Multi-etching group of happy students greeting someone in university hallway.

You’ve likely heard the adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” But have you ever considered how long it takes to make that first impression? Person to person that first impression is made in the initial ninety seconds. That’s right, less than two minutes. Each individual begins making an impression based on his/her life’s experiences and perceptions, even before the first words are interchanged.

In business and the church world we might have a little breathing space in the time that first impression is made. In the church, and the same is true with any business, there are four sets of firsts. With each one of these any newcomer will have an impression of your organization within the first three minutes.

The first is turning into your property. The first things a guest sees is making a lasting impression. How is the curb appeal, neatly landscaped, colorful, clean, or shabby, run down trashed? Three minutes is a long time. In most cases you will have made a lasting impression on a new comer in less than three minutes.

The second is signage. Is it clear to a newcomer where to park and where to enter your building? If they must drive around with no clear sign for point of entry, and a clean looking entry, some will keep on driving, looking for something more appealing.

The third is entering your building. People want to be greeted. Even Walmart learned this years ago, though they have gotten away from the original intent of their greeters. I’ve seen greeters in churches standing talking amongst themselves while ignoring guests walking in the door. This does not make a good impression.

Another important factor for guests entering your building is signage inside the building. Once inside is it clear where to go? Where are the restrooms, nursery, worship facility? Once inside a store is it clear which way to turn to get to the department or line of products desired? If not greeted, made to feel welcome with clear direction in three minutes, you’ve likely lost a returning guest.

The fourth area in the church is in the worship center. Is it warm and inviting? Are guests being greeted? Are members speaking to guests, welcoming them or staring at them? Within three minutes guests will know if this is a place which they desire to return.

It takes less than three minutes to make a first impression. Fortunately, you have four opportunities to make a good first impression in the church and other businesses. If you fail in any one of these, the other three may not be strong enough to garner a return visit.

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