Sunday, August 14, 2016

Great First-time Guest Impression

How to Make A Great First-time Guest Impression

Lets navigate the process along with guests rather than merely point the way.

In this document we will look at
·        The pre-service (from the street to the seat)
·        Direct: Simply and politely direct guests where they need to go for them to be successful.
·        Treat: Show respect and happily surprise guests with comfort food and drink.
·        Seat: Lead guests to a comfortable, appropriate seat where they feel at home and belong.
·        Seven minutes and counting will focus on timing.

We won't get a second chance. Seven minutes is all the time we have to make a positive first impression on the first-time guests who walk through our doors. In the first seven minutes of their experience with the church, our guests (and Gods guests) will decide whether or not they're going to come back. That's before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of teaching is uttered. Maybe that seems unfair to you but, fair or not, it's true. Blame it on the power of the God-given subconscious mind.

Certainly from our perspective people should be nobler and be looking for a congregation that teaches truth and gospel. That number of people has dwindled quickly in our lifetime. But we must be aware that the Lords church has something they are looking for that is authenticity and being genuine people who truly love one another like the first century Christians.

Obviously, our guests from the streets and most of our friends we bring aren't making a well-thought-out decision based on the integrity of the preaching (they haven't heard it yet), the character of the church staff & shepherds (they've never met them), or the clarity of our doctrine (what's doctrine?). They're not weighing the pros and cons of our worship style and theological viewpoints. Instead, they are taking in clues about our church family's atmosphere and people's friendliness on a much more rudimentary level. Their subconscious minds are working overtime to evaluate their compatibility with this new environment. Without knowing it, they are asking the question, Could I feel comfortable belonging here regularly?

So the question becomes: How can we, as a Christian or church leader, take advantage of this reality? That is, how can we identify and strengthen what's actually being judged by them? How can each individual Christian do their part to create the irresistible environment of a church family? What factors and feelings play into a guest's first impression? How much control can we have over doing things in a way that will make the experience a positive one where they will come again until they grow up in Christ? To truly get a glimpse of the power of our church and class's first impression on a guest, let's step to the other side and look at the experience from a first-time guest's point of view.

Jon (Mr. Edmond) hits the blaring alarm clock and nudges his wife (Mrs. Edmond). Liz sits up in bed, debating with herself. Even though she has been talking about going back to church for years, she's not thrilled with the idea of following through on this particular day. She didn't sleep well last night and the afternoon is packed with activities for the kids because family is important to her. But, a friend invited them for the second time and they hated to say no again, so today is the day. Liz throws back the covers and gets out of bed.

Once up, (Mr. & Mrs. Edmond OK) morning plays like something out of a Stephen King novel. The kids, four and two, both throw temper tantrums, the eggs burn, and the dog smuggles his latest catch into the house. Tired, irritated, and already running late, Jon finally gets everyone packed into the car and off they go...

Let's pause for a reality check. When an unchurched person or family decides to attend our church and class for the first time, what do you think is going to happen to them the morning of the service? Whatever the enemy can pull out of his bag to throw their way, right? If he can't keep them from attending, he will at least make sure they hit the parking lot stressed out and in no mood for what lies ahead. He knows that if he can sow pre-service defensiveness and negativity, 8 out of 10 American churches won't do anything to turn that guest's attitude around. In most cases, the church will just make him self-conscious, uncomfortable and, by default, more irritable. Sadly, by nudging guests to disengage before they walk through the door, the enemy usually wins the battle before it even starts. But he can't win if we don't let him. We can thwart his plans by creating a comfortable, inviting pre-service. We are in a real spiritual battle.

The pre-service is our first opportunity to interact with everyone who sets foot on our church's campus, property, and plant - from first-time guests to long-time members - but its purpose and influence is particularly important for first-timers. Our pre-service mission, if we choose to accept it, is to do everything we can to take our guest's guard down (and even put a smile on his face) before the service begins.

There are four primary ways we can influence our guests during the pre-service: by controlling how they are greeted, directed, treated and seated. Let's go back to our fictional example. Take a look at how a successful pre-service might play out at any given church on any given weekend...

Jon, Liz and the kids drive into the parking lot of the church, and are immediately impressed by what they see. The building, though not large or even new, is obviously well cared for. The grass is even freshly cut. Everyone is headed toward a main front door, where a nice-looking couple about Jon and Liz's age is speaking warmly to each person.

