Tag Archive - guest services

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Top Posts of 2015 #7: “10 Principles to Building a Great Guest Experience at Your Church”

This post came in at #7 this year, and rightly so. Guest Services is one of the areas that stuckness most often shows up in churches.

Do you know how to build a great guest experience at your church? Are you starting with the right building blocks? This top 10 list has been built from my experience of working with churches across the country the past couple of years with the Unstuck Group.

When we engage churches in a Ministry Health Assessment we help them gain a fresh perspective of their strategies, systems and structures. The process gives churches with a current snapshot of their ministry’s health and steps to best position your church to fulfill your vision. Here’s some of what I’ve learned along the way.

1. Stop Acting like a Church

Instead of learning from other churches, begin looking at other public space that people go to. Visit resorts, restaurants, stores and other public venues that have a great guest experience and have people coming back for more. Take your teams, debrief, and build a list of what you can learn and principles and ideas to transfer to your church campus.

2. Give people the Opportunity to Self-Identify

Guest parking, children’s check-in, a physical guest services location, and communication cards in the program/bulletin are all simple ways to create avenues for guests to self-identify. By a guest self-identifying they are essentially “opting-in” or giving you permission to speak with them. Instead of spamming them you are engaging them in a dialogue with their permission.

3. Ask, “What’s Next?”

It can be frustrating going onto a church campus for the first time. It can seem like everyone else (insiders) already know where to go and what to do. It can be intimidating. Make it easier for people by thinking through a “what’s next” exercise with your team. Imagine a guest drives into your parking lot…what next? Imagine they find the right place to park…what’s next? Asking, “What’s next?” moving through the moment a guest arrives on your campus to the moment they leave will help you create an audit of your guest experience.

4. Make it Personal

It’s a nice touch when I make reservations for my wife’s birthday and we show up at the restaurant to be greeted by a, “Happy Birthday Mrs. Alexander,” (and I don’t mind the free dessert either). The more personal you can make it, the more memorable it will be. Instead of a cookie-cutter guest follow up letter, could you write a personal handwritten note? Could the person who greeted them actually be the one writing it? How about a personal phone call to say thank you for visiting, instead of trying to get them to come back. Think: personal without intrusive.

5. Cleanliness IS Next to godliness

If you go into a restaurant bathroom and it’s filthy, how does that make you feel about what goes on in the kitchen? Build a team and give them responsibility for keeping the facility clean. Don’t just make sure it’s clean, (including the parking lot and sidewalks) for guests when they arrive but make sure the bathrooms get cleaned in between services and the facility is maintained during use.

6. Please don’t have a kid watching my kid

I’m not sure about you, but I have kids. And they’re pretty much the most important things I have on this planet. So when I go to check my kids into a classroom at a church and a young teenager greets me and asks me to hand over one of my kids, I get nervous. Now, do I think teenagers should serve at church? Yep. Do I think they can serve with kids? Sure. But have a responsible adult in the room with them coaching them and interacting with the parents.

7. Engage People BEFORE they come to your Church Building

The guest experience begins before guests ever get to your church campus. More and more people are checking out your church before they ever go to it. They’re church shopping online and gauging whether or not they will attend based on what they can learn about you on your website. So does your church website acknowledge and engage guests? Is it easy and intuitive to navigate? Is the Google map correct? Have you posted a short experience video or brief welcome video from the pastor so guests can know what to expect when they arrive? Can they check-in their kids and actually schedule their visit before they arrive on your campus?

8. Call things what they are

One of the worst guest experiences I ever had at a church was when I was wandering around trying to figure out where to check-in my kids. Fortunately I saw someone walking by with a lanyard on, “Finally someone who can help me,” I thought. When I asked where I should go to check in my kids they pointed and said, “The ‘B’ Building,” and kept walking. Great! What’s the ‘B” Building, I thought. Please call the nursery, preschool ministry, elementary, Jr. High and so on what they actually are. I know you’re trying to be cute and cool with your great church brands but it doesn’t help guests. Clear trumps cute or cool all day long.

9. Don’t Single People Out

There is a difference between acknowledging guests and singling them out. Having guests wear a special name tag, a rose on their lapel, or remain seated during the worship service so everyone else can come by and say hello singles people out. Very few people like to stand out. Remember your Junior High years? Most people will go to great lengths to blend in. So don’t single your guests out at church, or they probably won’t come back again.

