Church growth books on first impressions often stress the first 7 minutes of a visitor’s experience.
But this surprise result indicates that the something else is more important than first impressions.
Charles Arn has surveyed thousands of people: (Source: 3 Questions for Charles Arn – orig link no longer online)
We also asked the focus groups when they decided that the church was friendly or not.
From the answers we got, there’s a ten-minute window that is pregnant with opportunities for a church to make a good impression. And it wasn’t the ten minutes I expected.
I thought they would say it was right after they got out of the car and walked into the building, but more than any other time, folks said,
“I decided this was a friendly church in the ten minutes following the conclusion of the service.”
Many feel that that is the first time people are free to be themselves.
Up until that point, you go through the routine and enter the sanctuary and follow the directions. But when the last song is sung and the last prayer is prayed, then it’s a free-for-all, and in the minds of the visitors, they’re asking, “Will these people really go out of their way to welcome newcomers like me?”
Reflects my experiences making visits
Like Arn, I found this surprising, but it makes sense. The most important time is after the service not before.
When I am a first time visitor I am focused on the mechanics of
- getting to the sanctuary,
- getting a seat
- getting oriented to my surroundings.
- getting my children to the right place.
The ministry of church greeters, ushers and location of signs are helpful in accomplishing that task.
A task oriented mentality before the service starts narrows the focus to accomplishing the task, not to evaluating the friendliness of a congregation.
The more helpful the congregation is in getting that task done (greeters, ushers, signs) the easier I can begin to relax in the presence of total strangers.
After the service?
However, the 10 minutes after the service is entirely different.
I am now relaxed, ready to engage people, having heard a message, prayed, sang some songs.
I grab a cup of coffee and am now ready to talk with people about what I just experienced.
This is where the level of friendliness comes to clear view:
- Is any one approaching me as a first time visitor?
- Does any one want to talk with me?
Steps to improve your church hospitality after worship
In my ebook, How to Welcome Church Visitors, a whole chapter is devoted to these important ten minutes, including how to talk with visitors after the service.
These 10 minutes are not the time to conduct church business between members.
It’s time to talk with your church visitors and begin the possibility of new friendships.
The research shows that those 10 minutes after the service are the perfect time to take initiative and talk with your guests.
- Introduce yourself: “I’ve not met you yet, I’m Chris . . . . “
- Offer to pray with them right then if a need is shared.
- Offer to answer questions they might have about their experience.
These 10 minutes are about them — not about you or your church volunteer needs.
It’s not about the quality of your coffee or the freshness of the pastries (though that is important).
It’s about intentionally making connections after the service.
Instead of locating all the articles on church hospitality on my website, consider my ebook “How to Welcome Church Visitors.” Follow the link with this banner and learn more about how that ebook can help you improve your systems.