I was reading the Christmas story in Luke 2 and was immediately struck by the positive first impression left on the shepherds by the angel’s announcement of the birth of Jesus. Verse 20 sums up their experience like this: The shepherds glorified and praised God “for all the things they had heard and seen.”
I got to wondering if the seven ministries listed below and evaluated by my First Impressions Ministry among churches might be evidenced in the angel’s announcement. I was curious if these ministries provided by churches to facilitate positive first impressions with their guests were a factor in the experience of the shepherds.
So, I did a little investigation. Here, in quick summary, is what I discovered:
VISIBILITY: Churches make themselves visible with signage and online presence and events, etc. In the shepherds’ Christmas story, “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
ACCESSIBILITY: Churches desiring to create good first impressions make it easy to arrive, to park, to enter the building, etc. The Christmas story? Not only did the glory of the Lord shine “around” the shepherds but this good news baby was accessible "today in the town of David.” And the baby was “for all people.”
SAFETY: Churches sensitive to guests concern themselves with safety, for example with childcare; the church insures that guests are secure in their visit as well as their follow-up. As you might guess, the angel’s appearance stirred up the shepherds; “they were terrified.” So, watch this: “The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
HOSPITALITY: Churches making a good first impression will provide a personal, warm, and engaging touch that demonstrates the love and kindness of God at work in the church, e.g., a personal greeting, a complimentary cup of hot coffee, or a guest appreciation gift. The angel’s personalized expression of God’s love to the shepherds? “I bring you good news of great joy.” And then this tangible expression, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
FACILITY: Churches offer a place and space to receive their guests. It is not without notice that the angels first appeared "out in the fields nearby" where the shepherds lived and worked. From the fields, the shepherds were directed to “the town of David,” “Bethlehem,” and a simple “manger” made significant as a meeting place by a uniquely and wonderfully heralded baby.
WORSHIP: First Impression sensitive churches demonstrate God-ward faith in the presence of their guests by way of genuine worship. The Christmas story continues: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”
RETENTION: Churches make positive first impressions when they authenticate the Sunday morning experience in what takes place during the rest of the week (e.g., follow-up communications and small groups), thus encouraging guests to maintain their involvement and participation. “When the angels had left them, and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” It was “just as they had been told.” Retention? “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”
There you go... a positive First Christmas First Impression and I hope a simple encouragement to you for your church in the New Year to make a positive First Impression with your first-time guests.
Merry, Merry Christmas!