4 Things That Should Happen in the First 7 Minutes in Our Churches Each Sunday

FourToday, as I continue discussing Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, I will look at the 7-minute, pre-service period when first-time guests decide if they will return for a second visit. Searcy refers to this time as the time “from the street to the seat.” This is the time before the service even begins. Searcy says “Your pre-service mission is to make every effort to take your guests’ guard down and even put a smile on their face–before the service begins.

4 THINGS IN THE FIRST 7 MINUTES

  • GREETED: Welcomed with a smile. Searcy says we should memorize the sentence “everything speaks to first-time guests–everything.” He says we should strive for excellence and he defines excellence as “doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” Journey Church discovered from their surveys of first-time guests that one of the things they noticed and appreciated most were the smiling faces and the warm welcome as they entered the building. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE!
  • DIRECTED: Simply and politely shown to where they need to go. Guests should be directed either by a sign or a volunteer–preferably by both. When it comes to first-time guests, Searcy said the real estate axiom “location, location, location” should be replaced by “signs, signs, signs.” Searcy says that signs are the single best way to ensure that guests can find what they need. I strongly agree, but I think a church can overdo it in this area. You can get so many signs that none of the signs stand out. Having said that, I’ve only seen a couple of churches that had too many signs.
  • TREATED: Shown respect, and happily surprised with comfort food and a drink. Searcy says, “first-time guests want to feel respected and welcomed. They want to know that you are happy they’re there and that you are serious about making sure they have a good experience.” One of the best ways to convey that message is through food, but it should be well done. Searcy says, “Don’t skimp on food. This is not the area to try to save a nickel. Don’t halve foods to make them stretch. Don’t glare at the person who takes three donuts. Good food lets your guests know that you care enough to offer them something for free that will meet a need.” Provide a good, quality coffee with flavored creamers and large cups. Provide juice, bottled water, and a high quality donut. Some may also want to provide bagels and other alternatives.
  • SEATED: Led to comfortable, appropriate seats. If possible, guests should be led to a seat. It is often very awkward when they try to find a seat on their own. The usher will feel comfortable asking someone to slide over, but the first-time guests usually will not do so. Guests typically are among the last to enter. As a result, it is more difficult for them to find seats on their own. A great usher can strategically seat guests in sections that have people their age.

By the way, be sure to buy Searcy’s book, Fusion. We are only touching the highlights here, so you will want to read it from cover to cover. Here are a few of my other posts on similar topics.

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7 Minutes and Counting

Stop-WatchToday, we continue talking about Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Searcy titled chapter 3, Seven Minutes and Counting. In the chapter, he talked the importance of what happens to first-time guests during the first 7 minutes of their visit. He wrote,

 

Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive first impression. In the first 7 minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back. That’s before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.

Common sense tells us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unfortunately, first impressions are usually lasting impressions. If Searcy is correct in saying that guests are deciding whether they are coming back in the first 7 minutes, then the question becomes, “what’s actually being judged?”

Are they judging the building, the landscaping, the parking lot, the church sign, the entrance area, the lobby, the parking lot greeters, the door greeters, the bulletin? The simple answer is “YES“! They probably judge all those things, but keep in mind, they decide if they are coming back before they sing the first song or hear a word of the sermon.

As pastors, we usually spend a large portion of our week planning the worship service and preparing the message without being proactive in this important area. We should continue our practice of sermon preparation, but we should also give thought, time, and attention to helping our guests have a great first impression. As pastors, we should take the lead in this area.

In my next post, I will look at the 7-minute, first impression time Searcy refers to as the time “from the street to the seat.” Here are my other posts along these lines.

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The Key to Keep Church Guests Coming Back

fallsemester_serve2Let’s continue to look at Nelson Searcy’s rockin’ assimilation book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Today, we will look at God’s assimilation plan discussed in chapter 2.

But before we get into our discussion, let me encourage you to check out his blog and the free stuff that he is providing to help churches in their work for the Lord. Here are some helpful links to his website:

. . . . Now, on with the discussion. In chapter 2, Searcy wrote,

God has not only given us the responsibility of being hospitable to His guests, but He has also given us the perfect example of how to go about it. Jesus came to the earth to serve, not to be served. Throughout the New Testament, we see His examples of selfless service for those He had the opportunity to influence. And we’ve been left with the challenge of doing even greater things. When we serve our guests well, we reflect Jesus’ attitude and mindset toward them.

Although Searcy provided a thorough definition of assimilation in chapter 1, he sums up assimilation here as follows:

Assimilation is simply well-planned biblical hospitality through service. The head of our organization is the greatest server of all time. Doesn’t it follow that we should be the ultimate example of such service to our guests? With the right system in place, we can serve in a way that will truly touch lives for God’s kingdom.

For more details about  improving assimilation in your church, see the following posts:

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Great Book on Assimilation by Nelson Searcy

19_largeIn the next few posts, I am going to be discussing Nelson Searcy’s excellent assimilation book entitled, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Searcy is the founding pastor of Journey Church in New York City and formerly served as the founding director of the Purpose Driven Community with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. He has personally trained more than 20,000 pastors, church planters, and church leaders through Church Leader Insights.  I have been privileged to particpate in one of his 12-month coaching networks–I highly recommend it!

In chapter 2 of his book, Searcy discusses the concept of “biblical hospitality.” Here’s an excerpt:

The Church–your church–truly is a family expecting guests. And you should be ready to show them intentional hospitality when they arrive. While they are in your company, they need to feel comfortable and valued, no matter where they are in their spiritual development. When they leave, be proactive in giving them a return invitation they’ll be hard pressed to refuse. Your church is a representative of the bigger family of God. As you put a system in place to effectively integrate guests into the family, you will be able to fulfill part of the responsibility He placed on you when He prompted them your way. God is honored when you show your guests true biblical hospitality. . . . Assimilation is simply well-planned biblical hospitality through service.

I like the phrase “biblical hospitality” because it reminds us that being hospitable to others is biblical. When God sends guests to our church, He expects us to prepare for their visit, speak the truth in love, and minister to their needs. He expects us to meet them where they are, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity and move them closer to Christ.

As the church, we should put our best foot forward, treat our guests with kindness, and let people know we care.

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