There are benefits to being new to a place. I’m not sure how much longer I can say I’m new at Trinity CRC, but that doesn’t stop me from playing that card like when a salesperson stopped by today and asked what brand of cleaning products we use around the facilities: “I don’t know. I’m new here.” Being new also helps me see things that people who have been here forever don’t notice anymore. So I ask good (some would say annoying!) questions…
- Why aren’t there signs clearly pointing the way to the office?
- Why are the musicians spaced so far apart when we worship?
- Why is there a door here?
- Why isn’t there much about the CRC in the Welcome Center?
- Why are we using Comic Sans in our bulletin?
Sometimes there are good answers to questions like these. (Granted, there is never a good reason to use Comic Sans.) A lot of the time, though, we don’t even notice things or know why they are the way they are.
And while I might notice stuff that others just walk by, there are plenty of things that others see but I’ve missed. Last week someone noticed that the signs in our parking lot reserving spots near the building for the elderly were getting very faded. “We have spots reserved for the elderly?” I asked. So we need to help each other see things again for the first time.
This may seem trivial until you read Thom S. Rainer’s articles (here and here) about the importance of first impressions – even for churches. He admits that in the context of theological discussions, writing about the first impressions of new people may seem trivial. “But,” he counters, “if we could understand that a returning guest has more opportunities to hear the gospel and experience Christian love and fellowship, we might take the issue a bit more seriously.”
So what do people first notice around a church that regulars may be ignoring? Here’s Mr. Rainer’s list:
- the ease of navigating the parking lot and finding a parking spot
- the signs and directions
- the attractiveness of the nursery and children’s areas
- the cleanliness and convenience of the women’s restrooms
- the ability to find a seat as quickly as possible (Interesting note: A worship center at 80% capacity gives the impression that it’s actually full.)
Now to take a walk around the facilities again for the first time…