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.