“Don’t offend them—you let me do that.” In essence, this is something I heard Andy Stanley said that he conveyed to his staff. I get this—the gospel of Christ is offensive to many. Our bathrooms, parking, décor, lack of signage, etc., should not be. Are my eyes opened to this reality? Are yours?
Tim Cool penned an outstanding book called Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space. Rather than this book being simply about buildings, I found that this book was mainly about the vision of the church. The chapters are short, accessible, and thought-provoking for churches ready to take that next step.
In Chapter 24, entitled, “Seven Seconds: Make the Most of It,” he tells us things that we as established churches need to hear about those who visit our church:
Seven seconds: that is how much time you have to make a first impression. Some experts say more, some say less, but most pundits agree that seven seconds is the average time you have to make a first impression. Think about that. That is not much time.
There are dozens of posts on the Internet that will give you hints to best utilize these seven seconds when going to a job interview or making a sales call. But the same principle applies to the guests at our churches. Have you ever thought that your guests are looking at their experience in much the same way they might evaluate a buying decision? Don’t get defensive when people enter your facility for the first time with this perspective. This attitude may not be healthy, but it’s a reality churches must understand.
So what can you do in those first seven seconds to influence their experience? I actually believe that a guest to your church will have multiple seven second encounters. Below are the areas that I believe most critical:
- The parking lot experience. We nee to be aware that if this is a challenge and their first seven seconds on your site are frustrating, that may not stay. Even if they do stay, then you began the visit with a tone of frustration.
- Where do I go now? Way-finding and signage are too often underwhelming, which can add to the anxiety of our guests.
- What door do I go in? Guests do not want to ask questions and do not respond well to facility ambiguity.
- The First “Hey.” The first person to visually, verbally, and physically interact with a guest sets the tone for the entire experience.
- We have been preparing for your visit. As they step into your facility, will a guest see that you have been intentional about their arrival? Are things clean, neat, inviting, engaging, and well maintained with a sense of pride?
Don’t squander those seven seconds. Be intentional. Be deliberate. And be consistent.
Thoughts? What are we doing to make the first impressions of our guests positive ones? This matters to me because lots of these take place even before I get up to preach!
What think ye?