June 2012

Recently our church hosted The Gospel Summit, a two-day intensive conference for pastors and church leaders from around the country. During one of my breakout sessions, I talked about some of the previously-unwritten “plumblines” that guide the first impressions ministry at the Summit. Each Monday (or maybe Tuesday…let’s be real) I’m unpacking one of those plumblines for an expanded discussion. This is the last in a five-part series. Missed the earlier posts? Catch up! Part OnePart TwoPart Three. Part Four.

The first visit should set up the second visit. 

My entire first impressions paradigm changed when I realized this truth. When we talk about “first impressions,” we rightly define what people notice during their first few minutes on campus: cleanliness. Organization. Signage. Environment. Chocolate fondue fountain in the kids’ check in lobby (what? You don’t have one of those? And you call yourself a church?!?).

But if our first plumbline (the gospel is offensive, nothing else should be) is true, then some subsequent plumbline has to be that we’re simply setting up for a second visit. If our end goal in first impressions is to point people towards the gospel, then we must keep in mind that in most cases, a repeat visit (sometimes, multiple repeat visits) will be necessary before the gospel stops being offensive and starts to make sense.

Think about your own personal experiences in sharing the gospel. Whether you were a scaredy-cat Southern Baptist Monday night door-to-door knocker or a Holy Ghost fire and brimstone angry white dude on the side of the road with a sandwich board evangelist, you know that not everyone responds to the gospel on their first hearing. Yes, the Holy Spirit draws, but sometimes the Spirit draws, awakens, and reveals over time. If we put all of our eggs into the basket of the first visit, we do so to the detriment of the guests that we are trying to serve and love towards the gospel.

That’s why the first visit should always set up the second visit. That’s why if you don’t have a follow up plan in place for your guests, you may as well hang up your first impressions track shoes (what? You don’t have those in your wardrobe? And you call yourself a first impressions leader?!?)

Here are a couple of fun stats for you:

  • The typical guest in a typical church will decide whether or not to return within the first ten minutes. (Charles Arn, and just about every other church growth guy out there)
  • Among growing churches, there is a 16% chance that a first time guest will return for a second visit. But there is a 85% chance that a second time guest will come for third and subsequent visits. (Gary McIntosh, Beyond the First Visit)

At the Summit, we aim for four points of contact following a guest’s first visit (please note, this is the plan. If you were a first time guest here and this didn’t happen, let me know. I’ll fire the pastor that was assigned to you.):

  • An early-week follow up phone call from one of our pastors, communicating three things (thank you for your visit, how was your experience, invitation to Starting Point).
  • A next-day follow up email from that pastor, restating the next steps that was covered in the phone call or offering additional answers for questions raised by the guest.
  • A letter from Pastor J.D., again thanking the guest for their visit, reiterating Starting Point, and giving an initial vision casting of who the Summit is.
  • An email invitation to Starting Point the week before the event (depending on the timing of the guest’s visit, that can be the a few days or few weeks later).

That process generally helps bridge the gap between first visit and second visit. At a church of any size, a follow up phone call from a pastor communicates care. It helps a large church grow small. And doggone it, it’s just part of the pastor’s role as shepherd.

There is perhaps no church that masters the first visit / second visit link than The Journey in Manhattan. Journey Pastor Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion is an excellent resource that will detail not only how they plan for first timers, but also second and third-timers.

How about you? What is the process that you use for turning the first visit into a second visit? Comment below.

Check out the rest of the Plumblines series: Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four.


And just like that, the First Impressions Plumblines series disappeared last week. It went the way of a ship in the Bermuda Triangle and the Roanoke Island colonists and my set of Mp3 speakers that were lost in the move.

As a matter of fact, the entire blog disappeared last week due to a preaching assignment this weekend. Our elders graciously allowed me to tell our family’s adoption story, but tie that to the bigger picture of how pure religion can actually be a good thing that compels us to care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger.

If you’re so inclined, here are the tie-ins to this weekend’s message:


Video version

Mp3 version

…and the adoption video that started it all:

It’s the last day of Elevate Summer Camp. By the end of the day the Franks crew will be back together. But I’ll be honest – I miss my older two younguns. I know they’ll smell like five days of showerlessness and ocean water, but I’m ready for them to be back.

And so with that in mind, we travel down memory lane with one of my favorite stories from Kid #2:

Anonymous Son (AS): Dad, do we have a frame about this big?  (makes motions with his hands to indicate a frame about two and a half feet tall)

Me: Ummmm, I don’t think so.  Why do you need a frame?

AS: Come here for a second.

We walk to his room, where he has taken down a UNC banner that he had hanging on his curtain rod and replaced it with his own replica youth medium-sized Tyler Hansbrough jersey, which he’s worn at least four times per week for the last year.

AS: So, I don’t really like it hanging right there, and I’m thinking I should just frame it.

Read the rest of the post here.

It’s Not About The Dream. My older two kids cut their teeth on Veggie Tales. This is a refreshing interview with Phil Vischer, who looks back at the veggies’ slippery slope to moralism. (HT Trevin Wax)

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. [read more]

Danny Boy. 
Since we’re on a kids’ entertainment roll here, I heart the Muppets. I heart the Muppets more than my kids, which makes for some uncomfortable moments at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (“NO WAY! IT’S GONZO! GONZO! OVER HEEEERE!”). I thought I’d seen most Muppet clips, but not this ‘un. (And for the record: no, I wasn’t named after a depressing Irish song about death. At least I don’t think so.)

The Greatest Innovation In Packing Tape Since The Sticky Side
. As a guy who’s been unpacking boxes for ten days (and rarely can find his knife / scissors / teeth), I like this. I want to go to there.

If you’ve ever marveled at how easy it is to open a padded shipping envelope thanks to its built-in rip cord that tears through the material, you’ll instantly understand why this enhanced roll of packing tape is pure genius. [read more]

Recently our church hosted The Gospel Summit, a two-day intensive conference for pastors and church leaders from around the country. During one of my breakout sessions, I talked about some of the previously-unwritten “plumblines” that guide the first impressions ministry at the Summit. Each Monday I’m unpacking one of those plumblines for an expanded discussion. This is the fourth in a five-part series. Missed the earlier posts? Catch up! Part OnePart Two. Part Three.

Make outsiders insiders.

I don’t care what size your church is. You can be a mega church, a micro church, a rural church, a city church, or a little church with a big heart (feel free to use that on your business card. I’m sure you’d be the first). Every single weekend, someone is going to walk in the doors for the first time, and that someone will feel like an outsider.

It’s natural. We’re all outsiders the first time we show up somewhere. Whether it’s the hot new restaurant or the coveted new job, there’s a learning curve to master. We have to get to know the menu or learn how to order or figure out which hallway leads you out of the cubicles and towards the bathrooms.

But one of the roles of the First Impressions team is to do everything we can to take outsiders and make them feel like family from the very first visit. Now, there’s a catch to that: you have to do this in an appropriate, non-creepy fashion. Think of it as a first date. On the first date, you ask questions, you get to know the person, you reveal appropriate things about yourself. You do not name your future children together or pick out china patterns. That’s creepy.

In the same way, you give guests appropriate, immediate, practical next steps: this is where you can check in your kids. This is where you park. This event is how you can find out more.

Your guests don’t care how they become a covenant member if they’re visiting for the first time. They may not care (or know) that you want them to be in a small group. They simply want to keep it simple: parking. Seating. Kids. “Is this a place I want to return to?”

Think about the facets of your weekend experience that makes someone feel like an outsider. Break down those barriers. Make ’em an insider. Make ’em a part of the family.

Check out the rest of the Plumblines series: Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Five.

If you’re new to these parts, we take Fridays off to kick back and throwback to an easier time when we wrote long and thoughtful blog posts and didn’t refer to ourselves as “we” all the time…

I’ve always viewed the stuff I do in life like you would view letting someone else put a baseball cap on you.  No one else can put a baseball cap on you.  It’s just something you have to do yourself.  Try it.  Let someone else put a Big Ed’s Truck Stop and Tax Prep Center cap on your cranium, and then…don’t touch it.  See how long you can go before your hands shoot up and you’re adjusting that sucker before it drives you out of your ever-loving mind.  See?  You’re a control freak too, you prideful pagan.

Now, that’s all well and good, until it comes to ministry.  In ministry, wisdom dictates that we’re not as awesome as we often think we are.  Remember Jethro’s advice to Moses?  And even though I should have learned it a long time ago, God has been teaching me a very important, yet very painful lesson over the last few years:

You can’t do it all on your own.

Read the entire post here.

Hospitality: More Than Greeters and CoffeeA much-needed reminder for those of us in the guest services biz.