Once through the door themselves, where they were welcomed with a smile and a genuine "glad you are here," and couples handing out some kind of program (you might call it a bulletin, but since Jon and Liz are unchurched they are more likely to think of it as a program)

Then Liz immediately spots two signs telling her exactly what she needs to know. One points the way to the restroom that her four-year-old urgently needs, and the other points toward the childrens area. After stop number one, Jon and Liz check the childrens area sign again and start in the direction its pointing. A volunteer spots them and offers to lead them directly to the right place for each of their children.

When the kids have been dropped off, Jon notices the smell of coffee and donuts wafting towards him. He turns a corner to find a table piled high with Krispy Kreme boxes, fruit, and coffee. Exchanging surprised glances, he and Liz grab a donut (well, she grabs an apple, he grabs a donut) and a cup of coffee and start timidly toward one of the aisles. Another volunteer steps up and directs them to two open seats.

Jon begins to realize that the foul mood he drove into the parking lot with has been brightened a little by the smiles around him, the coffee in his hand, and the overall atmosphere of the church. The people seem incredibly friendly and actually happy that he and Liz are there. At the church they used to go to, people hardly offered a smile, much less helpful information or a donut - and he's always thought all churches were the same. As the service begins, he can't help but wonder what's going on in this place...

Creating an environment that makes our first-time guests feel both welcomed and respected is key to winning a return visit and beginning the process of assimilating them well. When God entrusts us with first-time guests, we face an incredible responsibility. One of the best ways to acknowledge our guests as the gifts they are is by having a pre-service in place that will far exceed their expectations and create that elusive positive first impression. We will excite them to want to visit our church again and again, so that they can ultimately learn about the excellence, graciousness, hospitality and generosity of the One after whom we are modeling everything we do.

Now that we have seen what a successful pre-service experience looks like, let's dive more deeply into each of its four components:

Make sure our guests are:
Greeted: Welcomed with a smile.
Directed: Simply and politely directed to where they need to go.
Treated: Shown respect and happily surprised with comfort food and drink.
Seated: Led to a comfortable, appropriate seat near loving Christians.


Memorize the next sentence and make it our mantra:
Everything speaks to a first-time guest.
From the moment a guest sets foot on our property, he tunes in to receive the message our church is sending. And our church and/or classes are always sending a message, whether we realize it or not. The condition of our building, our sign, our lawn, and our parking lot all speak to him. He's already making gut-level judgment calls. He's not necessarily being critical (although he may be, depending on his history with church); he's just being human. He's reading his environment. Knowing this, we have to make sure we're sending a welcoming message.

We have an obligation to strive for excellence. We don't have to be perfect, we just have to do the very best we can with what we've got which is the definition of Godly excellence. We don't have to have a brand-new building or a big shiny sign to make a good impression, but chipped paint and overgrown grass will certainly make a bad one. If you're like most church leaders, we may be so familiar with our building and our land that we don't really see them anymore. Take a fresh look around. Drive into our parking lot and intentionally examine our church and/or classes through a guest's eyes. Are we communicating the right message?

While the appearance of our church building is extremely important, the most crucial part of the "greeted" area of contact is who our guests meet when they get to the front door our greeters. A friendly face offering a warm welcome speaks volumes. Greeters should practically radiate the underlying message we want to send to our guests: "We're nice people, and we're glad you are here!"

As we put people in place as greeters, they must clearly understand the importance of their responsibility and know exactly what is expected of them. It seems the best volunteers want and need clear direction. They will feel more comfortable at their post if told what they should say and how to say it. Greeters, along with all volunteers, have an innate fear of not pleasing their leaders, while at the same time leaders have a fear of asking too much of them. This can create a vicious cycle where everyone is tiptoeing around everyone else, and guests aren't being greeted as effectively as they could be. Remind greeters that they are expected to offer a big, authentic smile, say hello, and put a program in each persons hands.

Ive read of a congregation to take the idea of greeting their guests with a smile so seriously that they do smile practice! Their volunteer system was a little different from most. They never knew who was going to show up to help with the service on any given Sunday. They had developed a culture where their people always had the option of coming an hour early to serve, so every week they trust God that one hundred to two hundred volunteers will show up and they did! Once the volunteers arrive, they divided the responsibilities among them. They wanted to make sure the friendliest people, with the most genuine smiles, are stationed as greeters so sometimes they did "smile practice" in their pre-service volunteer meeting to make sure they choose the right people. Not only does everyone get to practice putting on a huge smile, but the ones who end up as greeters understand that the smile they give guests is so important that it just landed them the position.

