Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The First 3 to 5 Minutes

"Visitors will decide in the first 3 to 5 minutes of visiting your church whether they will return."

1. Where did we pick up that bit of marketing savvy? Is it true? I've heard it several places and each time it's left me feeling doubtful. It definitely stresses the need to be warm and welcoming to new folks, and to have the place cleaned up with easy access to things (like parking, the nursery and restrooms). But has the church succumbed so completely to consumer marketing that we are entirely dependent on first impressions?

2. Many times my "first impression" of a person and place has been completely wrong. What I thought I would not like I ended up enjoying or realizing I needed. What happens if the congregation is well trained and excels at first impressions, but isn't authentic and transparent in sharing the love of God in its relationships?

3. How does the church help people transition from being "consumers shopping for a church" to being "seekers of Christ?" Is it by being warm and friendly in the first 3 to 5 minutes and feeling like the job is done?

4. What if we removed the 'open doors' tagline and required that new people be sponsored? Aside from the charge of exclusiveness, what would happen to church growth? I am a Rotarian. We don't have people just walk into our meetings; they are invited by a Rotarian. We take them to the Rotary meeting, introduce them to others, and bring them back several times before asking them to become part of our club. Rotarians balance first impressions with personal relationships.

5. Something tells me that if we truly care about other people connecting with love of Christ that is expressed in the body of Christ, the first 3 to 5 minutes will take care of themselves.

1 comment:

roadtripray said...

Very good points as usual. Sometimes I wonder if all our marketing studies do water down the church's witness. But then if we don't get the people into the church to begin with, how can we have a chance to teach them?

The "Relational Evangelism" workshop you taught in Clover had a real deep impact on me. It has changed how I look at evangelism and it's just an amazing thing to see those efforts bear fruit. I think the concept of "sponsoring" new members or visitors can really be an extension of relational evangelism.

Not that someone would have to be sponsored to come in, but once they are visiting a church, wouldn't it be awesome to people who share common interests that make a real caring relationship with the new visitors and members? I have been talking with my wife about something along these lines for one of the churches we're appointed to. It's not a new concept, it had been done at another church where I was on the evangelism committee. We simply grouped people together so if someone missed church for a couple of weeks, there was a friendly voice who stayed in touch just in case the absence was an indicator that something was wrong or otherwise they needed to know that we cared for them and missed them.

I think our church does this already informally. My concern is that someone walking in the door brand new hasn't made those connections and would fall through the cracks easily. I've seen that happen at other churches, too. Someone is out for a couple of weeks due to illness or other problem, nobody contacts them, and they think the church doesn't care.

I guess I'm "oozing" over into the nurture category, but I think with relational evangelism the nurture/evangelism border is blurred anyway. We must make and maintain those connections with others as they progress in their faith walk.