Churches are gearing up for one of the highest attended Sundays during the year. Easter is just two Sundays away. Many churches are encouraging their members to invite someone to church. They have provided invitation cards. Members are working tirelessly to clean up. It’s the old idea that company is coming, and we’ve got to be ready. Clean out the flower beds. Make sure the grass is trimmed to perfection. Hide the clutter inside the building. Wax the floors. We want to look our best! We want to make a good first impression.
Churches that make the best first impressions go beyond looking their best. They understand that the most important first impression is how the guest feels about their visit. What they see is important. What they experience is more important. We would not dare invite someone to our home without doing everything we could to make them feel welcomed. Church should be no different. In fact, I would argue that the way we treat our guests when they visit our church is more important than how we treat guests in our home. It’s more important because there are eternal implications! Failing to welcome a guest in my home makes me look bad. Failure to welcome a guest at church makes Jesus look bad.
Earlier this month Thom Rainer released his newest book, Becoming a Welcoming Church. This is an excellent, practical, “how-to” resource! I would also recommend that you read People are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests without Compromising the Gospel by Danny Franks. Together, these books will give you the nuts and bolts, as well as a theological basis for your guest services ministry. In this article, I want to suggest four C’s that are necessary to develop great guest services, beginning with the need to recruit a…
CHAMPION. This is someone who is passionate about the ministry of hospitality. He is an excellent organizer. She is a great motivator. I will be forever grateful to my friend, Ken Allen, Sr. who was the champion of our First Impressions Team at First Baptist Talladega. Ken is a very successful business man who understands the value of outstanding customer service. More importantly, he understands the value of outstanding customer service at church. Ken designed our guest services ministry. He recruited, trained and scheduled the volunteers. He held them accountable. He championed the ministry before the church. Without his efforts, the ministry would have been less than it was.
COMMUNICATE. Let the church know why you are putting so much energy into guest services. Let them know where the ministry fits in the overall ministry strategy and process of making disciples. In another article I wrote about a process to WELCOME people into the family so that they can WORSHIP God and experience life TRANSFORMATION as they are SENT to influence their world for Christ. You can find that article here. Guest services is a vital component of the WELCOMING ministry of the church.
CONTEXTUALIZE. There is no one size fits all approach to guest services. At First Baptist Talladega our parking lot greeters were our initial welcomers. They helped our guests find parking and then escorted them to the appropriate door, where the guest was introduced to another greeter who walked with them to the welcome center. At the welcome center, guests got answers to their questions. They completed registration forms for children and preschoolers. We always had coffee and snacks available, which ensured that we had a steady flow of church members in the large gathering space as well. Our welcome center folks would introduce our guests to a church member or members who could then help the guests find their destination. This was a fairly elaborate system that required a large number of volunteers and a lot of coordination. In the small church where I am currently consulting, they do not have the resources, nor do they have the need for such an elaborate system. They do, however, have a need for great guest services that fit their context.
CULTURE. The goal is to create a welcoming culture, so that being nice to people when they come is not just something that we do. It’s who we are. It is part of our church DNA. After all, when we welcome people well we make Jesus look good.
If you would like help in establishing a welcoming culture in your church, let me hear from you. Leave a reply below or send me an email using the link at the bottom of the page.
If you would like to purchase the books referenced in this article, you can find them by clicking on the links below:
Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer