Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson has written an extremely practical and thoughtful guide for those leading or serving in the First Impressions Ministry of a church – “Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests info Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church” (Regal Books, 2007). The book is particularly useful in that it does a great job with both the how and the why. Searcy is pastor of ‘The Journey’ church in New York City, which has seen tremendous growth, due in part to excellence in first impressions ministry and with small groups. (He’s also written an excellent book on small groups called ‘Activate’ which I recently reviewed.)
Fusion starts out discussing the reasons for a strong assimilation process (or First Impressions Ministry, as we call it at Calvary). They break down the process into smaller steps of attracting first-time guests, encouraging them to return for a second visit, become regular attenders, and eventually a commitment to church membership. At each stage biblical hospitality is called for, evidenced by excellent service as folks are warmly greeted, directed to where they need to go, and treated with respect. The importance of follow-up is covered next, with a few extremely practical chapters with ideas for both email and personal contact – fast, friendly, and functional. A well-designed and explained communication card is a key part of this process. Searcy and Henson make an excellent point in encouraging us to provide opportunities to build relationships that will help people to ‘stick’ and not float out the back door. These include personal invitations to connect via small groups, fun events or service teams. I would recommend “Fusion” to any pastor or first impressions ministry team, along with Mark Waltz’s excellent book “First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church."