Scary First-Time Experiences

It was one year ago this week that I went to my first tennis lesson. I don’t like to admit fear, but I was nervous that night.

  • I didn’t want to walk in the wrong door.
  • I wasn’t sure where to go once I got in.
  • I didn’t want to look stupid or stand out. I wanted to blend in.
  • I was afraid I’d embarrass myself.
  • I didn’t know what was expected or how long I’d need to stay.
  • I wasn’t sure what was okay to wear. Did I need special tennis gear? Could I wear the same shoes on the court that I walked in from the parking lot?

After a year of lessons, just recently I joined the USTA and played my first league game. I had new fears thinking about this new experience—who would I be partnered with? How do they keep score? When do we switch sides? How many people will be watching?

All of this reminds me of how people feel when they walk into my church for the first time. Here are some things we’ve done on purpose to help relieve people’s fears a bit…

  • Lots of glass all around the building. You never walk into a door and wonder what is waiting on the other side. You can see as you approach.
  • Lots of glass throughout our children’s center. You never wonder what’s happening with your kids or if they are safe—you can see into every room.
  • Many signs. From just about anywhere, you can see a sign for a bathroom.
  • A time in every service where we talk specifically to first time visitors, tell them what to expect and give them some basic information.
  • We tell visitors to “relax” when we take the offering. Many times, the offering is one of their greatest fears (after all, “all churches just want your money”), so we tell them this time in the service is for those who regularly attend.
  • We offer a meet & greet after every service. It’s very informal, but a time and place where they can meet a pastor or ask a question.

We have about 50 first-time visitors every weekend. It could be said—“Well you have to do these things because you have so many visitors.” I would suggest the opposite is true: “We have so many visitors because we do these things.”


Resources: A great book that will help you offer a great experience for your guests is First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in Your Church (newly revised and updated) by Mark Waltz. He is also offering a one-day workshop twice this year on April 25 and July 11. 

Tim StevensComment