There's an old business axiom that says you can hire unfriendly people and work hard to teach them to smile, or you can hire smiling friendly people and turn them loose. The latter seems like a nice shortcut to me, which is why I think it's important to intentionally choose greeters who are most like outsiders would picture Jesus instead of simply taking the first volunteers for that position. I suggest putting smile practice in place in our lives, and positioning great big grins at our front door and smiles in every aisle, hallway, and class.

The second step in a successful pre-service is to make sure our guests are quickly, simply and politely shown where they need to go, either by a sign, a volunteer, or preferably by both. Imagine if Jon and Liz had walked through the door of this unfamiliar church and had no idea where the restroom was. Since their child needed one, not only would they be facing a minor emergency, but they would have been put in the awkward position of having to stop someone and ask. Automatically, this would have made them feel more uncomfortable and out of place. Their level of anxiety would have risen, at the expense of their positive first impression. The same story applies if they didn't know where or how to drop their kids off for the children's ministry. Here at the Edmond Church of Christ, we have a strategically located information and direction for the childrens ministry.

When it comes to real estate, we all know the importance of location, location, location. Within the church, the equally important and correlating phrase to remember is "signs, signs, signs! people, people, people! -- smile, smile, smile!" Signs are the single best way to ensure that our guests are told. Smiling and informed people for each guest is an important addition so they feel more comfortable in finding what they need. The two areas in particular that demand clear signs are the restrooms and the children's area. It is vital that first-time guests can find the front door and entrance. Since our front door is not easily discernible from the parking lot, we can make sure they are directed as we arrive at church too. Hopefully our new construction will have a better sign in place for it, too.

A common tendency is to think that our guests will figure out how to find what they need - that our building is "pretty easy" to navigate. For you, that's true. For our guests, who have never set foot in our door and whose anxiety levels are already registering high, it's not. They have taken a big step by simply crossing our threshold. Make sure you throw them the safety net of letting them know exactly where to go next. Even if we think we have enough signs, we need more. Our building layout can become confusing, it is large, and frequently new people get lost in the circle. Our building does not sit on the lot in a typical square and clear direction. Consequently it is common for people to forget which door they came in and which parking lot their car is located. That tells me it is easy to get lost in our building. Again, please walk with new guests to their location and partner someone with them to get to their next destination.

In traveling to and working with churches across the country, I am continually amazed at how difficult it is to navigate the average church building. More than half of the time, I'm not sure exactly where to park, where to enter the building or how to find the main sanctuary - and I am generally good with directions! If I find it difficult to navigate unfamiliar church buildings, then apprehensive, unchurched guests definitely find them confusing, and confusion creates anxiety. If our building is the least bit perplexing to our first-timers, they will become even more anxious than they already are. Good directions and an abundance of signage can lower their anxiety and point them through the open door that leads to hearing the Good News.

While signs are key, they're not enough on their own. Greeters, section hosts, and caring members serve as partners to our signs. Our leaders are encouraged to seek out new guests and to look for people who seem unsure of where to go, then approach them and ask if they need help. When our guest, in turn, asks for directions to a particular location, our leaders and section hosts should not just point out the way but act as a personal escort. If the location in question is the children's area, you are encouraged to go so far as to introduce the new parents and children to whoever is in charge of the children's ministry. As the old saying goes, "God is in the details."

A first-time guest wants to feel respected and welcomed. One of our strongest points as a congregation is our education ministry. Our classes create a culture of a church family. Everyone gets the strongest feeling of home at this point. Realize and believe in the strength of this part of our church. Our guests want to know that we are happy they are there, and that we are serious about making sure they have a good experience. The way you, our staff, the teachers, and our regular attenders treat him and his family will tell him most of what he needs to know. Sadly, a large majority of American churches aren't eager to welcome guests, much less make them feel at home. When a guest shows up, these churches have no idea what to do with him. The unfamiliar face is as intimidating to the church family as their faces are to him. We've all heard the stories, or witnessed services ourselves, where first-time guests were altogether ignored, or made to feel like they were in the wrong place, and didnt belong here. What do you think that communicates about God's love? Do you think that guest would ever choose to return to such an environment, or ever return to another church again?

The church is not a business, but if we want to learn how to make our visitors feel welcomed, it's a good idea to take some cues from the customer-conscious service world. Good businesses understand that treating a guest with respect and making sure he has a good first experience is essential to winning a return visit. Shouldn't churches be the ones teaching the business world about embracing and serving those who walk through our doors? This is where Biblical hospitality meets the business concept of customer service. Unfortunately, in most churches, the customer service aspect of ministry has been on the decline for way too long. The church should be the friendliest place in all creation. Reflect on this thought, we can only extend love to the degree we have experience love extended to us for God so loved the world that He gave. How much have you been loved undeservedly?

In Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard's exploration of stellar customer service, he defines three secrets to creating environments that will wow our guests and make them feel like they're being treated well. One of those secrets is to always "deliver our vision plus one percent":

"Let's look at it," said Andrew. "The secret says two things. First, it tells you to deliver. Not sometimes, not most times, but all the time. Second it talks about plus one percent. I'll come back to that, but first of all we have to talk about delivery."

"Consistency, consistency, consistency," interjected Charlie. "Consistency is critical. Consistency creates credibility. My pro will explain how it works. Andrew, if you please."

"With pleasure, Charlie," said Andrew. "As Charlie told you, consistency is key to delivering Raving Fan Service. When you're creating Raving Fans, it's a fragile relationship. They've been burned before and don't trust easily. You're trying to pull them in and they're usually trying to resist. Consistency will overcome resistance, but in the meantime, they're watching like a hawk for you to mess up."

This couldn't be truer when it comes to creating raving fans out of first-time guests. Most of the people who walk through our door have been burned by church, negative press about the church or by a friend or family member in the name of religion. More than likely, they are skeptical and waiting, as Andrew said, for you to mess it up. When we give them a consistent pre-service and post-service experience that makes them feel important, their skepticism goes down while their positive impression and curiosity goes up, leaving you in the perfect position to make a real spiritual impact. So how do you continually add the one percent that makes their experience just a little sweeter? Well, food isn't associated with comfort (and pleasure) for nothing.

James Beard once said, "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." It also provides a welcome, comforting treat in any situation. A cup of Starbuck's coffee acts as a security blanket for millions of adults every day. Ever notice how a two-hundred-pound man in a crowd of strangers suddenly feels more comfortable if he has an eight-ounce Styrofoam cup to hide behind? Providing food is one of the best ways to show our guest we care about him, and a sure way to put him at ease. When done well, food can go a long way toward wowing our guest, but when done poorly, it can really turn him off.

A few words of advice: Don't skimp on food. This is not the area to try and save a nickel. Don't cut things in half to make them stretch. Don't glare at the guest who takes three donuts. Food is our chance to show the unchurched person that we care enough to offer him something for free that will meet a need; it's our chance to show him an example of God's generosity.

Food is certainly not a necessity for hospitality, but it goes a long way toward making a solid positive impression that we were thinking of them. If you choose to do it, do it well. Keep in mind that you aren't preparing a five-course breakfast. You are simply making your food offering with excellence. Quality, not extravagance, is the key. Recently I was reading about a church that received this survey response from a first-time guest.
Q: What did you notice?
A: The smiles, warm reception and Krispy Kreme donuts.
Q: What did you like best?
A: Besides the friendly atmosphere, again the coffee and donuts!"
They say they hear echoes of this sentiment every week.

Now that our guest has been sincerely greeted, helpfully directed, and well treated, all that's left is for him to be properly seated. This may work differently in your class verses the auditorium. While it would be easy to let our guests fend for themselves to find a seat, it's a terrible idea. Think back to Jon and Liz. If no volunteer had stepped up to show them to a seat as they started timidly down the aisle, they would have walked by filled rows, glancing uncomfortably for empty seats, hoping they wouldn't have to squeeze past someone already situated at the end of a pew. They probably would have ended up close to the back of the church, where they could more easily find space without having to interact with anyone and more easily remain anonymous. Section hosts can help in this area.

Thankfully, the aisle usher, who was ready and eager to escort them to a seat, relieved Jon and Liz of the pressure they were probably starting to feel. The usher knew how to ask those already seated to slide toward the middle, or to stand and let Jon and Liz slide in, which the two of them would never have done on their own. So, Jon and Liz ended up in comfortable seats, close to the front, without having to fumble through an awkward situation.

Section hosts are encourage to be proactive, thoughtful, and facilitate this process. The time my wife and I went to a nice show, we saw the value of a good usher in action. From the moment we entered the theater, we were literally ushered to our seats. If you've ever experienced Broadway or a big sporting event, you know the drill. The usher who scans your ticket points you toward the correct entrance (or in my case, the correct staircase for the cheap seats!), where there is another usher who points you toward the correct aisle, where there is yet another usher who walks you directly to your row and motions to your seats. We realized that as long as we had our ticket in hand for the ushers to see, they would do all the work. We were along for the ride. That's nice usher service. It is a good feeling if a section hosts encourages you to sit in their area. You feel wanted and like you belong there. It opens up conversation too.

On the other hand, we've been to sports arenas and concert venues where we missed the first fifteen minutes of the event trying to find the right wing, level, section and row for our seats. We were on our own, juggling concessions and upset that we were missing something we had paid to see. There was certainly no usher in place to make sure we had a smooth experience.

Here's the difference in thinking: Those Broadway shows run every night. They want you to come again. They want you to tell your friends. They want you to bring out-of-town guests. They want to ensure you've had an experience that will keep you coming back for more. At most concerts and sporting events, the venue proprietors aren't nearly as concerned with earning our repeat business. They know that their draw is the night's particular entertainment. The next night, it will be a new, differently-focused crowd, who will be there to see their favorite artist or team, generally in spite of venue conditions. So, earning a return visit through offering a high level of service is not a priority to them.

When it comes to providing service to our first-time guests, be continually aware that our goal is to make them as comfortable and happy as possible. We want them to come back. We want them to bring their friends. Approach this area of service with the mindset of Broadway's bright lights rather than that of self-service stadiums.

The thinking behind "Greeted, Directed, Treated and Seated" may be a paradigm shift for you. Until this point in history, many churchs traditional plan for first-time guests has been simply to get them through the door and make an impression with the service itself. While that sounds good in theory, research has shown that we don't have that luxury. By the time a service starts, guests have already made judgments about our environment, interacted with people who may or may not have rubbed them the right way, figured out how to navigate the hallways, and found themselves a seat...more than enough experience with church or Bible classes for a gut-level impression to have firmly formed. And once the first impression has been made, you can do very little in the service itself to make change and improve it. If they have already formed a negative impression, that impression becomes the lens through which they view everything else over the next hour or so. Conversely, if we create a "raving fan" in the pre-service, they will engage in the rest of our service with a heightened enthusiasm, which leaves them more open to hearing from God.

In his instructions to the church practitioners at Corinth, Paul encouraged his listeners, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Why? Because everything done in preparation for a church service works together to represent God's character to the unchurched person. They may not immediately know why they like our church and/or Bible class, or why they feel comfortable, but it's because we've done the thoughtful work to set them at ease before they knew they were coming. We have intentionally established an environment that resonates positively with their subconscious mind, before they even evaluate it on a conscious level.

Something in them connects with the smile they've been offered. They feel relief that they don't have to ask for directions to the restroom. They feel loved by the donuts and coffee we've made available to them. They appreciate the seat you've provided. In those first seven minutes, all of these things work together to create an impression that will open the future door of opportunity for you to minister in their lives in a truly meaningful way. With a strong pre-service in place, seven minutes is all we need to show our guests just how much we care about them and want them back!

Certainly these attitudes should continue to be demonstrated throughout the service and post-service as well. Consistency is vital.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hospitality Ministry (Introduction)

Hospitality Ministry 
(Also known as Greeters Ministry)

God has called His followers “as they are going” to take the gospel with them, Matthew 28:18-20. At the same time, we read in 1 Corinthians 14:23-24 and James 2:2-4 about how unbelievers may come into the assembly and have an impression of God. We are representing God at all times and we can make a better impression for our creator. At every assembly we have precious opportunities to share God's love through our words and actions because we are the body of Christ.

Did we have any first-time Guests attend last Sunday? How many have we had the past month…the past year? Those Guests were God’s gift to us. How did we receive them? Did we show God our appreciation for these gifts? Did we treat those gifts as they deserved to be treated by having a plan in place to integrate them into the body of Christ, or did we just say a quick thank you and move on? Not one of these Guests showed up at our doorstep haphazardly. By sending that Guest to us, God is giving us the privilege of working with Him to move someone forward in their journey toward Christ. How can we accomplish the goal of making a first-time Guest into a productive member? The methods and strategies of this system have proven to be one of the best programs in the country of advancing a first-time Guest to a second-time Guest to a regular attender and finally to a productive member of not only our congregation, but of God’s kingdom. By all of us being on the “same page” and presenting a consistent system, we can improve our odds of keeping the “seekers” here and not letting them slip through the cracks. Let’s begin thinking together…
I’ll never visit your church again! These are words no church wants to hear. Do you know that your guests will make this decision within seconds after walking in our door?

