The Rule Of Attraction: You Only Have One Chance At A First Impression
By Allen Ratta
We have used “two firsts” in the Bible as our starting point, throughout this series. That is, Christ’s first orders, which were spoken to the first leaders of the Church. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt 4.19 & Mk. 1.17 NASB) So it is that we have an inarguable beginning point of things that are first.
Since there are no subsequent orders that cancel the first ones, (i.e. to follow and experience the transformation into a fisher of men) the original mandate holds true. There is no new direction that takes precedence and the army has in no place been recalled from the field. It is a mandate in that it represents marching orders in no uncertain terms. It is a promise in that Christ always empowers us to do that which he commands of us. Whatever modern notions that compete for our attentions, we who would aspire to authentic biblical leadership in the church, do well to stick to the fundamentals—the first things.
So we intend to adhere to the ABCs. We look to the simple basics of what it means to be an effective fisherman.
A = Attract (bait)
B = Bond (hook)
C = Catch (land)
These are primary things in that they represent God’s original and unchanged passion, that we become effective to attract, bond and catch souls for Christ. He came to save the lost. Whatever else we do in our church work, the main thing must remain the main thing.
So we continue with the concept of attraction. Our last article addressed the first rule of attraction; “Word of Mouth is Your BEST Advertising”. This article deals with the 2nd rule of attraction; “You ONLY have ONE chance to make a first impression.” This is a truism that is central to our ability to attract others. It as true in the modern church as it was in the ancient one. People are quick to size us up and if they get us wrong, we may have missed our greatest chance to impact their life.
The Methods Must Change
The effective application of the 2nd Rule of Attraction has undergone a radical transformation in the last ten to twenty years. In fact, many of the things that were considered essential to making a good first impression 20 years ago have a reduced importance today. However, this is not the really big news. The far more significant headline is that many of the most effective ways to attract people to the church today, did not even exist 20 years ago. It is not so much that the “rules” have changed but the “way” the rules need to be applied have changed. Like it nor not, technology has forever changed the application of the rules of attraction.
Old Application – You Only Have One Chance At A 1st Impression
In the old days a good “first impression” was all about the physical church campus and the visitor’s first experiences on that campus. This reminds me of a small church in our community, back in the early days of my ministry that seemed utterly incapable of growing. It was located in one of the fastest growing areas in Las Vegas, which at the time was the fastest growing city in America. The pastor had a loving heart for people and was a good speaker but after a few years of shattered dreams he finally left in discouragement.
Then a brother, who became of close friend of mine, accepted the pastorate of that church. The first thing he did was to clean the place up. He had the two broken-down school buses on the side of the church (the dream of a great busing ministry someday), hauled off to the junkyard. He carted off countless truckloads of odds and ends of furniture and equipment that were to be used for a far off future building program. These items had been stored inside and outside of the facility and gave the impression of an unorganized thrift store. The new pastor had curved sidewalks installed with a new entry and a fresh lawn out front. They shampooed the carpets and painted the place. As I recall, he actually made money from the cleanup by selling a lot of the “stuff.”
An amazing thing happened. People started visiting bit by bit and the church began to grow. Within a few years they had relocated onto several new acres and had gone through three major building programs. Why? The pastor understood a fundamental rule of attraction. He understood that “first impressions” could either make or kill a church’s chance of attracting outsiders. In fact, I had visitors become a part of my church that had done a drive-by of the other church before the cleanup. They described it as “not my kind of church” without ever stepping inside and hearing a sermon.
New Application – You Only Have One Chance At A 1st Impression
The new “front door” of your church is often thousands of physical miles from your church campus. First impressions about your church are sometimes set in stone by people months before they ever move to your city. A church’s website is the new “first” first impression that most prospective visitors will develop about your church. One study indicates that over 60% of people today look at a church’s website before they decide to physically visit a church. Prospects are making judgments about your church without ever seeing your physical campus. Having an effective website is essential for the church that desires to make a great first impression.
This presents a conundrum for pastors who are rarely technologically savvy. What kind of websites will generate the kind of first impressions you want? What are the pitfalls you must avoid that are the new equivalent of old school buses parked next to your building?
Simple Clean Design with Intuitive Navigation
Current cutting edge web design has gone away from fancy slow-loading flash presentations to clean fortune 500 feel sites that are intuitive to navigate and provide easy access to pertinent information. Being different and wildly creative does not make for the best website unless you have big dollars and a genius design firm at your disposal. Even then, the jury is out as to the effectiveness of such websites. Function is truly more important than form as long as the form is clean and professional. Websites can “even the playing field” where even small churches can create a strong “together” first impression like the big boys. Menus need to be several levels deep. For example, prospective visiting moms need to easily navigate down through ministry levels where they can see the church nursery (the place where they will leave their most precious possession during a worship service). We counsel churches to post pictures of smiling babies (even if they have to purchase them on the web – istockphotos.com is a good affordable source). Snap pictures of smiling staff with happy babes in arms. Creating these kinds of positive open windows into your church, replete with pictures, requires a marketing mindset. Remember, you are putting your best foot forward and making a first impression to attract visitors.
Auto-Posting of Dynamic Data that is NEVER Out of Date
There is nothing more telling about a ministry being understaffed or not having their act together than out of date web page information. Time-sensitive content-laden web pages have to be constantly maintained. This is an arduous task because someone inevitably forgets to update the website! This is why our PowerWeb websites pull 99% of the website’s data, dynamically from the church’s hosted web calendar and database. ConnectionPower’s church calendar automatically posts (website approved) events to your website where people can register for them and pay for them online. Yes, even small churches can easily utilize this kind of technology. Ministry pages automatically pull from ministry dashboards where ministries are actually run and small groups can be searched that automatically represent your active small groups. A small church can have BOTH a world class website and hosted church management system for as little as $40 a month.
Website Changes that Can Be Maintained by Non-Technical Church Staff
Another key, especially for smaller and mid-sized churches with limited technical resources, is to be able to manage website content without waiting for busy IT staff to get around to it. Some ministry information will always need manual attention. Updates need to be made. This is why PowerWeb websites empower non-technical church staffs, with password access, to self-edit their own ministry web pages. If a person can use Microsoft Word then they can build beautiful looking web pages. These edited web pages only require a quick review and approval of designated staff before they can be posted live. This kind of decentralization of ministry management, which releases every ministry leader within the church to run their ministries through the Internet from home, is a hallmark of ConnectionPower solutions. We never set artificial limits on the number of ministry leaders who can access your ministry systems. To do so limits the power of the truly web empowered church!
So we come to understand that a church creates different first impressions for different sets of visitors. For most of your visitors, a great first impression is made or lost with the church’s website. Your physical campus will be their 2nd impression. For others, a great first impression relies on the old tried and true ways of a clean and presentable campus, friendly people, inspiring messages and good music. It will take intentional care on every front to attract people so they will have an opportunity to meet the living Christ who is altogether lovely and attractive.
This article “The Rule Of Attraction” written by Allen Ratta is excerpted from www.powerweb.com website. Used by permission.