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Improving your church's image

Impressive moments

As you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant, a waitress greets you with a hurried and indifferent, "Be with you in a minute hon." She sticks a tooth-marked pencil behind her ear. Her dress is a faded yellow uniform with gravy stains across the front and down the side.

You've just experienced the impact of an image a significant impression from encountering a person, place, or thing. In just a moment or two you have learned a lot. On the basis of your brief encounter with this waitress, answer the following questions.

  1. What kind of food will be served?
  2. What kind of atmosphere will you find in the restaurant?
  3. What kind of people frequent this restaurant?
  4. What kind of people probably do not frequent this restaurant?

Your church and Sunday school project an image too. The influence of image is significant and determines why some people come but don't stay, and why some people don't come at all.

Look at your church and Sunday school through the eyes and experience of a Sunday morning guest. What impression would you get? Is it the kind of image you want to project?

Become aware of the impression your church and Sunday school make, and make your image work for you.

What Elements Affect Image?
  1. People. What are the appearance, attitude, and conduct of leaders, workers, and members?
  2. Facilities. What is the appearance, upkeep, and design of building and grounds?
  3. Environment. Is the noise level confusing or orderly, peaceful or discordant?
  4. Colors. Are they matched, contemporary, or dated?
  5. Arrangement. Do the space, program, and overall organization speak of order?
  6. Smell. Is the air clean and fresh or stuffy and unpleasant?
  7. Context. How would you describe the location of your church and surrounding area?

Image is the picture that comes to mind and the expectation we get at significant impressionable moments. Image is never neutral. It works either for or against us. It either helps or hinders us in our efforts to reach people.

Impressionable Moments

In 1981 Scandinavia Airlines lost $20 million. The following year SAS earned $54 million. What was the secret of the turnaround? Jan Carlson, CEO of SAS, led the company to a customer-focused approach. He said, "We have to better manage the 50,000 daily moments of truth with the customer," and he coined the term Managing Moments of Truth for his company. As the company's attitude and approach became more customer-focused, it became more successful.

Every church and Sunday school has thousands of these moments of truth. How well they are managed determines whether guests are satisfied and will return.

Impressionable moments----the direct and indirect contacts that guests and prospective guests have with us----could include the following:

  1. Driving to the church
  2. Entering the parking lot
  3. Finding a parking space
  4. Entering the building
  5. Internal appearance of the church
  6. Greeting at the door
  7. Receiving the bulletin
  8. Finding a seat
  9. Greeting by fellow worshipers
  10. Listening to musical prelude
  11. Listening to announcements
  12. Opening prayer
  13. Worship experience
  14. Listening to prayer
  15. Listening to offering appeal
  16. Listening to special music/drama
  17. Listening to sermon
  18. Appealing for response to sermon
  19. Listening to closing prayer
  20. Exiting sanctuary
  21. Talking with other members
  22. Picking up literature
  23. Exiting building
  24. Exiting parking lot
  25. Follow-up from congregation

These impressionable moments can be magnificent or miserable, depending on how well the church manages them. They can be magnificent moments if the guest receives more than he expected, but moments of misery if his expectations aren't met.

Church Image Analysis

The Church Image Analysis is a tool that can help your church and Sunday school determine and improve their images. Use this evaluation with your leaders, members, and visitors. The CIA can be viewed from a personal perspective or how you think a guest may see your church. Compile your results, and take action to improve your image.

Rate our church by marking the following statements on a scale of 1 to 8.

1 to 2 means "Need much work in this area."
3 to 4 means "Need some work in this area."
5 to 6 means "Doing adequately here."
7 to 8 means "Doing excellently here."

