In the TV game show, “Let's Make a Deal,” once hosted by Monty Hall, studio audience contestants were given an opportunity to trade their current prizes for what was hidden behind Door Number One, Door Number Two, and Door Number Three. Picking the correct door would reveal a fantastic prize like a new car and a cruise. Picking the wrong door could reveal an odd-ball prize like a donkey pulling a cart of soft drinks. And for the game contestants, they never knew which it would be until they had yielded their current prize in favor of the selected door that was opened before them.
There are several parallels to the Sunday morning church guest experience; most we won't explore. But this one, we will: Churches have lots of doors. Front doors, back doors, side doors. Locked doors, one-way doors, and more. Which door should the unknowing guest choose to enter? Door Number One, Two, or Three?
It may come as a surprise to regular church attenders, but from the perspective of a first-time guest, the "winning" door is not necessarily obvious. It depends, in part, upon where they park whether they can even see the "winning" door or the signs that point to it. Parked in the wrong place, other doors may present themselves first to the guest. Not seeing the right door or even another door, a guest may choose to enter the wrong door out of convenience or apparent necessity.
Then the question is: where does the wrong door take the guest? Well, who knows? The wrong door may open the guest on a long hallway to nowhere. No one to greet. No clear instructions. Nothing to make the guest glad they came. It is a path of uncertainty and dread for the guest and packed with great “won’t come back” implications.
The right door, on the other hand, is along the church’s Preferred Entry Path (PEP). It is specially prepared for guests. It has 1) all the indoor signage to get the guests to their destinations, 2) greeters manning the doors, 3) guest information and services, 4) church hospitality, and 5) extra courtesies that wow first time visitors. No new cars are likely behind the church's preferred entry door but for the guest choosing the right door, it is clear he has picked a winner.
It is the churches duty to insure that guests always choose the right door. To do that, start by determining a Preferred Entry Path (PEP) for all guests. Steps along the path include parking lot entry, Guest Parking, directional signage, Guest Entrance, greeting team, services such as childcare, hospitality, restrooms, handouts, and seating.
If a guest is left to determine his own path, that is just exactly what he will do. And the chances increase that something will go wrong. We don’t want to play that kind of game with our first-time guests at church. We want them to win every time.
A Preferred Entry Path (PEP) reduces user error, increasing the likelihood of all guests receiving the best welcome possible. After determining a Preferred Entry Path, there still is the matter of making it work. Here are 3 important considerations:
Have your guests park at or visibly near the Guest Entrance determined in the Preferred Entry Path. The Guest Entrance or signs to it should be in plain sight from this location. But don’t assume that guests will find Guest Parking on their own; they should be directed by signage as they enter the lot to this designated Guest Parking. If you do not provide clear direction to the Guest Parking, the guest could park anywhere in the lot and may find other doors before he finds the Guest Entrance.
The Guest Entrance should be the grand entrance. It should stand out from other entrances (doors) with wide sidewalks, an appealing appearance, easy accessibility for young and old, and signs that point the way, saying, “Main Entrance,” “Welcome,” or “Glad you Came,”
Staff the right Guest Entrance inside and out with greeters. Greeters outside the door provide affirmation and confidence to the guest that they have made a good choice; greeters inside the door personalize the guest encounter and serve the guest with a welcome, hospitality, information, and directions.
Maybe you remember that with the selection of a wrong door on “Le't”s Make a Deal," there was a familiar refrain of “bad news” music that was played. Our guests at church should NEVER have that sad tune echo through their heads when they walk through the doors of our churches for the first time.
Rather, a smile of relief, satisfaction, and delight should flood their face as they conclude by their first steps into our church experience that they have made a good choice. They picked the right door. They are GLAD they came.