Preaching Articles

What church doesn't give out coffee mugs with glossy advertising whenever a first time visitor arrives? I personally have a nice 8-piece set of non-matching church coffee mugs that adorn my kitchen.

I think it’s time to update first impression rules for the church. So here goes, new ideas for making a great first impression at church, even without a coffee mug.

Digital introductions 

Once upon a time, first impressions came as you pulled into the parking lot or met greeters at the door. Today your first impression happens well before you ever shake hands.  It's your digital presence that gives your first impression.

  • Your single largest investment of time and attention needs to quickly, graphically, and effectively explain what you and your church are all about. Don't assume that people will scroll down or follow links; this must appear as soon as they are directed to your web page. This is your vision “elevator speech” where you have a very small window of time and real estate to passionately explain what God has called you to. Failure here is worse than your greeters having really bad breath. And the tragedy is that so few people pay attention what their landing page says.
  • Since everyone and everything is plugged in, you need to provide fresh digital content and connections. This means rapidly replacing events and information that have passed. Nothing says “stay away” and “we're boring” more than outdated and old content.
  • Have you ever looked at the information trail from your digital footprints?  If I searched on your church and its leaders, what would I find? For the most part, you don't need to pay for this service; what is publicly available through search engines is more than enough. I once did this on a pastor of a local church and was really surprised, and not in a good way. The wake of poor references and broken relationships was tragic and discouraging.  While you need to be circumspect about any information on the web (because anyone can say anything), you need to be aware of whats out there and why.

Team message 

While an individual might provide some attraction, “stickiness” for new people is directly tied to more than one person (aka the local Body). The entire Body needs to be unified and on point when it comes to vision and direction. The exponential increase in personnel connections becomes threefold when staff, leaders and members all understand, support and “walk” the vision. Needless to say that if your church does not have a clear vision/direction, this is all a moot point.

  • Staff members need to actively and passionately support the vision and clearly understand their part in it. Does their ministry description on your web site point to how their roles and responsibilities support the vision? Can they clearly and excitedly explain the vision, their part in it, and how God is using it in the lives of people?
  • Leaders also need to be aligned with the vision and message. You need to invest time, energy, and focused communication with your total leadership and support team. This takes more than a monthly meeting to set the stage and invest time into your leaders. Your leadership selection process must also include their personal agreement and passion for the vision. Since they will meet so many more people than you ever will, this investment always pays off.
  • The average person in church becomes so UN-average and energized when they see their part in the vision and direction. This means that the vision needs to be repeated and reinforced every week through voice, bulletins, email, blogs, Sunday School classes, small group/community meetings, even at special events. Rather than inviting people to get up and shake hands, have them go and share the vision. It's great practice and reinforces the vision, message, and values.


I'd like to recast the age-old expression to say “the blessing is in the details” as opposed to the devil. Sweat the details so they all fit together and in harmony with your vision. But don't just drop them once things are in place; you need to keep up with the details. Just like you continue to invest time and energy in a garden, you need to continually invest in the details to ensure that you keep an ongoing harvest.

  • First person messages of changed and growing lives is perhaps the single most powerful thing that you can do. This is not just stories of great success, but also of human hurt and disappointment as seen in light of Jesus and the Gospel. At least one “testimony” needs to be on your web landing page, and it needs to change from time to time.
  • Icons and links for other digital connections (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc.) need to be front and center so visitors can easily and quickly connect with you on a regular basis.
  • We need to do as much as possible to ensure that we get it right the first time.  I know that we are all human and that life is full of surprises, but how many times have you received a second (dare I say third) update with changes and corrections about dates, times, and details.                                                                                                                                             

I'm all about grace and forgiveness, but when I consistently see these kinds of changes and corrections, at best it makes me wonder whether all the details were nailed down in the first place.   At worst, I start to question the training, skill, and abilities of the people behind the corrections.

By paying attention to your digital introductions, team message, and details, you help people find Jesus and His people. What deserves our attention more?

Chet is a seasoned Bible teacher, going back to 1971 and has served as a Trustee, Deacon, Elder, Pastor and other positions in several churches. He also served as Board Chairman of WMA, a missionary consulting organization. He has served the insurance-technology industry in numerous capacities including Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Senior Director-Research and Development. Chet recently founded GLAD Associates as a way to transition to full-time Bible teaching.

Talk about it...

Anthony R. Watson

commented on Mar 12, 2012

This was an outstanding article and very much on point. The emphasis on "vision" was a key factor, and I couldn't agree more.

Ray Hollis

commented on Mar 12, 2012

Way to go Chet Gladkowski! "Update Your First Impression" is excellent material. Great for sharing with our staff and leaders... and to take to heart as the lead pastor. Your heart comes through crystal clear and passionately contagious! You have made me glad(kowski)!

Robert Sickler

commented on Mar 12, 2012

Points worth considering, as long as we never lose sight of the reason we are acting like a business.

Matt Krachunis

commented on Mar 12, 2012

I think the video intro seems very 'used car salesman', or at least the ones that I have seen. i could put up a video right now on our church website, but i dont want to be perceived as a self-indulgent cheeseball. I think a well done intro video about the church is good, but showcasing the pastor is too much for me. Maybe I'll change my view on it, but i've thought about it for years and I can't bring myself to do it. All my friends from college would mock me and tell me I was full of myself.

Pollie Marabe

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Making a great impression at church,yes it is very needed!Church members need to actively and passionately support the vision and clearly understand their part in it.But sad to say, only few knows their part and most have no part in it!

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Matt/Robert - many thanks for your comments, appreciate them very much. May I take a moment to provide some additional thoughts. First and foremost - the only reason that we are interested in making a good impression is because we want to reach people for Jesus Christ, period. From there, we want to be God's servant to grow their loving and obedient relationship with Him (abandoning sin, replacing it with obedience) and serving/reaching others (Matt 22:37-40, 28:19). Everything must serve these priorities. Or, as one writer put it, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing". Second - My thought was not to videos the pastor/staff, but personal testimonies from people that God had touched. Please note that these do not need to be high-priced or professional videos. As a matter of fact, I think they are more powerful/authentic if they are made from built-in phone or laptop cameras. May God give you His grace and power to proclaim Jesus this week, in word and action.

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Pollie - many thanks for your comment/note. I hear your concern and weep with you (Proverbs 28:19). How do you think we can best instill personal ownership of the vision into members? A couple of thoughts: First - make the vision part of every church event, it needs to be spoken from up front (worship, fellowship, small group). Second - celebrate whenever someone catches the vision (brief interview with them, let them explain what they are doing and their part in the vision). Third - it needs to be printed on each and everything that the church distributes (bulletins, web pages, business cards, shirts, etc). In conclusion, if Jesus thought it important to clearly state His vision/mission (Luke 4:18-19), we must follow His lead.

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