experience, you need to set
aside your `insider' understanding about your church and think like
an `outsider.'

I was visiting a church in Indiana. As I walked into the church
lobby, the person who was walking with me commented, "You'll like
our church. It's a very friendly place."

Once inside the building, we were immediately met by a man carrying
an armfull of papers. Introductions were polite and we shook hands.
However, it was what followed that surprised me.

Upon completing our handshake, the man turned to my friend and began
to talk about some church business, which, in truth, should not have
been discussed in my presence.

As they talked, the man moved nervously back and forth on his feet
gradually changing his position so that his back was actually
pointed toward me.

I remember thinking to myself, "Hey! I'm the guest here. Quit
ignoring me!" But I did not say anything to him.

Once he was done discussing his bit of church business, he seemed to
catch a glimpse of me out of the side of his eye. In an embarrassed
and hasty attempt to make me feel welcome, he said, "It was nice to
meet you. You'll like our church. It's a very friendly place."

Encounters of the right kind
When a person talks to a member of your church, or calls on the
telephone, or receives a brochure in the mail, or drives into your
parking lot, or whatever, it is a moment of truth.

A moment of truth is any occasion in which a person comes into
contact with and forms an impression of your church.

The importance of these moments of truth should not be

First, remember that people outside of your church do not go around
thinking about you.

Second, remember that your church only exists in such a person's
mind when he or she makes some type of contact with you, either
directly or indirectly.

Third, remember that the impression formed by such contact is
generalized in an individual's mind to your entire church.

Fourth, the end result of the contact is a feeling – positive or
negative – about your entire church.

What do you think I felt about the church I visited in Indiana?

Think like a guest
To honestly appreciate the new person's experience, you need to set
aside your "insider" understanding about your church and think like
an "outsider."

A good way to do so is to list the key moments of truth that guests
to your church encounter. Then, walk through each one with "guest
eyes" attempting to see each aspect as they would.

There are, of course, many moments of truth. However, newcomers to
every church face the 10 that follow. Think through each one and
describe what happens now and what should happen when a guest
encounters each moment of truth at your church.

1. Driving up to the church building. Is the landscaping around your
church well kept? Is the parking lot nicely paved and clear of
debris? Are the exterior walls and windows of the building
attractive? Are there parking spaces clearly marked for guests?

2. Walking up to the front door. Are there warm and friendly people
greeting guests before they enter the building? Is the entrance
clearly marked? Does the entrance present an inviting look that
says, "Please come in?"

3. Entering the front door. Are the sounds that guests hear upon
entering the building uplifting? Is there a pleasant smell? Does the
decor seem attractive and welcoming? Are the directional signs
easily visible? Are there people available to answer questions and
give assistance?

4. Contacting people. Are church members outgoing and approachable?
Do they express an attitude of acceptance to newcomers? Is there an
honest friendliness without being mushy or overbearing?

5. Experiencing ministries and services. Is the child care area
clean, bright, and open? Are the rest rooms clean and free of
unpleasant odors? Are classrooms nicely decorated?

6. Meeting ushers and entering the sanctuary. Do ushers smile and
express a friendly attitude? Is the atmosphere of the worship area
vibrant and happy? Is there room to sit without being unduly
crowded? Are guests welcomed graciously and treated with respect?

7. Participating in the worship service. Is the order of the worship
service explained and easy for the guest to follow? Are the songs
singable by newcomers? Are the words of the songs available to them?
Do newcomers leave wishing the service had been longer? Do guests
feel at ease and comfortable?

8. Exiting the worship service. Do guests find a friendly atmosphere
upon leaving the worship area? Are they greeted in positive ways by
people around them? Are they invited to a refreshment table to talk
and meet others from the church?

9. Following contacts. Do guests receive a personal contact within
48 hours of their first visit to your church? Are they thanked for
their attendance? Are they invited back? Do you ask for their
evaluation of your church? Do you in some way surprise guests with
an extra measure of service beyond what they expect?

10. Ongoing contacts in the future. Are guests put on your mailing
list for appropriate future contact? Do guests receive a church
newsletter on a regular basis? Do you mail them informational
brochures describing ministries they might find interesting? Do you
call them to extend a personal invitation to special events?

What do guests see, experience, and feel from these moments of truth
in your church? What should they experience? What can your church
begin to do to make these moments of truth positive experiences for
your guests?

Adapted from a new book by Gary L. McIntosh, Ph.D., Beyond the First
Visit released by Baker

No comments: