How Friendly is Your Church?

by Randy Deal, associate pastor, North Valley Community Church
church guest services

Research shows that if you have a wonderful experience, whether it’s at a church, restaurant or retail store, you’ll tell seven people. If it’s terrible you’ll tell over 50.

My wife and I secret shop many churches in our area of Phoenix to check out their guest services. Many churches say they are expecting company, but from my experiences, they don’t act like it. For example, a church will have a welcome team, but instead of welcoming others, they are hanging out together in clusters talking among themselves instead of watching for guests.

So what can we do to make guests comfortable? My advice is to make sure you are engaging your guests from the street to the seat. The guest experience begins as soon as they pull into your parking lot, continues through the worship service and ends on their drive home.

You have to decide for your church and ministry what your core values are for guest services. A few examples of mission statements I’ve seen:

  • You matter to us because you matter to God.
  • We roll out the red carpet for everyone.
  • Everyone is a VIP.
  • No one opens their own door here.

Why does this matter? There are many verses that point to welcoming the stranger. Here’s one of my favorites: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,” (Rom. 15:7). You also want guests to come back and ultimately meet Jesus.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Greeters

Your first greeter is your website and social media presence. Be sure your content is updated and fresh. Your second greeter should be your parking team. At our church, we had parking people, but they weren’t directing traffic – maybe that’s what it looked like, but it was our first touch point at saying hello to our guests. I went to the store and bought pool noodles, cut them up and gave them to our parking team to wave people in. They weren’t directing traffic – we were a church plant with a small parking lot. But it showed we were happy people were there. It was friendly from the get-go.

Providing parking spots for first-time guests is also a great way to show someone you were expect them and they are important. Many churches now have spots that are marked “New Here, Start Here.” From the moment visitors get out the car, a volunteer welcomes them and takes them inside.

No matter what your church’s situation, guests should be greeted five times before they even sit in their seat.

2. Children’s ministry 

Another way to welcome guests is at child check-in. Do you have a guest line? Do you have a host who can walk them through the process? Guest lines should always have a host. The host shouldn’t stand behind a counter – that can be off-putting. The host should walk the guests and their children to their Sunday school rooms, telling them what their children will be doing and explaining the security. You never want guests to try and figure this out on their own. 

3. Lobby area 

The lobby is all about presentation. I know we have churches in a variety of settings, but there is always something you can do to keep it warm and inviting. Be sure to de-clutter the space as much as possible and create areas for people to connect and talk. If you’re going to do coffee, do good coffee and always use real creamer. This is just another way of showing guests you’re the real deal, and you care about them. If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all.

If you’re going to provide food, be sure it is sealed and pre-packaged. Cleanliness and sanitation is highly important.

I liken the lobby to your house. If you’re going to have company over, what do you always clean extremely well? Usually the bathrooms. Even in a mobile church, focus on cleaning the bathrooms. Adding baskets with lotions and nicer soaps can make a huge difference.

4. Insider vs. outside language

If you were expecting guests, and you truly believe God is sending them to your church, you would introduce yourself and recognize them. Do the same thing from the stage. Make sure your host always introduces him or herself and uses language people can understand. Your middle school group may have an acronym, but don’t use it from the stage. Say the name of the ministry and who it’s for. Explain the event.

I was secret shopping at a church recently and the host announced, “If you’d like to sign up for VBS, see Kathy after the service.” I had never been to the church before. What’s VBS and who is Kathy? You don’t want your guests to feel like outsiders.

Try and keep announcements to a maximum of three minutes. Always train your hosts to speak as if there is a stranger in the room.

It’s also helpful is to have a graphic slide behind the host, showing what they are saying visually and giving the next step, whether it’s registering on the website or connecting on social media. Many churches give guests gifts. This is the perfect time to announce that, show a photo of it and tell them where to get it after the service has ended.

These are four simple parts to creating a wonderful guest experience for your church. They can make the difference on whether or not a stranger meets Jesus that day. What you do matters. 

Dr. Randy Deal serves North Valley Community Church, Phoenix, Arizona, leading in areas of worship arts, communication arts, guest services and assimilation. He is also a coach for Converge Southwest and Vision Arizona. He is a doctor of Pharmacy, and has been a pharmacist since 1985. He has served in full-time ministry since 1998.

    Point - September 2018

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