First Impressions and Opening the Front Door

First Impressions and Opening The Front Door
I love restaurants. And I love coffee shops.

Typically, I don’t love them because of the food or coffee (Honestly, it all tastes mainly the same to me!).

But what I do love (or not love) is the atmosphere or environment, the first impression, and the proverbial front door.

I’m a loyal Caribou customer. True, I love the Northern Lite Dark Chocolate Mochas. But more so, I love the atmosphere (the fire place, the wood floors, the environment). More so, I love the various ways I can get discounts on drinks (buy 7 get 1 free, Twins Win $1 coffee coupons, the Trivia 10 cents off, the $1 off survey receipts, and the Bring Your Own Mug and get 50 cents off. Trust me, I use them all). And I love how they make the experience easy for the customer. Want a free coffee refill? No problem! They provide it.

I’m convinced they do this because they know it’s way more important to make a great first impression and to open the front door very wide for customers to come for the first time or the hundredth time.

Last night, I went to a local restaurant, Washington Square. Now, the atmosphere is decent, but I noticed two things that bothered me right away. On the bottom of the menu, it says in big letters: No splitting checks and 18% gratuity added to parties of 6 or more. They might as well have written: WE DON’T WANT TO MAKE THIS EASY FOR YOU. WE CARE MORE ABOUT OURSELVES!

This is a careless first impression. If you truly wanted to open wide the front door and make a great first impression, you would not have a policy like that. It’s not THAT hard to split up checks. It’s not THAT hard to just put a table of 6 or more together and let them add their own gratuity.

These things make a huge difference!

How does this apply to youth ministry? Here’s a few questions we ask all the time (and in fact, we have volunteers who serve in our First Impressions ministry).

  • How is the first time student going to feel when they enter the parking lot (well, I suppose parents in this case)? Is it chaotic? Is there a clear path to drive, a clear place to drop them off, adults who are outside smiling and welcoming them, and providing light to the parking path?
  • How is the first time student going to feel when they enter the lobby for the first time? Will they feel welcomed? Will they know where to go? Will it feel “exciting” (this is a key word in junior high ministry)? Will they feel comfortable? Will someone take time to know them? Will they get a great first experience?
  • How will the first time, never been to church type of student feel about the language we use? Will they understand “worship?” Will they get what God’s Word is all about? Do they even know who Jesus is? All of these questions we ask because we want to open the front door and make a great first impression.
  • How will a student feel when you approach them about a RULE they’ve never heard of? At GZ, we have rules about no cellphones, no gum, and appropriate clothing. These are all important rules, but what if a students comes who doesn’t know those rules?! How will we treat them to make a great first impression?

The little things make a big difference.
What ways are you making a great first impression and opening wide the front door? I want to learn from you!

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