The church is a family that is expecting Guests. What do we do when we’re expecting Guests into our homes? We prepare. Upon arrival we show them around, show them where the restrooms are, and give them a comfortable place to sit. We do everything in our power to make sure our Guest feels welcome and respected in our home. Let’s work together so Guests will feel right about their choice to check out the Lord’s body.

The "Welcome" a person receives will give a person a real sense of where they belong. If they feel like they are in a place where they don't belong, then the congregation has lost a real opportunity for embracing them with the love of God. Generally speaking, when “unchurched” people enter our doors, they typically know few, if any people. They certainly hope to find warm greetings and friendly faces. First impressions are powerful. The first 30 to 90 seconds usually establish that impression. Every successful retail business knows the importance of being friendly. We can reflect on our own experiences at Wal-Mart, Chick-Fil-A, your favorite restaurant etc.

When you enter a Wal-Mart store, you are met at the door by a person who has one job to do. His job is to greet you and welcome you to the store. If you have an item to return, he helps you do that. If you need a shopping cart, he gets one for you. Why is he there? Is his job to make sure you do not sneak any open packages into the store? Is he trying to make sure you are not going to shoplift? Is he there to weed out the riffraff? Of course not!

Long ago Sam Walton and the rest of the leadership at Wal-Mart realized how important it is to greet each customer. They knew that a simple smile and one or two acts of assistance would make you, the customer and consumer, much more likely to enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart. That, in turn, would make you want to come back.

The business world understands the principle of making people feel welcome. We can learn from their example. “While hotels, restaurants, and stores all around us serve their Guests with intentional care, we often let ours wander in and out of our weekly services with no specific plan for showing them how important they are to us.” The helpful information to follow will point out a few things that help people determine whether or not we are a “friendly” church. There are a few steps that will improve a congregation from one that outsiders view as cold and distant to one that is warm and friendly. Some has to do with actions, other with terminology, and some with sharing information.

Christ's church should be the most hospitable place in the world. Just like in the business world, it doesn't just stop with the greeter at the door. We want our guests to get a sense throughout their experience that everyone who is connected with the organization cares about them, because God has called us to reach the lost. We should intentionally give “outsiders” and “insiders” a time to experience God and His love.
The Edmond Church of Christ is blessed with something that is rarely found in congregations. This is why we are unique to God’s kingdom. Because of our size, we are blessed with many resources and avenues to meet a wide variety of needs. Usually large churches have a corporate culture rather than a personal service and family feel. God is challenging us to grow in both of these areas to continue to reach more lost people and reach more deeply into one another’s lives.

Skip to other points in this thread. This is my ongoing "working" of hospitality ministry.
Training and Equipping
Commitment to Guests
People Matter
Positive Attitudes
It Takes All Kinds
First Impressions
First-Face Greeters
Bulletin Greeters
Floating Greeters
Information Central
Classroom Hospitality
Auditorium Hosts
Lasting Impressions
The Experience from a first-time guest perspective

Friday, August 12, 2016


At the Edmond Church of Christ we have three major movements for carrying out our mission for Christ; GO, EMBRACE, and CONNECT. It is in the movement of embracing our community around us that a real demonstration of lovingly receiving our guests is expressed. Scripture calls us to “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7. This is not an option, but a call to express Christian love in a practical way. It is our attitude of gratitude in response to the love of God we have received. Herbert Samuels says, "Life is like a mirror. If you frown at it, it frowns back. If you smile at it, it returns the greeting."

The primary goal of a hospitality ministry team is to join with Jesus in building relationships. The environment we create for our guests is vital, but even more important to representing God.  The way we treat those visiting our services matters to them and their feelings toward Christ’s church. None of us would put a sign on our building or wear shirts that guests are not welcome. Yet, from an unbelievers (sometimes believers) perspective, we communicate that we don't care if people are there. We fail to embrace others and one another. Years ago it was popular to have Romans 16:16 as a bumper sticker, "All the churches of Christ greet you" yet when guests would come into our buildings they were not sincerely greeted. We send many subtle messages that are understood as negative. Why not develop good habits of intentionally expressing clear positive messages of the love of God. Let’s embrace them with the love of God.

The most important factor in determining if a church is warm or cold is not the quality of the sermon. It is not the beauty of the singing, the quality of the Bible classes or the visitor information packets. The most important factor in determining if a church is warm or cold is enabling guests to find at least one friend.  If they find a friend, they will want to hear a good sermon. They will want to participate in beautiful singing. They will want to attend meaningful Bible classes and they will be interested in the printed material you present. If they do not make friends, the rest does not matter. A warm church has people who will be friends to guests, but they go beyond that. Those friendly people who make contact with guests make sure that several people are introduced. The guests are not dropped in a classroom or on a pew and expected to seek others. Instead, the friendly people introduce them to others. That makes a warm church.

It is important to send missionaries to the field. It is important to reach out evangelistically to our city. However, if a person or a family comes to our worship service and we do not reach out to them, we are missing one of the best opportunities to carry out the Great Commission.

As we develop a more effective Hospitality Team Ministry, let us continually tell the congregation how important they are to the process. Make sure the members know that they are part of the “greeters team” even if they are not part of the formal Hospitality Ministry. Then we will be a truly warm and embracing church that is the most hospitable place in God’s world. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

People Matter

Remember their name and share your name. This adds a feeling of value to them. Names are important. When a greeter introduces a guest to a few key people, he will no longer view your church as a cold institution. Instead, the guest is more likely to view it as a warm, loving family.

Think about being genuinely interested in them. If members use guests’ names, their opinion of the congregation goes up. If a greeter calls the guest by name later, after worship or during a Bible class, their opinion of the congregation goes sky high. Most of us think we can’t remember names. Most think it is a talent that some have but they don’t. However, remembering names is a skill that can be developed just like any other. There are a couple of things that you as Greeter can do to improve your memory of names.

Your name is valuable too. An important aspect of being a Greeter is to be identifiable as one. We will have a name badge to identify us as Greeters. This not only will identify us, but it will make it evident to our Guests that we’re organized and that we value Guests who are sent our way. Assimilation is simply well-planned Biblical hospitality through service. The head of the church is the greatest server of all time. Doesn’t it follow that we should be the ultimate example of such service to our Guests? With the right system in place, we can serve in a way that will truly touch lives for God’s kingdom.

Say the person’s name. Self-improvement courses say to repeat the name three times to learn it. That is good advice, but it seems artificial to say, “Good to meet you, Patrick Davis. What brings you our way this morning, Patrick Davis? Well, Patrick Davis we certainly hope you enjoy your time with us.” Try this approach. In order to remember a name, be sure you hear it. When someone introduces themselves to you if there is any doubt say, “I’m sorry. Please repeat your name. Patrick Davis? Well it is good to meet you.” As you guide them to the next connection point, introduce him to others by name. “Larry, I want you to meet Patrick Davis. He’s one of our guests this morning. Patrick works in the office building near your shoe store.” “It’s been good to meet you Patrick. I think you’d really like our young adult class. Paul (or what the person’s name is) can help you find the classroom and introduce you to some of the people in the class.”

After you meet a guest and they leave to go to Bible class or into the assembly, one of the best things you can do to help you remember their name is to write it down. By simply writing it down, you have reinforced the memory process. The difficulty is remembering the name, not the face. Even if you have a dozen names written down, before the morning is over, you will likely remember which face goes with each name. Writing it down also helps you to keep a mental note of who is visiting. Next time you are greeting, take your list of names, review it and you are more likely to recall the name of a person who comes again. You may not always remember the name when you meet the person again, but think how powerful it will be when you do. One of the best ways to use the information immediately is to review the list quickly before the end of the worship service. As soon as the service is over, seek out guests and express your appreciation for their visit and use their name. Carry an index card or a small pad of paper and a pen. Do this exercise. It will be worth it. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Have A Positive Attitude

Be Enthusiastic
Consider where they are coming from emotionally. Observe their body language. Connect with them emotionally.  This final responsibility is the most important of all. Everyone associated with the Hospitality Ministry Team must—must—be enthusiastic, positive, and see the bright side of things. This is more important than all of the details mentioned above. Guests want a positive experience. It is hard to recover from a nonchalant greeting. An enthusiastic greeting lets guests know they can expect an uplifting and enjoyable experience as they approach God together with the rest of your church family in Bible classes and worship.  Enthusiasm can be faked, but it will be recognized as fake. Constantly remembering the significance of the task that hosts perform will generate genuine enthusiasm.

