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How to Make a Great First Impression on Guests

Do you want families to return to your church? There are specific, proven ways you can make a great first impression on guests so they’ll want to come back.


Retailers understand the old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So the finest retailers do whatever it takes for them to make a favorable first impression the minute you enter their store. If you’re not wowed immediately, they’ve failed.

How about your children’s ministry? Would first-time visitors say that you wowed them from the beginning? If not, you may need to learn 10 retail principles from the best retailers that’ll help as you seek to retell the greatest story every told.

1. Directional Signs

Studies have shown that we get 30 seconds to make either a favorable or unfavorable first impression. For most retail stores, customers first see the signs on the outside of the store. Inside the building, signs are visibly located to give customers directions to where they currently are and to other areas they may want to go. Department signs clearly mark each area. Many stores also display pictures or the names of their management team so customers know who to go to with questions or concerns.

Directional signs are also very important in helping your first-time families feel at ease in your children’s ministry area. What is it that your visitors see first?

Post directional signs on the outside of your church to clearly label your children’s ministry area. Post easy-to-read location signs at each of your entrances and key traffic locations. Provide first-time visitors maps to your classrooms. Clearly identify each room with an easy-to-read sign. Post pictures of children’s ministry staff and lead volunteers in a central area, perhaps near your information booth.

2. Helpful Staff

Retailers spend money to get you into their stores, but they know that all the money they spend on great merchandise, great advertisements, and great signs will be a waste if you have a bad experience with a sales associate. The best retailers also spend a considerable amount of time and money on training, mentoring, and encouraging sales or customer service staff.

Just as a store’s selling staff represents the store and their product, your ministry needs a great staff representing it. So who greets your first-time visitors? How well do these people represent your ministry?

Your ministry team—staff and volunteers—should have clearly identified name tags. Consider having your greeters wear brightly colored buttons with the words “Ask Me About Children’s Ministry.” This automatically helps visitors know where to go for help. Station greeters at each church entrance to assist visitors as they enter. Create an information or visitor check-in booth where visitors can get information and answers to their questions. Position individual greeters outside each classroom door to ensure that these greeters are clearly visible and easy to find. Hold an annual or biannual workshop geared only toward how to assist and greet the first-time visitor. Just as retailers hold weekly associate meetings to update staff on new procedures or product training, communicate regularly with your greeters about ministry changes, new information, or churchwide news. The more informed your greeters are, the better they can answer questions.

3. Product Information And Packaging

Retailers help their customers with product tags that give customers valuable information such as the product content and care instructions. Retailers also carefully display and package products to not only be eye appealing, but to also aid customers in easily finding what they’re looking for. You can help first-time visitors by giving them “product information” about your ministry.

Use attractive, concise brochures to give overview information about your ministry. Provide newsletters to give current information about ministry programs. Use wall, tabletop, or full-unit racks to display your printed information. Keep racks fully stocked with current brochures that are clearly marked and easily identifiable. Display and label information according to ministry category. Keep all information pertaining to the nursery, preschool, or elementary ages together. Keep camp or alternative-program information together. You may also want to keep a supply of brochures on adult and youth ministry information at your visitor booth.

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