Updated: Dec 12, 2019
"Be there" for your guests.
Good idea, right? But the nuances of the Sunday morning guest’s mindset, even in a single church, are many. It is virtually impossible to list, much less describe, all the places a guest might be hanging out (e.g., emotionally, spiritually, etc.) when they drop by to visit your church on a Sunday morning.
“There” is a big place among guests; it’s a lot of ground to cover. Church guests, for example, may be eager, skeptical, fearful, hesitant, nervous, enthusiastic, hurt, faithful, cautious, ready, inclined, and/or deliberative. They may be seeking, flailing, inquiring, doubting, worshiping, or shopping. You get the picture. The list of guest characteristics could go on and on!
Anybody thinking that guest services at church is simple or one-dimensional is likely underestimating the task.
Guest diversity has particular implications for those on the front line of guest services in the church---in the parking lot, at the Main Entrance doors, in the Red Zone, at the Connection Center, at Kid’s Check-in, etc. How can they possibly be “there” with so many guest variables?
The answer lies in doing well what you can do well. To get “there” or “be there” for their Sunday morning guests, churches must excel in the following:
ON TIME… Some guests arrive early and some right on time; others, of course, arrive late. So, what is the right time to be there for your guests? All of the above.
The reason is simple: Guest services is ultimately a ministry of presence. To connect with the guests, churches must always have volunteers in position (on time) and throughout the duration of the visit.
Failure in this regard is more than tardiness; for the guest, it is tantamount to absence – like walking into someone else’s home without being received. Keep in mind: guests are moving. You have only a moment to catch them as they move into and around the Sunday morning environments. Consequently, a church, “there” for its guests, will ensure that volunteers are on time every time in those environments and throughout the entirety of the visit.
ON TASK… More than a few times, I have observed guest services volunteers in position but out of service. They are where they should be but they aren’t doing what they should be doing. (e.g., door-greeters distracted in conversation with other church members while guests pass right by them, without being noticed or greeted.)
You have heard the phrase, “don’t text and drive.” A small adaptation of the phrase sounds a similarly important warning about the guest experience: “don’t text and greet.” Distractions, whether texting (yes, it happens) or otherwise, have a disastrous effect on the guest experience.
Guests find great value in services directed to them: parking assistance, greetings, escorts to childcare, Kids check-in help, friendly hospitality services, information desks, bulletins and guest packets, assistance with seating, etc. Guest services such as these are connectors. They put the church in the “there” of guests, demonstrating sensitivity, attentiveness, and kindness.
But none of that can happen if the guest services team does not stay on task.
AT THE READY… There is little more disconcerting to a guest than to approach a church’s Guest Center only to find that people behind the counter are ill-prepared for what follows (i.e., lacking the skills, answers, and/or resources to assist the guest).
The Guest Center example illustrates another element essential in being there for guests: the entire Sunday experience should be marked by readiness. E.g., essential materials/handouts in appropriate hands, staffing adequate along guest paths, restrooms cleaned and maintained, snow shoveled, coffee brewed, etc. I.e., all the bases covered.
A mad dash at the last second to “get everything together” for the guest is usually as poorly executed as it is poorly presented to the guest.
Preparedness, on the other hand, signals to guests that they are important and that their visit matters to the church --- leaving a favorable impression.
IN SPIRIT… Guest services volunteers that smile and are happy, enthusiastic, helpful, graceful, generous, and kind are more likely to connect with guests than those that aren’t.
Guest services is a ministry; it is not required duty. And, guests can quickly discern the difference.
So, be sure guest services are approached with a glad heart and done “as to the Lord.” KJV, Colossians 3:23. Enlist volunteers that meet people well and value a new friend; train them to understand the nuances of the guest experience; teach them to make the connection between guest services and fulfilling the church’s mission; encourage them to smile, listen, care, and remember names. Pray for them and with them to have meaningful guest encounters.
“Being there” is a product of discipline. It is the outcome of presence, practice, preparation, and prayer. And, the good news is that it is clearly within reach for any church that wants to do it. Let me know if I can help!