External image

1. When I drive by the church and walk up to it, I get a positive impression.

2. The lawn and landscaping appear well-maintained.

3. The appearance of the building is positive.

4. The church is easy to find and easy to spot from my car.

5. The church sign is easy to read, attractive, and up-to-date.

6. The church sign gives basic information about church and service times.

7. There are signs that direct visitors about parking, Sunday school, and worship services.

8. There is at least 20 percent additional space on high attendance days.

9. There are at least three visitor parking spaces for every 100 people in attendance.

10. There is adequate, accessible handicapped parking.

11. The church entrance is easy to find.

Internal Image

12. The foyer is warm and inviting.

13. The foyer is clean and neat.

14. The foyer is large enough not to be congested.

15. The greeters are warm and helpful.

16. The congregation is warm and friendly, including pastors, teachers, staff, and leaders.

17. There are informational and directional signs for guests (i.e., rest rooms, nursery, classes, and information).

18. The auditorium is accessible for everyone, including the handicapped.

19. The auditorium is attractive and up-to-date.

20. The auditorium is well-lighted.

21. The auditorium is physically comfortable for all, including the handicapped.

22. The sound quality in the auditorium is adequate.

23. The platform is uncluttered, attractive, and neat.

24. Hallways are wide enough to allow for comfortable people flow.

25. Hallways and stairs are well lighted.

26. Hallways, stairs, floors, walls, and ceilings are well-maintained and attractive.

27. Exit signs are visible and lighted.

28. Stairways are wide enough to handle traffic flow.

29. The nursery is in a convenient location.

30. Nursery furniture is clean, comfortable, and well-maintained.

31. The nursery is warm, inviting, and attractive.

32. Nursery floors, walls, and decor are well-maintained.

33. The nursery is clean and odor free.

34. The nursery has adequate space and supervision to be safe.

35. Each classroom is attractive.

36. Each classroom is neat and organized.

37. Each classroom is clean and odor free.

38. Each classroom has enough space for the group that uses it.

39. Each classroom has safe, appropriate furniture for the group that uses it.

40. Each classroom is physically comfortable.

41. Rest rooms are conveniently located and handicapped-accessible and equipped.

42. Rest rooms are clean and odor free.

43. Rest rooms are properly supplied.

44. Rest rooms have adequate facilities for men, women, and children.

45. The offices are easy to find.

46. Offices are clean, neat, and odor free.

47. Offices are spacious.

48. Offices are attractive.

49. Office equipment and furniture are well-maintained.

Worship Experience

50. Music in the worship service is the type preferred by the people we are trying to reach.

51. The worship service is alive and inspiring to the type of people we are trying to reach.

52. The quality of the worship service meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

53. The content of the worship service meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

54. The worship experience meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

55. The worship service emotionally and intellectually affects the lives of people we are trying to reach with the truth and presence of God.

Exposure to Ministries

56. The quality of the class, group, or ministry meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

57. The content in each class, group, or ministry meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

58. The personal involvement in each class, group, or ministry meets or exceeds the expectations of the people we are trying to reach.

59. People gain a sense of belonging through meaningful relationships in each class, group, or ministry.

Group Exercise

Use this group exercise to get a better understanding of your current church and Sunday school image. Then take positive steps to improve your image.

  1. Draw a circle. Begin at the top, to represent the moment when a guest first has direct or indirect contact with your church and Sunday school. Identify the impressionable moments all the way around the circle until the guest leaves.
  2. Identify and discuss three to five of these impressionable moments that are magnificent----in which the guests will probably get more than they expect.
  3. Identify and discuss three to five impressionable moments that could be moments of misery----when guests get less than they expect.
  4. Use the Church Image Analysis with leaders, members, and visitors to gain a better understanding of your present church image.
  5. Compile the results of the Church Image Analysis.
  6. Take action to turn the potential moments of misery into magnificent moments.
  7. Take action to improve your church's image by evaluating the low scores on the Church Image Analysis.

You decide to return to a restaurant based on your first impression and met (or unmet) expectations. A guest determines whether he will return to your church and Sunday school on the same basis. Often a person's image of God and Christianity is determined by the church's building, ministries, and people. We need to do our best to provide positive images. We get only one chance to make a positive first impression.

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