Students are heading to your local campus, and you want to make the most of your opportunity to invite them to your church. You carefully plan your display for the campus activities fair and make a slick rack card for your college ministry. But have you planned for that first impression students will have of your church on the first Sunday they visit? Sometimes we forget what it's like to visit for the first time.
Do a test run.
Get a small group of your student leaders together. Drive to your church and walk through the building in the same way a student will on their first visit. Think about what they will encounter at each point of their visit. What will they see first when they drive up? How easy is it to find a parking space? How easy is it to find your meeting room? Who will greet them when they arrive?
Take the five senses test.
What will they see? What will students notice about your facility? Is it well maintained? Will they see that you care about your space? Is there clutter that needs to be removed? Walls that need repainting? Does your space look inviting to students?
What's that smell?Several years ago we asked student leaders what things they noticed first when they visited a church. One of the common answers was the smell. How does your space smell? Air fresheners or fresh baked cinnamon rolls can help! (And the cinnamon rolls take care of the taste part!)
Will there be food? Everyone knows the first rule of college ministry is, "If you feed them they will come." And, if your class meets on a Sunday morning, it's likely that students haven't had breakfast. You may want serve a few light breakfast items. Eating together creates a homey atmosphere and invites conversation.
What will they hear? Will there be awkward silence when they arrive? Provide background music and make sure someone is there to greet them warmly.
How will they feel? Make your space as comfortable as possible for your guests. Is the air conditioner working properly? Do you have seating that is comfortable for first time guests? Sinking into an old couch with three people you don't know isn't the best way to start things off.
Start to Finish.
How easy is it to get from the college room to the worship center? Designate some students who will escort visiting students to the worship service, and be sure they invite them to sit with them once they get there. You might even want to rehearse.
After the service make sure that someone thanks them for coming and invites them to come again. Thinking through each step will ensure that new students know you've taken the time to prepare for them and make it more likely they will come again.