From the time someone checks out a church on its website, puts the address into their GPS, and makes the  trek to attend that church for the first time, a lot of anticipation has been built. Perhaps they are church surfing. Perhaps they have been burned by a previous church. Maybe they are just new to your area and looking for a church. In any case, three and three are important numbers.

Three and Three. The three minutes before a church service begins and the three minutes immediately following the conclusion of a church service are the most critical for a first-time guest. Everyone wants to feel connected — even those who are part of the cornerstones of a church.  In order for people to feel connected, they must feel welcomed, engaged, and  inspired.

Most churches have procedures and practices in place for first time attendees, but they should be routinely examined in order to aid in welcoming and communicating well to newcomers.  There is a danger of apathy in familiarity and the  attitude of “been there, done that, we’ve mastered this.” To think “but we’ve always done it this way, we’re good” does not convey a willingness to look in the mirror and admit not only that change can be made, but that it also might be a really good idea.   

As with everything though, including our relationship with Christ (where it all begins), there is room for improvement. It is up to all pastors and ministry leaders to examine the ministries within their churches and to set their minds on doing everything possible to the highest level, including reviewing systems and communication. Let’s remember Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Here are 4 potentially overlooked ways to maximize the three and three during your service.


A warm smile cannot be underestimated. I cannot help but think of the final two-minute scene in the movie, Titanic. If you recall, Rose is experiencing memories of first walking in through the doors to the grand staircase.  Along the way, a warm smile greets her and opens the door. From there, people of all ages are smiling and welcoming her in.  Yeah – that cannot is priceless. After all, with three and three, the clock is ticking. Let the first impression of your church begin with a smile. There’s a fine line between a greeter and the similarity of a concierge desk at a 5-star hotel.  A warm smile makes the line a little wider.


We should aim to meet each guest on the platform they are most comfortable with. For example, not everyone is a millennial. Not every guest prefers emails and texts. Some are old school (at times, admittedly, I am too). Church ministries are in place primarily to share the love of Jesus. Ensuring your bulletin has the names, emails and good ‘ol phone numbers of ministry leaders allows newcomers to reach out in a way they feel comfortable.


Don’t underestimate the power of signs. Restrooms, nurseries, moms rooms, wheelchairs, and of course coffee are all worthy of highlighting. The first time through the doors, a newcomer should be welcomed by your building as well as your people. Clear signage helps lessen the stress of not knowing where anything is and eliminates the need for questions for those newcomers who might want to remain anonymous for the first week or two.


Why not try a comment card in addition to a connect card? Feeling connected nowadays takes on many aspects. Whether you are a millennial, mid-lifer, or veteran church-goer, having written, visual, and digital avenues of communication all available are a sure win to be confident your reminders, events, news and celebrations are seen, heard, and duly marked on calendars.

So now, the newcomer has parked their car, experienced an open door and a warm smile. They are properly greeted, had their hand shook (albeit except for Covid season), ushered to a pew or seat, have been fed and filled through the Word spoken, and perhaps even had a chance to meet the pastor after service. Add a cup of coffee and a bagel as an usher points newcomers toward the fellowship area, and these practices enhance a welcoming impression towards new people. Each works together cohesively, and when combined, they build a sense of inclusion, communication, and value, and that’s how a church conveys being approachable and making a positive impact and impression. Remember…you’ve only got “three and three.”

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Carrie Cognilio

Carrie Cognilio

Multiply Process Coach at EDA Move
Carrie Cognilio

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