Around these parts, we talk a good bit about guest services within the church…how to make great impressions on those that walk through your doors for the first time.

From time to time, I have the privilege of consulting with other churches on how they make that happen…small churches, big churches, in-between churches. And by “consulting,” I mean “telling other churches how it should work if it were an ideal world with no budget, no volunteer shortages, and no angry deacon whose last customer service experience was when he called up the Pony Express to complain about late mail delivery.”

But I digress. There are a few non-negotiables that easily transfer regardless of church size…things such as organic hospitality, having a plan for guests, and consistent follow up after their visit.

However, there are other issues – maybe even sub-issues within the above issues – that rise and fall according to context. Perhaps your church doesn’t need a first time guest tent. Maybe your follow up plan looks more like an in-home visit and less like a phone call. It could be that instead of a once-per-month newcomer’s event, you need to have it once a week. Or maybe just once a year.

Smaller churches can’t always maintain the momentum that larger churches can. On the flip side, larger churches can’t be as nimble and quick to change as a smaller church plant could pull off.

In my mind, there are a few points that drive your particular context when it comes to guest services:

  1. Need. If you’ve identified that your church averages six new guests per year, you may not need a full time Pastor of New Guests (is that even a thing? How could I get one of those gigs?). You may need to get out and meet people in your community. Or it may be that your follow up process doesn’t need work, but your preliminary outreach process might.
  2. Cost. We hand out gift bags to all of our first time guests. When I share that cost-per-bag-x-number-of-guests scenario with smaller churches, their eyes bug out and they start loaning me their copies of Radical. But when I explain that it’s an infinitesimally small number compared to our overall budget, and that they can do the same bags for far less cost because they have far less guests, they’re able to pick their jaws up off the floor and move on.
  3. Community. Don’t overlook your backyard when it comes to determining guest needs. I grew up in a town where – when you visited a church – you simply expected a pastor to show up at your house the next night. (I knew one pastor who made it his practice to be in their driveway before they got home from Sunday lunch…that may not be as much caring as it is creepy.) But in Raleigh-Durham, we are in a city of gated communities and long commutes. We’ve found that when people arrive home, they want to be home, and they don’t want guests unless they’re summoned. Whatever category of community you find yourself in will drive your context.

So what did I miss? What are other areas that determine your context for how you serve your guests? Comment below.