10 “First Impressions” Done Well in Churches

We usually get only one shot to positively capture the attention of guests visiting our church. Here are 10 things I’ve seen churches do well in their “First Impressions” ministry:

  1. Temporary, well-done signs on the adjoining streets – Their signage directs potential guests toward the meeting place, even before they get to the building or the parking lot.
  2. Parking lot attendants and greeters – They not only help direct traffic, but they’re a smiling face as soon as you pull in the parking lot. They make you glad you’re there. 
  3. Obvious guest parking – It’s so obvious that a guest sees it, or is directed toward it, as soon as he or she enters the lot. Guest parking that’s hard to find isn’t helpful. 
  4. Clearly identified “Welcome Center” tent in the parking lot – In fact, it’s hard for guests to miss it. They know someone’s thought about them. Somebody’s expecting them.
  5. Actually friendly people at the Welcome Center – This would seem to be obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. In bad examples, I’ve met “welcoming” people who barely talked to me.
  6. Obvious entrance doors – There might be more than one in a larger building, but they’re still clearly identified.
  7. Water and coffee visibly available in the entrance – It’s a good thing to offer these simple basics for attenders. It’s even better to make them so obviously available that everybody – even first-time attenders – know they’re welcome to have some.
  8. Identifiable greeters at every door – They’re there. They’re friendly. They’re clearly identified, often with a shirt or vest in addition to a nametag. 
  9. Starting on time – Most churches don’t delay their starting time for guests; they delay because their regulars aren’t there on time. That’s disrespectful to guests, who are often on time.
  10. Welcoming guests without putting them on the spot – A simple, “We’re glad to see guests here. If you haven’t stopped by the welcome center, we invite you to do so as you leave” says, “We know you’re here. We’d love to talk to you, but it’s your call.” 

What else have you seen? What would you add to this list? 


  • Robert Martin says:

    those are all great recommendations, but what if you have a small Church with a small parking lot and no Welcome Center or coffee bar when you come in the door. I guess what I’m saying is, not all churches are large and small churches need to make a good impression as well what would you recommend for them.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Good question, Robert. To be honest, I can’t think of a church small enough that it could not do all of these things. Even in the smallest lot, greeters are important. The Welcome Center may be only a small desk, but it still says something positive to guests. Even the coffee bar need be only a small table with a coffee pot. Our church meets in the gym of a YMCA, and we still set up these things each week. Hope this helps.  

  • Rodney D says:

    Good question Robert – many church in sme areas meet in places where they rent a store front shared by many other businesses and therefore the people coming to park MAY be coming to church or they MAY be coming to the restaurant next door and rental agreements often do not allow you to reserve special slots just for your particular shop or church. I would say most (but not all) of these ideas would not work extremely well in a smaller church. Nevertheless if smaller churches are creative – they can think of ways to make visitors feel welcome – and that is the keys – making people feel welcome and like they are a part of your family.

  • Jim says:

    I love #10, but I would add that there should be some guidance for guests to suggest how they might let someone know that they want to talk (e.g. “I’ll be in the back after the service.”).

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Jim.

  • joshpezold says:

    Love it!! Great stuff. Specifically like the idea of having a tent outside. Especially in the summer month. I would add, having Lobby Hosts and Auditorium Hosts is very helpful. There role is primarily to look for and engage with first time guests. Lobby Host are looking for first time guests once they enter and connecting and directing them them where to go. The Auditorium hosts help them find seats when it’s busy and engage with newer people when they are sitting down. In larger churches it can be easy for guests to slip in unnoticed, but if you have trained people who are looking to engage new people that becomes less likely. Great stuff!

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