This is the second of five chapters in a 25 part blog series titled: The Five Elements of a Fully Implemented Connections Strategy, published over a five week period. Everything I have posted here is the result of my own personal experiences, from serving on church staffs, volunteering as a lay leader, and being brought in as a paid consultant. It is my hope that these posts will help you and your church get better at connecting with guests, not simply to increase your attendance and membership, but ultimately to grow the body of Christ. Implementing a Connections strategy (or “Assimilation” strategy) is a long term process, and one that relies on a culture of continual improvement. This chapter has five entries, which will all be linked below the post as they are published.
2.2 Guest Services: Central Location
I’ve visited a lot of churches. Almost all of them have some kind of guest services/info center/security desk/greeter station near the main entrance. This is a good thing, and something everyone in our culture is used to.
Think about it: Hotels have a front desk. Supermarkets have a customer service counter (mostly for returns and those Powerball tickets that nobody wins). You probably have a gym membership, and every time you enter you check in at the front desk. No matter how much you do or don’t spend on a haircut, there is a front counter to check yourself in and then have a seat. Same with your doctor’s office. Even the Police Station has a counter front and center that you’re expected to approach to discuss your business. In our culture, when we encounter an any kind of organization, we expect someone to be right inside the doors with the answers.
But We Already Have This
Ever walk into a church and not have the slightest clue where to go or what to do? That happens to me all too often. There’s nice, smiling greeters at the door, and as soon as you walk in, you are on your own! There’s a table/desk/kiosk somewhere with a bunch of random flyers and booklets, groups of people talking to each other, and signs with words that mean nothing to me. Eventually I find someone who is nice enough to point roughly behind them when I ask where to go, and when I get to that spot, I find someone else to point to another spot, until I get to the area I am looking for and I’m told I need to check in at another location, which is vaguely pointed to “that way” and called by a name that I don’t understand.
Having a central location for guest services is one thing. Having strategy makes it work. So let’s talk strategy.
First, the WHY:
The guest services location exists engage guests and help people find what they are looking for at your church. It serves as a central hub for everything happening outside your Worship Center. Sometimes it doubles as a security station, other times it is merged with a children’s ministry check in system, or coffee bar, or a resource area, and I’m sure there are several creative versions of this that you have made and I haven’t seen.
But let’s keep the WHY out in front. Because when people walk IN to the church, we want them to encounter the CHURCH itself, not just the people on stage in the Worship Center. And WHY is that? Because we believe the church is God’s great Hope in this world, because we have been changed by Jesus. That’s why.
Then, The WHAT:
However you’ve chosen to set up your guest services location, it is there to serve your church body, with a focus on guests.
- It creates a central, visible destination when guests walk in to be welcomed face to face.
- It provides answers to the questions guests have about your church service, ministries, and events. Many of them have resources on hand.
- It guarantees that everyone who walks into your building knows what to do.
- And more important than anything else, it is a place where someone in need can find help.
- It is a communications hub, especially vital in larger meeting spaces.
- It is a place where every guest meets someone face to face, by name. Human contact. Families are walked to the children’s/student areas by friendly volunteers.
That’s what it does.
The how will be different in every church, but there’s some best practices for you to consider.
- Before your church service or event, it marks the meeting spot for all of your Connections ministry teams: Parking lot crew, door greeters, and guest services volunteers. This is where they pray, share updates, and get on the same page.
- Your church needs a consistent presence of pleasant, helpful, and informed people at this station from no later than 15 minutes before the first church service (probably closer to 30) until church ends. This is where all guests feel like their questions make sense and their presence is valued.
- When a family asks about preschool or children’s ministry, this is where someone will walk them to the part of the building where that ministry meets and introduce them to a leader in that department who is equally as happy to meet them.
- Parents are walked through the child check in process, and greeted at the door of their child’s room by a leader who can answer any questions and assure the parents that their child is in good company.
- The same goes for anyone else asking for directions. Your guest services leaders never point at a hallway or gesture towards a doorway.
- In case you missed it, your guest services team never “points” someone in the right (or wrong) direction. This is where we not only walk someone where they need to go, carrying a diaper bag for them if needed, but a great opportunity to connect on a personal level, exchange names, make small talk, and let folks know how great the church is and how glad we are that they came. That conversation on the way is priceless for guests; your greeter just became a personal “face” of your organization.
Look don’t be overwhelmed; we’re talking about a strategy and a purpose, nothing more. This isn’t a megachurch thing. This is a community engagement thing. Let’s help you have the best guest experience possible. Your message of Hope in Christ is worth it.
Next: 2.3 Guest Services: Your Materials
Main Series Page: The Five Elements of a Fully Implemented Connections Strategy
Element Two: Guest Services
2.2 Guest Services: Central Location
2.3 Guest Services: Your Materials
2.4 Guest Services: The Guest Packet