(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

We’re coming off of another incredible Easter weekend at the Summit. 18 services at seven locations, plus two worship events on Good Friday. 169 people who symbolized their faith in Jesus through the act of baptism. Nearly 10,500 people in attendance. Hundreds upon hundreds of faithful volunteers, many serving multiple services over several days. And oh…did I mention that two campuses combined for a first-ever service at Carolina Theatre downtown?

I don’t take any of those things lightly. Lives changed through the gospel is nothing to sneeze at. Our volunteers are my absolute heroes, and there are not many words to express my gratitude to them. Hundreds of first time guests were exposed to the resurrection message of Jesus. God did more than we could have asked or imagined, and we are grateful to him for that.

But there is one aspect of Easter weekend that cannot be missed. It has nothing to do with baptisms or first time guests or volunteers, and yet it has everything to do with that.

Like most churches with multiple services, we made a big push for our regular attendees to attend at a service they normally wouldn’t, to free up seats for those who may be showing up for the first time. At our Brier Creek campus, we asked for people to consider coming on Saturday (same experience, more elbow room) in order to create room on Sunday (a more traditional time for a first time guest to surface).

And boy, did they ever.

We saw 1110 people show up and scoot in for the 4:00 Saturday service. Our previous “high” for that service is 740. Folks, that’s a 50% increase, even by common core math standards. We packed the auditorium, packed the lobby (pictured above), and tossed 100 more into a secondary venue that wasn’t supposed to be used until the following day.

And because of everyone that showed up at a time normally inconvenient to them, we created space that lasted us the rest of the weekend. What we thought would be crowded, wasn’t. Where we didn’t believe we’d have room, we did. The “80% full is full” rule didn’t apply. Not a single guest was turned away, not a single guest was put off by the sardine-like conditions, and I credit that largely to the faithfulness of our regular crowd.

Here’s what we’ve learned over the last several years: mission trumps need, every single time. Many times churches appeal to need: “We need you to come at a time you hate so that we don’t have to turn people away!” “We need you to serve in the nursery or we’ll have to toss babies on the sidewalk!” “We need you to volunteer or this place will go down like the Titanic!”

And while need always has it’s place, it’s not sustainable. People get tired of responding to need after a while, and so…they don’t.

Instead, we prefer to appeal to mission. We asked people to temporarily move to Saturday because it was a missional opportunity to make room for guests. It was a way they could practically, easily serve. Was it a need? Sure it was. But more than that, it was a part of the mission. We say all the time that people are the missionand for that reason, making room for new people was a critical step in the mission.

How about it, church leader? Are you banging the drum of need? Or are you faithfully casting vision for the mission?

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Pastors: they’re coming.

Easter weekend is one of the two largest church attendance weekends in any calendar year. People attend church with Grandma. Irreligious people come because it’s still the socially acceptable thing to do in some parts of the country. Folks who are normally sporadic in attendance wouldn’t think of skipping church on Easter.

And pastors…well, we pastors don’t generally know what to do with the new-found fullness of our auditoriums. So we freak out. We nervously resort to humor or snarkiness or futile attempts at bridging the gap.

We say things like, “We want to extend a welcome to the poinsettia and lily crowd!” or “Thanks for coming. We’ll see you again at Christmas.” (No seriously, I’ve heard both of these things said by a real pastor to a real congregation.) And while we think it’s cute, or funny, or disarming, it’s really anything but.

What we mean to be appealing is insulting.

What we hope makes a point is really pointless.

Instead of drawing people in, it chases them away. Instead of bringing comfort to the outsider, it just keeps them on the outside. And instead of helping your cause, it’s hurting your church.

I get it. Shoot, I’ve said things like this in the past. But what we have to remember is that any step towards the Church is still a step. It still takes effort. You’re going to have guests this weekend who wrestled with the decision to come, but in the end, they honored you with their presence. So please, don’t insult them with your comments and give them one more reason not to show up the following weekend.

Rather than snarky one-liners, how about grace? How about an easy next step? How about a way to connect to other people, and most importantly, to the cross?

Jesus took those who were on the outside and he brought them in. Regardless of how long it had been, regardless of how far they had wandered, regardless of how far they had to go…the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that new life is available to anyone who asks and the grace of Jesus meets us at the point of our deepest need.

They’re coming. The Holy Spirit is drawing brand new honored guests to your services this weekend. How will you serve them?

This post seems to appear every couple of years here, and for good reason. Max Lucado reminds us that the cross isn’t just an event in history, but a life-changing event right now. As you read, pray that the eyes of thousands would be opened this weekend and they would realize that the cross is for them.

With hands nailed open, he invited God, “Treat me as you would treat them!” And God did.  In an act that broke the heart of the Father, yet honored the holiness of heaven, sin-purging judgment flowed over the sinless Son of the ages.

And heaven gave earth her finest gift.  The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Read the full post here. And have a Great Friday.

Ten Big Reasons Easter Giveaways Are Unwise(via @JaredCWilson) I guess this blows our Keurig giveaway out of the water.

priceisright

(click for photo credit)

Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways. One guy in Texas made national news for giving away new cars. Another church has dropped prize-filled Easter eggs out of helicopters to gathered crowds below. Local churches with more modest budgets sometimes promise door prizes like iPods or iPads or gift certificates to local restaurants.

