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The Ten Foot Rule

Retail stores across America are staring down the challenge churches face every Sunday. Wanting their customers to experience a friendly, helpful, and responsive environment, stores have intentionally stepped up with some strategies. You have seen some of them with official greeters at the store entrance; you probably have entered the convenience store to a shout of “Good morning.” You may have encountered the restaurant manager making his way from table to table greeting guests.

A quick footnote: One thing I haven’t seen in any store I have visited is an announcement over the loudspeaker, “please pause your shopping and greet those in the aisle with you; give them a big (name of the store) hug.” Maybe that will come soon. (OR NOT!)

I have also observed this trend in the retail world: the “Ten Foot Rule.” Very simply, it is the store policy that directs employees to speak to every customer that is within ten feet of them. Think of it! When fully implemented it has the potential of creating a store-wide culture of friendliness. More than the important but “official” greeting at the door, this practice multiplies friendliness throughout the customer experience and leaves the overall impression that this store really is friendly, helpful, and responsive.

One application of the “Ten Foot Rule” trains employees with three words that are worth noting:

1) GREET: Say “hello”; “how are you?”

2) ASK: Say, “Can I help you?”

3) THANK: Say, “Thank you for shopping at (name the store) today.

With a few minor adaptations, this could work at church. What if regular attenders at church were trained and encouraged to follow the same practice with guests? It might sound like this:

1) GREET: Say “hello”; “how are you?” “My name is...”

2) ASK: Say, “Are you visiting today?”“What is your name?”or “Can I help you?”

3) THANK: Say, “Thank you for joining us (worshipping) today at (name the church) today.” “I am so glad you are here.”

Once started, conversation like this may go in any one of a thousand directions. The ensuing conversation will be authentic, natural, and genuine. Real friendships can emerge from beginnings as simple as these. And guests won’t forget.

I read the other day that culture is transmitted from one generation to the next. How? It is lived, modeled, communicated, and owned.

We may safely assume a culture of friendliness won’t just happen at church. If church leaders want a culture of friendliness, it must be transmitted.

Leaders can take a giant step in that direction with this simple model: the “Ten Foot Rule.” Help regular attenders see the guests that are near them; help them know what to say in three simple words (greet, ask, thank); and then celebrate the outbreak of friendliness that develops when everyone gets involved.

What do you think? Share your experiences in the Comments below.

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