You only have to be a semi-regular reader of this blog to know that I’m a big proponent of just about anything Mark Waltz writes on the subject of guest services. Mark was a Connections Pastor before Connections Pastors were cool (Hey, we’re cool. Shut up.), and we’ve become good friends over the past few years. Much of the philosophy and practice behind the Summit’s guest experience was either borrowed or blatantly ripped off from Mark and his team.

I’ve recommended his first book, First Impressions, to more people than I could possibly count, and given away quite a few to boot. His second book, Lasting Impressions, picks up where the first left off (you can read my review of that one here). When Mark’s latest book was published last summer, I had my assistant overnight my Amazon copy to me while I was on vacation. That’s how geeked out I was to read it (but a cool kind of geeky…see the previous paragraph).

It’s this book that I believe will be Mark’s most practical one yet. While First and Lasting deal heavily on the subject of theory (the “why behind the what” as we frequently talk about), How To Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Ways to Make a Meaningful First Impression is a veritable how-to guide for churches of any size. Mark consulted with pastors and ministry leaders from across the country to compile this “best practices” guide. In full disclosure…he was kind enough to ask me to submit a few ideas. And no, I don’t get royalties from the sale of his book. (Unless sales spike as a result of this review, and then my people will contact his people.)

If you’re thinking about starting a team or trying to refine the team you already have, you’ll find at least half the suggestions in the book to be things you can put into practice this weekend. If you lead a team of four or a team of 400, you’ll be able to use this book. If your current volunteer team’s idea of guest services is “don’t glare at new people for more than 20 seconds in a row,” then you need this book.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from How To Wow:

  • #7: Prepare Your Mind. How easy is it to rush into a guest service opportunity from home, work, or even the church office…on autopilot? …Be present. Live in the moment. Make eye contact with everyone you engage. Be ready, usable, and open.
  • #17: Surprise Your Guests. The point isn’t to merely surprise your guests for the sake of surprise. Rather, the carefully planned surprise communicates care and value. What is it that your guests are not expecting? Do that.
  • #29: One Thing. Only One. …quickly identify the ONE thing the guest most needs now. Don’t overwhelm them with what you know. Listen. Ask questions. Care enough to be curious about their real interest.
  • #64: Control and Correct. On Sunday, you are responsible for controlling only three things: your smile, your response to challenges, and the value you place on people impacted by the challenge. That’s it. Three things. You can’t fix it on Sunday. You deal with it, you can respond to it, but you likely can’t correct it.
  • #83: Information Matters. …when our guest services teams in our churches are ill-informed, we hang them out to dry. We frustrate them, because they feel incompetent and unprofessional. And we sabotage the experience of our guests, who leave wondering who’s leading the chaos.
  • #96: Identify Quality People. Warm bodies won’t cut it. Willing servants aren’t enough. From what I see of Peter in the Scriptures, he may have been a disciple of Jesus, but he didn’t have the qualities needed to make the cut on my team.

How To Wow is a book that you need to have on your shelf…but you don’t need to keep it there. There are enough sticky, immediately-usable practices in this little book to keep you reaching for it over and over again. Buy that rascal today.