10. Follow Through

The easiest way to gain or lose trust is to follow through, or not follow through on what you say you’re going to do. If guests take a step and self identify, then follow up with them. This can be a simple email sent the day of their visit, a handwritten note sent on Monday or a personal phone call. If guests ask for help or information, then give it to them. Quickly.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is probably a good place to start. What else would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

Interested in learning more about engaging the Unstuck Group and participating in a Ministry Health Assessment? Follow this link!


Posted in Leadership

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6 Indicators You’re Leading an Insider Focused Church

How do you know if you’re leading an insider-focused church? Here are 6 indicators that you and your team can use to evaluate your church:

#1 Language

The language you choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches. Coming up with cool names and brands for ministries that mean nothing to people outside the church, sub-branding things to death, and mentioning people from stage by name without explaining who they are just a couple of them. Two big principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you choose to use in your church are: clear always trumps cute or cool and you’re always better off just calling things what they are.

#2 High giving-per-head

It may sound counter-intuitive but in growing outsider focused churches I consistently see giving-per-head numbers around $20-$30 per person. In churches that are stuck and insider focused it’s not uncommon to see giving-per-head numbers between $30-$50 per person.

#3 No Way-finding

At one church I visited I had no idea where to take my children. Everyone else seemed to know where to go but us. When we asked for help we were told to go to the “B-Building.” While the person who helped us was polite and came off as genuinely interested in helping us I had no idea what or where the “B-Building” was. Even worse there was no signage directing us to the “B-Building” or anything else for that matter. You’d be amazed how well placed, clear, directional signage and calling things what they are (i.e. Children’s Center, Student Center, Office, Worship Center) can help guests find their way on your campus.

#4 No clear Spiritual Maturity Pathway

Most churches are hoping that people outside of the faith will somehow miraculously jump in on what the church is already doing for existing members of the church. The problem is that just doesn’t happen. Have you clearly defined what you want people to look like who are walking with Jesus and created clear steps for them to get there?

#5 Few Baptisms/Conversions

Insider focused churches have a tendency to criticize growing churches, as if to say “They are doing something wrong and aren’t preaching the Word.” Essentially saying that if they were doing things “right” and “preaching the Word” they wouldn’t be growing.

#6 Poor Guest Services

My first week attending a church that I had recently gone on staff at we showed up trying to discover where to take my children for the Children’s Ministry (are you sensing a theme here?). A Children’s Staff Member shouted and pointed from down the hallway. There was no one to help us get where we needed to go, including that staff member who kept walking the other direction after they had yelled at us. The ironic thing is they had a great children’s ministry. Developing a culture of guest services in your church begins with developing a culture of guest services among your staff.

If none of those ideas resonate with you, here’s something that should push you towards taking a serious look at evaluating the church you’re leading. Don’t forget that you can still be growing and be insider focused; it’s called being the best Christian show in town.


Posted in Leadership

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First impressions

It was 14 years ago. Lisa and I had recently been married and I had just gone on staff at my first church as a Youth Pastor. She was finishing her teaching degree driving an hour each way to and from school. I was full on diving into ministry, trying to change the world. It was a pretty tradition church. There was an organ and a choir in the sanctuary. It was a suit and tie kind of a place, cool church, just a traditional style church. The youth ministry was growing at a pretty quick pace and students started coming to this church that didn’t look, act, talk, or smell like they had ever been in a church before, and that was because they hadn’t. Being a pretty conservative environment, the church actually had a hard time with these new students walking through the doors. But something about the whole thing felt right. To fast forward, a young man by the name of Will came to the Student Ministry one evening and got radically saved. Immediately we started praying for his little brother. Eventually Will’s little brother shows up at church one Sunday morning. I can remember, he walked in all thugged out with his saggy jeans, black t-shirt, stocking hat pulled down to eye level, and a chain hanging from his wallet to his jeans. He walks all they way down the center aisle of the sanctuary and plops down on the front pew. He slouches down, crosses his arms, and didn’t move the entire service, not even when we stood to sing. He just sat there, as if to say, “I dare you.”

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Posted in Creative Arts, Leadership