Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First Impressions Ministry Par Excellence

By Bruce Raley

A few years ago, my wife and I were in San Diego for a weekend.  We chose to worship at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.  David Jeremiah is the long time pastor…and Bible teacher extraordinaire. One of the great surprises of the church visit was the excellent first impressions ministry.

Here is a step-by-step journal of how we were greeted:
  • As we approached the church, clear signs were visible indicating special parking for guests, within steps of the front door.  As we pulled into the guest lot, two men welcomed and directed us to a parking spot.
  • Upon parking, a smiling, joyful lady greeted us as we got out of the car.  She warmly welcomed us, engaged us in a short conversation and directed us to the worship center.
  • As we approached the worship center, people greeted us both outside and inside the door.  By this time we had heard “Welcome to Shadow Mountain” from four different people, all with warmth, smiles and sincerity. 
  • Once inside, we were again greeted as we entered the door of the worship center.  We were given a sermon listening guide and worship folder.  Even though we arrived fairly early and plenty of seats were available, we were asked if we needed help being seated.
  • During the service, opportunity was given to greet one another.  Plenty of time was given for this.  It did not appear to be an obligatory tradition, but a time to genuinely express a welcome to those around.
  • Pastor Jeremiah greeted everyone early in the service.  He asked guests to complete a registration card that was located in the seat backs.  But, he did not ask for them to be placed in the offering plate (as is the custom in many churches).  Instead, he said the church had a gift for each guest.  The gift was a personally signed copy of a book he had written.  Simply bring the guest card to one of the church staff after the service to receive the book.  When he announced this, I wondered how many guests would feel comfortable doing this.  To my surprise, guests lined up at the end of the service to personally give their card to a staff member.   I thought this was a great idea.  Guests leave with a personal gift from the church.  Plus, church leadership has personal contact with guests. 
I was impressed with the whole morning. It did not appear the first impression ministry was just a job for those involved. I loved the smiles and warmth. I appreciated the welcoming words. And… I enjoyed the book.
Bruce Raley currently serves as Director Church Education Ministry, Lifeway Christian Resources. Read more about Bruce.