Today we wrap up a week’s worth of posts that have hopefully been fun and challenging.  My search for a car is far from over (please please oh please I don’t wanna shop again tomorrow), but my takeaway comparisons on how churches treat guests is taking shape.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: feel free to add, edit, or answer by commenting below.

  • Are you more concerned with your guest’s story or your church’s story? Don’t misunderstand: your church’s story is important.  Even more, what God has done and is doing in your church is important.  It’s vital.  That story will define better than anything whether your church is a good fit for your guest.  However, I believe we’re often guilty of laying the story out before a guest is ready.  If you’re encountering an unbeliever, do they need to know that you’re a multi-site, missional, gospel-centered, semi-reformed, charismatic-with-a-seatbelt congregation?  Or at this stage of the game, do they simply need to know that you care about them?
  • Do you see a soul or do you see a statistic? I’m reminded of the old Saturday morning cartoons where the guys stranded on an island started to imagine each other as big steaks.  Especially in growing churches where lots of guests show up each weekend, it’s easy to see the forest and miss the trees.  Every guest in your church has a story.  Every guest in your church is in the middle of a story.  Are we taking time to find out what it is?
  • Do you focus more on process or on the person? Yep, we need on-ramps.  Yep, we need clearly-defined systems.  But our guests often don’t function that way.  They often don’t fit into our design.  Are you prepared for that?  Do you tailor the experience to fit their needs?
  • Have you learned the appropriate balance between hands-on care and over-the-top stalking? Do you honor your guests both by acknowledging their presence and by acknowledging their comfort level?  Do you make it easy for them to be known and – if they so choose – to remain anonymous?
  • Do you give your guests walk-away power? Do you recognize that it’s God who will change their heart, not you, not your ministry, and not your church?  Do you give the Holy Spirit room to work in them and on them as you care for them?  Are you settled with the fact that while your church is open to everybody, it might not be for everybody?

I love the fact that I serve at a church that places such a priority on guests.  I’m still amazed that I get to work on this part of our church’s ministry in a full-time capacity.  I’m thrilled to have a team of guest advocates that truly love people and want to see them move towards a relationship with Christ.  But I’m more convinced than ever that we have to constantly check our systems to make sure that we’re serving people, not our process.