The Power of the First Impression
In children’s ministry first impressions are important and difficult to overcome if they’re not positive. People make either conscious or unconscious judgments about cleanliness, security, professionalism and competence based on what they first see.
Much like you and I, others evaluate people, organizations and most importantly ministries, by how they conduct themselves. Some children’s ministries may overlook the importance of offering a few common courtesies and professionalism.
Use these five tips to ensure a positive first impression that lasts a long time.
Prepare ahead of time. Whether it’s the first or last service, a little preparation goes a long way. Being prepared reduces anxiety and increases your level of confidence. To prepare, review in your mind all the “touch points” a family will go through when they come in your children’s ministry area.
Here’s an example…A family with four children (all different ages) enter the children’s ministry zone –is there someone to greet them with a smile. Is the check-in area clean, staffed, and stocked with label refills and the most up-to-date informational material? Are there directional signs for classrooms? Are the teachers/volunteers trained & ready for the service? Do they know to greet each parent, dropping off a child, with eye contact and a smile. Does each classroom have what it needs for the kids – clean diapers, snack foods, age appropriate toys, project materials etc…? Once a child is checked into the classroom do the parents know how they will be contacted if there is an issue? Once the service is concluded is the check-out process well defined and understood by staff, parent(s) and in some cases children? Is there someone to give a final exit goodbye?
Be Intentional. Say what? “Truly being intentional, means understanding that our attitudes, feelings, thoughts and actions directly impact every single one of our experiences. It means taking responsibility on how we “show up” in all situations, and for how we want to contribute. Being intentional requires refining skills, learning to choose to respond vs. react and consciously focus on the experience we intend to create.” For children’s ministry leaders this is huge but rarely easy. It’s an opportunity to choose how you want others to perceive your ministry. http://www.beintentional.com
Organize. The benefits of being organized are well documented, but for a children’s ministry leader it’s imperative. Finding an organizational system that works for you is well worth the time to investigate. Finding a system that provides a calendar, task management, contact information and communication tools, will enable you to be more focused on what you’re called to do. It will also free up more time for yourself and loved ones, and allow you to do better professionally.
Say it with a smile. Smiling makes people more approachable, especially when you’re meeting someone for the first time. A smile can set a new mother at ease when leaving her infant in the nursery for the first time. A smile can increase the ease of interaction with others and even incite joy. Volunteers that understand the impact of a smile on visiting families hold the key to increasing children’s ministry participation.
Goodbye. The first and last impressions will determine how likely new families are to return. However, it’s the last impression that is final and very powerful. Making sure that visiting families have someone personally say goodbye, and perhaps even have a conversation on the specifics of their experience, goes a long way in conveying that they’re wanted and loved.
While a children’s ministry leader can’t participate in every goodbye conversation, making sure that teachers/helpers acknowledge new families with a warm goodbye and thank-you for coming, goes a long way in creating a lasting impression.