 

This NY Restaurant Takes Facebook Stalking to a New Level(via @GrubStreet, HT @jwickersham) What say you? Amazingly personalized service or creepy over the top in-your-faceness?

At 3:30 p.m., in the back office of Eleven Madison Park, maître d’ Justin Roller is Googling the names of every guest who will come in that night. “I’m looking for chef’s whites and wine glasses,”  he says. A shot of a guest wearing whites means a chef is probably coming to dinner. Wine glasses signify a potential sommelier (or at least a wine geek). This is just the beginning. If, for example, Roller discovers it’s a couple’s anniversary, he’ll then try to figure outwhich anniversary. If it’s a birthday, he’ll welcome a guest, as they walk in the door, with a “Happy Birthday.” (Or, if it seems to Roller that a guest prefers to keep a low profile, “I’ll let them introduce themselves to me,” he says.) Even small details are useful: “If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together.”

 

Mousetrap Chain Reaction in Slow Motion(via @GavinFree) My wife would pay good money to have these guys bring those traps to our house.

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

A few weeks ago the Franks crew made a stop at a Starbucks.  I love Starbucks like fundamentalists love denim jumpers.  They are all about customizing the experience for the customer and delivering the element of “surprise and delight” as Joseph Michelli mentions in his bestseller The Starbucks ExperienceOur visit that day illustrated that point well.

As my 14 year old Jacob was waiting on his drink, the barista behind the counter took a glance at his baseball jacket.  As he walked away from the cash register, he casually said, “Second baseman, right?”

Both Jacob and I were stunned that he nailed Jacob’s position, so much so that all Jacob could stutter was, “Um…uh…yessir.”

We basked in that moment until he came back with the drink, when he said, “So aren’t you going to ask me how I knew?”

I jumped in, “Well if he won’t, will.  How could you tell?”

 

Read the full original post here

“Spy” Considerations for Easter Sunday(via @ThomRainer) Easter’s coming. You ready?

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

As we approach the season of Resurrection Sunday—when guests are more abundant at our churches—perhaps these questions will help you consider what guests experience at your church. You might want to evaluate over the next two weeks so you are more prepared for Easter Sunday.

 

Why UPS Trucks Don’t Turn Left(via @Priceonomics) Remember: two wrongs don’t make a right. But three rights will make a left.

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved “a series of right-hand loops,” UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy.

 

Street Painter is a Master Craftsman(via @22Words) I dare you to stop watching this video before it’s over. You can’t. It’s too awesome.

Somebody's gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

Somebody’s gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

I spent the last few days in a guest services geek’s dreamland: I was fortunate enough to sit around a table with seventeen of the sharpest church hospitality minds in the country. We came from churches of different backgrounds (from maybe-sorta-traditional to hey-wow-you’re-not-traditional-at-all), churches of different sizes (from really big to good-glory-are-you-a-church-or-the-population-of-Montana), and churches with varying philosophies and approaches to how we do just about everything.

But one thing united us all, and that’s our vision that churches nationwide must step up to reach those who are far from Jesus. In addition to being missional communities who send people out, we have to be attractional communities that welcome people in. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By the time the first sixty minutes of our conversation had elapsed, my brain was full. I picked off enough ideas and “aha!” moments to last me for months (and I’ll share many of those with you in the days to come). Even this morning – a half a day removed from the event – my mind is racing as I try to process some of the things I learned and some of the topics we discussed.

But here’s my first big takeaway: planning is not the same as dreaming. 

I plan a lot of things: from weekend volunteer teams to training opportunities to large scale events, planning runs in my blood. I love it. I love wrestling a spreadsheet under my control, ticking every little item off my to do list, and seeing it all come together at the end of the day. And the insidious nature of planning the work and working the plan is this: you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

But planning isn’t the same as dreaming. Executing a plan doesn’t mean you’ve created an experience. I can plan an event down to precise detail but never see the experience change from one time to the next. So if I never take time to dream, my plans will never really evolve into something better.

When it comes to guest services, I’m prone to take the easiest, cheapest, simplest, pragmatic-ist way out. I want it to be replicable across eight campuses. I want it to be simple for our staff and volunteer teams to understand. I dumb down the plans in the name of simplicity. But creativity is not the enemy of simplicity.

Here’s what I learned this week: sometimes you need to just dream. Forget the practical nature of what you do. Forget the budgetary constraints. Forget your lack of volunteers. Yesterday eighteen of us spent a couple of hours simply dreaming: “What if we could implement this?” “What if we had a blank check?” “What if we had an unlimited staff or a bottomless pool of volunteers or 27 hours in a day?”

When we get to the end of the “What if?” road, we know there will still be some limitations there. We’ll never have unlimited cash or the millions of volunteers we hope for. But the great thing about dreaming is that it knocks the ceiling off of some of our preconceived notions. When we get out of the world of spreadsheets and checklists and start staring into the blue sky of creativity, we see new things evolve. New initiatives arise. New values emerge. And sometimes those new insights may indeed mean just adding a couple of volunteers here or a couple hundred bucks there. But that small tweak is the thing that raises the bar and helps us truly create an experience that captures the imaginations of our guests and points them to the truths of the gospel.

So how about it, guest services friends? Ministry friends? Leader friends? Are you planning or are you dreaming?

 

To find out more about what we’ve been up to the last few days, check out a couple of posts by our fearless leader Bob Adams here and here.

 

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