How Pastors Can Make Good First Impressions
A first impression is made in as little as seven seconds. Within a few moments, guests are beginning to form ideas—positive or negative—about your church. The first person a guest meets will influence the first impression. When a guest walks into the building, the first item they see will prompt them to form opinions about the church.
These first impressions are universal. Businesses and schools deal with them. Everyone has first impressions. Even when you consciously try to be impartial, you cannot avoid those first feelings and perceptions.
Hospitality is the most underrated spiritual gift. The first impressions ministry is often one of the most under-resourced.
Every guest in your church will have a first impression. Let that register. Every person who will eventually join, serve, and give will experience a common phenomenon. How you manage first impressions is critical to the health of the church. And leading the church includes being acutely aware of first impressions.
Pastors should lead by example with how they manage first impressions.
Don’t carry your phone. The distraction is too tempting. Focus on people. It’s impossible to be polite when you pull out your phone while having a first conversation with someone. The texts can wait until after church.
Show initiative and passion. Don’t wait for someone to approach you. Go to those who you do not recognize. Ask them friendly questions about their lives. Be genuinely interested in their background and story.
Camp in different areas of the church each week. Most people are creatures of habit. Intentionally choose a different part of the church each week and start conversations with the people in those areas.
Be knowledgeable about campus activities and locations. A few months ago, I attended a crowded sporting event with my four small children. I asked an attendant about our seats. He directed me to another section. Then another attendant told me I was in the wrong section. The confusion was frustrating and slightly stressful as I moved through crowds with my kids. If a guest knows you are the pastor, he or she will expect you to know locations on the campus and activities taking place.
Walk with guests. Ask their names. Don’t ever point. Walk. Use your feet, not your fingers. As you are walking, ask them their names and work hard to remember them.
Smile. Speak slowly and clearly. A good first impression almost always includes a smile and clarity. Good first impressions happen when people enjoy your presence and understand your words.
Church campuses are beginning to reopen. Most of us are swamped with the details of getting everything running again. Likely, you have considered the first impressions ministry. But don’t forget about the first impression that you as an individual will make.