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Make a bad first impression with guests and they're probably not coming back.

The first impression truly is a lasting impression.  Make a bad first impression with guests and they’re probably not coming back.  “Follow up” normally can’t overcome a bad first impression.

So if you want to ruin your first impression with guests…here’s how…

  1. Make them guess where to go.  Don’t have any signage on the outside or inside of the building.  They’ll figure it out.
  2. Give them the worst parking spot.  Save the best parking for staff and members.
  3. Place unfriendly people as greeters.  Give them the experience of being greeted by the Wicked Witch of the West.
  4. Make them wait in long lines.  It will teach them patience, right?
  5. Tell them where to go instead of walking them there.  Again…they can figure it out.
  6. Ignore them.  Just look at them like they are an alien. 
  7. Don’t talk to them.  Stay engaged in conversation with your huddle of friends.  If they come long enough, they’ll eventually make some friends.
  8. Make them feel like they are a bother.  If they ask you a question, answer the question, but let them know by your demeanor that you are busy and they are bothering you.
  9. Put their children in an overcrowded room.  Ratios don’t matter.  Pack’em in with a grin.
  10. Don’t ask if their children have allergies.  If they have allergies, it will become obvious when they have a reaction.
  11. Don’t have a secure check-in/check-out system in place.  They know who their kids are and they’ll point them out to you at check-out.
  12. Tell them they are sitting in your seat.  You’ve sat in that seat since 1965.  You donated the money for it and your name is on a plaque at the end of the pew.  They can find somewhere else to sit.
  13. Talk at them instead of to them.  “Hi” and “welcome” are enough.  You don’t have time for any meaningful conversation.  You’ve got to beat everyone else to the restaurant buffet. 
  14. Don’t bend any rules for them.  Check-in for children closed 5 minutes ago.  They should have gotten here on time if they wanted to check-in their children.
  15. Ask if they want to volunteer.  You’re desperate for volunteers and they are breathing.  Go ahead and ask them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s their first visit.
  16. Don’t have anyone who looks like them or is in the same season of life.  Limit your congregation to one ethnicity and age range.
  17. Return their child with an unchanged diaper.  They can change the diaper themselves.  
  18. Point them out during the service.  Have them raise their hands or better yet…stand up. 
  19. Smother them.  Be like a used car salesman.  Let them know you are here to “close the deal” on them joining your church.
  20. Be solemn and serious.  This is God’s house.  Don’t smile or even think about laughing or telling a joke.  You want to let them know how spiritual your church is.

Your turn.  What are some other ways to ruin your first impression with guests?  

Dale Hudson Dale Hudson has served in children and family ministry for over 24 years. He is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the Top 20 Influencers in Children’s Ministry. He is the co-author of four ministry books, including Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children’s Ministry.

More from Dale Hudson or visit Dale at

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  • Jeff

    Make sure to tell a young parent all of the faults you see in their parenting style. It will make them a better parent if they do it exactly likely you did 40 years ago.

  • Common Sense

    #17 is problematic – assigning a number and having it inconspicuously light up so that the parent can come and change the diaper is far better in today’s world.

  • ronaldg261

    I was a guest at a church in the Midwest several years ago. Not a person spoke to me even though I attended a Bible class and the worship service, then hung around the lobby afterward. After most of the crowd had left for home and I was convinced I must have swallowed an invisible pill, I wrote the following in their guest book (before heading home): “I was an angel sent from heaven to se if your church was friendly. You failed.”

  • Unfriendly body or No Body

    Great! #3, which would be better (in this case, worse) unfriendly greeters or no greeters at all? What do you think?

    • Arman Sheffey

      NO greeters would ALWAYS out weigh unfriendly greeters. Its like what is best: A rock to the face, left alone, or a friend. Worst, better, best.

  • AccessN2Grace

    Throwing a big fit and fuss over getting the visitor card filled out. That will show them how important they are…. lol