Sentimental hospitality emphasizes being nice and might describe the treatment you get at Disney World. Privatized hospitality is an approach which reminds me of all those Southern Living magazines my mom would accumulate when I was kid. Hospitality gets reduced to entertaining guests appropriately with a perfectly decorated home and the right recipes coming out of the kitchen. [read more]

Pest Control. Oh, Seth Godin, how you say so many things with so few words…

A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention so you can do your work. [read more]

Americans Are As Likely To Be Killed By Their Own Furniture As By Terrorism. I didn’t even read this whole article, but after three days of wrestling sofas and mattresses, I resonate!

According to the report, the number of U.S. citizens who died in terrorist attacks increased by two between 2010 and 2011; overall, a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year. [read more]

As I type, it’s 11:15 PM. It’s been a long day. A full day.

But what is on my mind now is not the random assortment of things that demanded my attention over the last 16 or so hours,  but the final moments of today.

Today, some friends received the news that the child they are carrying is no longer living. Sadly, they are now a part of a club that no one wishes to join, but the roster seems to grow ever larger. And lately, I feel like it’s grown at a shocking rate.

Miscarriage, the barren womb, and the stillborn child are not a part of the natural order. It’s not the way creation was designed to be. And while it’s a part of the fall, that theological reality doesn’t make the present pain any easier.

Sitting in that hospital room tonight, my heart hurt for them. While I was grateful that they were surrounded by a fantastic small group and a solid believing family on both sides, I grieved that the gathering was not for the type of delivery they wanted. I’m sad that they will say goodbye to a baby that they never got to say hello to.

I know they will survive this. I recognize that God’s grace is enough and – as we’ve been talking about over the last few weeks – that Jesus is better. I believe that they will allow this death to be a neon sign that points their unbelieving friends to the hope of the empty grave.

When Merriem and I walked this road 18 years ago, we thought we’d never feel anything again. I still remember sitting on the bed in our tiny apartment, sobbing until there were no more tears, holding each other, praying for each other. Even now, after a solemn night like this, I think about our first child that we never met. I trust that she waits for us. I believe that her life began at conception and naturally continues in heaven.

And so it’s times like this when I trust that Jesus is better, even though I don’t understand this part of the journey. I know this is one frame of a feature length film. It’s one dot on a timeline. It’s a part of life that we’ll see clearly one day, yet through a dark glass today. I recognize that this may not fit neatly in my systematic theology, and that’s okay. I don’t have to understand the mind of Christ in order to trust the heart of Christ.

And yet, I long for the day spoken of in Revelation. It’s a verse that the Spirit graciously brought to mind as I was walking back to the parking garage tonight. It’s a verse that points ahead to a time where creation’s order will be restored, where the grave will give way to eternity, and where tears will give way to joy:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Free us. Redeem us. Heal us. What you have made true in the spiritual realm, make true in the physical realm.

You are better.

Recently our church hosted The Gospel Summit, a two-day intensive conference for pastors and church leaders from around the country. During one of my breakout sessions, I talked about some of the previously-unwritten “plumblines” that guide the first impressions ministry at the Summit. Each Monday I’m unpacking one of those plumblines for an expanded discussion. This is the third in a five-part series. Missed the earlier posts? Catch up! Part One. Part Two.

Everything Speaks.

We no longer live in a world where people expect (and even embrace!) mediocrity in the local church. Gone are the days when a soloist could stumble her way through a song in the name of “making a joyful noise.” We’re past the point where our hallways can still sport posters of VBS ’04.

No, we are now in a society where details really do matter, and where our guests notice more inconsistencies than ever before. That doesn’t mean that every church building in America needs to look like the Crystal Cathedral or that we have to run a slickly-produced show week in and week out. (As a matter of fact, plenty of churches with little to no facilities or production budget could teach megachurches a thing or three about authenticity in worship and hospitality on the weekends!)

It’s not always the big things that throw off a good first experience. Often, it’s the tiny, unnoticed-by-us details. That’s why plumbline #3 is derived from one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes: Everything speaks.

Disney believed in this principle so much that his parks were designed to the last detail…even transitions in the pavement beneath your feet. As churches, we have to grasp the fact that our guests see things that we’ve long since forgotten to see. The cluttered walkway leading to the entrance? They’ve spotted that. The flickering fluorescent light in the auditorium? You’ve tuned it out, but it’s giving them the start of an epileptic seizure. The surly usher who growls out a “good morning” to everyone entering? You know that’s just his salty personality, but to a guest, he represents your entire church.

Take a look around your facility, your volunteer team, your systems and processes. What are those things saying that you don’t necessarily intend for them to say?

 Check out the rest of the Plumblines series: Part OnePart TwoPart FourPart Five.

Absolutely no setup for this one today. This simply remains one of my favorite painfully awkward videos. Click here to read the original post.