A hospitality ministry is not as important as the Bible. It is not as important as worship. It is not as important as a daily living sacrifice to God. If all of these things are so much more important than a Hospitality Ministry Team, why bother? If your congregation is not friendly, loving and warm, guests will never get past that and move on to all those things that are more important. That is why the task of the Greeters Ministry is so important.

Also, while everyone in the body of Christ is very important, the lost souls are important too. Please consider what Jesus said in Luke 15.  The one lost sheep (1 %) gets the focus of the 99 who don’t go astray. The lost coin (10%) gets the focus over the 9 accounted for at the time. The lost son (50%) is at the heart of two sons when one is lost. So, let me encourage us as a body to not exclude one guest at the expense of our chit-chat with a member. Don’t neglect the “opportunity of outreach” as one of God’s gifts. We need to build a culture that understands our friends and brethren can catch-up with one another at some other time, but right now we are doing mission work. In fact, hopefully they learn the value of how much God loves lost people.

7 MINUTES is all the time it takes a first-time Guest to decide whether or not they will come back. This is before they sing one song, hear one prayer or hear one word of a lesson! The clock is ticking and time is short to make a great first impression. Once a bad impression is made, it is virtually impossible to change it no matter how good everything else is that ensues, because everything else will be filtered through the “eyes” of that impression. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hospitality Takes All Kinds

Ministry Team Diversity
While being part of a team, it requires knowing your personal role and responsibilities. Also, each role should understanding somewhat of how each he fits in the larger concept of the team. Some will require more people skills or intuition to “connect” with a guest. Other roles will require more mobility. And still others will require a more in-depth working knowledge of information.

So far, we have looked at the general concepts to a successful Hospitality Team Ministry. There are significant things at each stage. Those begin from the very point of interest to considering attending a worship assembly. It may begin with an advertisement, church sign, invitation by a friend, or a spiritual thought from within. Each one of those creates some expectations as they arrive on church property. The experience of love from that time until they leave the property and the follow-up will drastically determine whether they will want to continue a relationship.

Now that we have some information to begin with, let’s take a look at the process. The goal of this section is entitled; “From the Street to the Seat”. This will walk us through the four initial areas of contact which will influence the way our first-time Guest perceives our church family by the way they are; Greeted, Directed, Treated, and Seated.

Greeted, Directed, Treated, and Seated.
Now, I want to throw in some possible and probable perspectives that guests will have. It is important that we understand their perspective as God brings those gifts of people our way.

Greeted- (Guest #1’s perspective may be that society says Christians are self-absorbed and think only of themselves).
Welcomed with a smile -“Everything speaks to first-time Guests; everything.” The Following is a list and description of the various “positions.”

Monday, August 8, 2016

First Impressions

 Parking Lot Greeters-and Golf Cart Ministry
This role is more important on special days with larger crowds. It can receives the most positive feedback and can have the biggest impact on the Hospitality Ministry. Greet nonmembers with a kind word and unknown guest with a guiding direction. First, it is very unique to have someone meet you at your car and accompany you to the door. That makes a huge impression and cannot be discounted! Each week you will become more familiar with members who park in that area. Then you will be able to make a distinction of guests from members.

  • We will need 1 Greeter at the North parking lot, one at the Southeast parking lot and 1 and the Southwest parking lot. Think about the importance of Guest Parking to funnel most of our Guests to the best entrance. Consider best signage for guests and best for senior’s parking. This will allow us to concentrate on a smaller area and lessen the likelihood of missing someone.
    • §  These Greeters will need to be in place 15 minutes prior to the beginning of First Service and Class/Second service, and stay until 10 minutes after the beginning of the services and class.
    • §  If it’s raining, pickup people on golf cart. For others an umbrella needs to be carried to assist the people inside (Consider getting umbrellas with the church name on them for guests to identify general use).
  • Don’t be shy about asking those arriving for worship if they are visiting, but please don’t ask “are you a visitor”. Use the term “visitor” as a verb, not a noun. If they are members, then you need to meet them anyway. Any special information obtained may be given to the Greeters at the front doors (they are guests, they've been here a few times, etc.).
  • Be discerning about their reaction to your initial approach. Some people don’t want any attention or help. Be friendly and respectful of their wishes and let them know we are glad they are here. If the initial contact is made properly, a negative reaction should be a rarity.