By Rebecca Carlisle
I felt like I needed to be served my whole life. Now, I just want to live to serve others.”
– One of my Guest Services Team members
Church hospitality, or guest services, should always aim to remove the guesswork for a guest visiting your church.
From the “streets to the seats” (Searcy, Fusion), your team should be strategically equipped and placed to best assist your guests.
From your parking lot heroes, to the way you present announcements, your guests should feel that you were expecting them and that you seek to honor God by honoring them.
Intentionally creating environments and culture that is organized and authentic helps your guests feel you have been anticipating their arrival. In order to do that, your church hospitality, or guest services, ministries should consist of several components organized under two major categories: Up Front and Behind the Scenes.
Your church’s hospitality ministry to your guests begins before your guests even visit your church.
Church hospitality, or guests services, cannot ever just be a committee thing, it has to be a culture thing. When it becomes a fundamental part of your culture, your members, who are out in the community every day, are your hospitality ambassadors. Your community must know you’re there and that you’re an active participant.
I truly believe that the flashy church phase is passing as more young people are desiring a church that challenges them and cares for the community.
Being up front, starts with your community, but social media and your website play an important role as well. It should be attractive and easy for your members to share. Members who are excited about what God is doing in and through their church are eager to share.
People are instinctively drawn to that.
In Nelson Searcy’s book, Fusion, he discusses five main components of an effective guest services ministry: Greeted, directed, treated, seated and follow up.
Investing in all of these components are invaluable to the guest experience. Each area’s effectiveness is reliant upon the others. If you have team members greeting, but the expectation wasn’t clear that they are to direct guests by walking with them to the refreshments, or to a seat in the worship experience, your team members have simply said a friendly “hello” and may have missed eternally significant opportunities.
There are thousands of friendly churches. Friendly is good, but God calls us to help affect life change. He calls us to be restorers of the broken, the light in the darkness, a city on a hill.
Biblical hospitality affects life change through a process, and following up with your guests is a critical part of that.
There is a 16 percent chance a first-time guest will return, but an 85 percent chance they will return after a second visit (McIntosh, Beyond the First Visit).
Following up with your guests is crucial to your guests returning or not. The follow-up process begins with providing easy ways for guests to connect with your church during their first visit and continues for several weeks after.
Behind the Scenes
For Christ’s heart of hospitality to go beyond a committee and become a part of your church culture, the volunteers must be valued so much that there is a church-wide excitement in serving.
This comes through pulling a “Nehemiah” by constantly recasting vision, and creating processes for recruitment, on-boarding, mentoring and building unity. This committee should become a catalyst for contagious community throughout the church.
People will come to your church if they feel the members are actually excited about what God is doing in their church!
“Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just 5 percent to influence a crowd’s direction–and that the other 95 percent follow without realizing it.” - Dr. Rick Nauert
Organization is essential for progress. The proper structure of team members is necessary. Have a coordinator in place and team leaders over the various areas and volunteers that are passionately a part of your church’s Guest Services ministry.
As you know, having the right people in the right places is of greatest importance. Those team leaders should be over-equipped so they can, then, equip their volunteers. Burn out can be mostly avoided if volunteers feel they have been given proper expectations and tools they need to succeed in their area of service.
While guest services or church hospitality isn’t the end-all-be-all, it is the frontlines of disciple making, therefore, it must be prioritized.
Historically, the Church set the example for hospitality and loving their communities by taking care of the poor, orphaned and widowed giving the Church a strong and influential voice in the culture.
Unfortunately, the Church has, presently, found itself in the position of following the examples of others in hospitality and customer service, like big business.
Brian Solis, author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, discusses how, in the business world, more consumers want a meaningful experience. Therefore, customer service is now a brand in and of its own.
Churches must adapt this thinking through a gospel-centered filter. We should be designing and implementing guest services ministries in our churches so that people experience God, even when they’re driving in our parking lots, because of the way our parking lot hero helped get them through a potentially stressful parking experience with ease.
Everything is an experience, and the Church should, once again, be setting the example.
Rebecca Carlisle is a Christ-follower, wife, mom, teacher, preacher’s kid and church hospitality enthusiast. She desires to equip the Church in shaping culture through gospel-ing people with biblical hospitality. Learn more at tobereceived.com, or follow her on Twitter @tobereceivedmin.