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Be Part of Our 'Second Impressions' Team!
by Tom Goodman
August 12, 2010

You've been hearing about our "First Impressions Team."  Now I want you to join our "Second Impressions Team."

The First Impressions Team was tasked with hiring an architect and deciding on a Master Plan for our facilities.  That plan will be presented to our church on Wednesday, August 25, 6:00-7:30, in the auditorium.  In a previous edition of LeaderLines I wrote about the five things our proposed Master Plan addresses.

Once our First Impressions Team presents their report on August 25, their work is done.  But the work of a Second Impressions Team never ends!

Charles Arn wrote about the importance of establishing "second impressions" among church visitors in a church leadership article "First impressions are important to first-time guests at your church," he wrote, "but the half-hour after service can determine whether they'll come back -- and stay."

Research shows again and again that "Friendliness of the people" is the most important thing newcomers look for.  And the most important time for "friendly talk" is immediately following the service.

After thinking about his experience of looking for a church after a move, Arn suggested some ways to increase repeat visits:

  • After-service hosts.  "A greeting time during the service is good if folks resume their conversation with the newcomer following the service.  It's bad if they pretend nothing ever happened.  If your people are not naturally congenial with newcomers, then appoint 'hosts' for after the service.  They are to make a beeline to newcomers, escort them to the coffee table, introduce them to others, and invite them back."
  • The three-minute rule.  "In one church we visited, the pastor reminded the congregation that no one could talk to anyone they knew for at least three minutes after the service!  It worked for us.  We met a wonderful person who had been attending for the past year.  Our conversation lasted over 15 minutes!  And we'll look for her friendly face when we return."
  • Church tour.  "Guests are hesitant to wander around, even though they'd like to.  So, offer a short tour after service.  It's a low-commitment, limited-time, high-information event.  The guide explains activities that take place there throughout the week, and guests naturally ask questions.  It's a much easier next step than, say, joining a membership class."
  • Follow-up contact.  "It's standard for pastors to send a 'thank you for visiting' letter.  We got nice ones from every church we attended.  But following our second visit to several of those churches -- nothing."

Arn's research findings underline the importance of making a good second impression after a good first impression.  "In typical, plateaued churches," he wrote, "nine percent of all first-time visitors join the following year.  But among second-time visitors (twice in a six-week period), 17% join.  And third-time guests unite at a rate of 36% in the ensuing year.  The pattern is similar for growing churches: 21% of first-timers, 38% of second-timers, 57% of third-timers return and join."

His conclusion?  "A unique follow-up contact with second-time guests is like planting seeds in good soil.  A follow up strategy for third-timers is like bringing in a ripe harvest."

So, as Hillcrest leaders, be sure to come out and hear the report from the First Impressions Team on August 25.  But be part of helping us make good second impressions on visitors, too!


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