March 2013

It’s a rare Saturday post, but I’ve been hanging on to this video for weeks. WEEKS, I tell you. It was supposed to go in this week’s Thursday Three For All, but alas. I forgot.

Without further ado, I give you…

[via twentytwowords]

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Fridays are usually reserved for archived posts. But that was before @MichaelMears tweeted this question yesterday:

Are you gonna blog any on connecting new peeps at Easter & follow up? Just an idea :)

Y’all know I’m not one to back down from a challenge. Unless it involves push ups. Or sit ups. Or chin ups. Or licking a scorpion. But give me a free idea for fresh content and I’m on that like stink on a monkey. So here we go, thanks to Michael…

Easter is over. You’ve put your good suit back in the closet, you’ve had your Sunday afternoon coma nap, and you’ve finished off the last of the leftover ham sandwiches.

So what now?

What do you do about the stack of guest cards that are sitting on your desk, waiting on your Monday morning arrival? How do you follow up with the people God sent your way? What’s the best way to turn a first time guest into a returning guest?

  1. Get good information. One of the cardinal sins of ministering to guests is getting them to your church, but not knowing they’re at your church. Prior to your first Easter service, remind your First Time Guest Team the importance of capturing good information. “Bob” written on a card is not good info. Get email, phone, address, family members’ names, whatever. Oh, and make sure it’s legible. [our guest info card]
  2. Provide a reason for them to leave their information. Some guests like to remain anonymous. While you should honor that, you should also make the information capture as painless as possible. We try to do that pre-service at our First Time Guest tent. It’s outside and in the way so that people (a) have to walk past it and (b) feel like that’s a “safe place” to find out where to go next. We also give ’em a gift bag as an incentive to stop by. And finally, we let the guest know that leaving their information means that a pastor will follow up via phone call or email to see how their experience was. We try to offset fears of someone showing up at their house on Monday night. (We also capture information in the service on a tear-off card, but the tent provides a face and a conversation and facilitates a friendship.)
  3. Send an immediate follow up email. If you can get a team of volunteers to enter information into a database as it comes, great. Many church offices close the Monday after Easter (ours does). In full disclosure, we probably won’t be able to get all of that info entered and finalized until sometime Tuesday, but you should strive to be more awesome than us. :) We use MailChimp and a pre-formatted email complete with links to our website, Starting Point event, etc. MailChimp keeps you from being blocked as spam whether you’re sending a few dozen or a few hundred emails.
  4. Make a phone call. This is such an easy “touch” that so many pastors leave out. I’ve made thousands of 2-3 minute phone calls in ten years at the Summit, phone calls that generally pay huge dividends in helping a guest feel like a huge church isn’t so huge. The purpose of the call is simple: I thank them for coming, ask about their experience, and invite them to a next step. My goal is always to be off the phone in three minutes – but that’s in honor of their time. If they have questions or want to talk more, I’ll spend whatever time necessary. [sample phone script]
  5. Provide a next step. For us, that’s Starting Point, and we specifically scheduled it for two weekends after our big Easter rush. We’ll pull out all the stops to get everyone to that event, which highlights various on ramps into the church, from small groups to service to baptism to covenant membership. Your next step might be a welcome reception, or a new believers class, or a party, or whatever. But provide a quick way for people to further connect.
  6. Empower your people to do their own follow up. Most of this weekend’s guests will be there at the invitation of a friend or family member. If you’re a pastor, your job is to equip them to do the work of the ministry. Don’t cheat ’em. Encourage them to take their guests to lunch and discuss what they’ve heard. Remind them to invite their guests to return again the following weekend. Or provide a resource: challenge them to study the gospel of John with their unbelieving friend, or to go through a deeper study like Christianity Explained

I’ll bet you know an item or two I’ve left out. I want to hear from you. Comment below!

Other good content from around the web:

Three links that I like. Startin’ now:

Who Are You Bringin’? My Arkansas buddy Matt outlines four people you’ll interact with between now and Easter. What’ll you do with them?

There is no greater time to invite someone to come to church with you than this week (Easter Week).

There are four kinds of people you will encounter between now and and Saturday night. People I believe God is supernaturally already workin’ out some ‘divine appointments.’

My Child’s Backstory is None of Your BusinessI’ll admit I struggle with this with my daughter’s adoption story. While I don’t agree with the entire article, Megan Hill gives a helpful perspective.

I think the thoughtless telling of our children’s stories stems from forgetting something that all parents are prone to forget: my child is my neighbor. Yes, I am his parent—with all the authority and responsibility that entails. Of course. But my child is not simply my possession or an extension of myself. He is a human being, made in the image of God, with a soul that will never die. And his story does not belong to me.

Honest Movie Trailers: Les MiserablesPretty much sums up how I felt on the day I lost three hours of my life. (HT Screen Junkies)

We’re on week two of a new series called Taking the Guesswork Out Of Guest Services. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader of a church with no guest services team, a lagging guest services team, or a firing-on-all-cylinders team, or anywhere in between, we’re going to talk about the factors that make your team great. Submit your questions for future weeks in the comments below.

A great team can’t overcome a bad culture.

You can build a great guest services team, fine tune your systems and strategies, and get rid of ineffective and outdated models. But if the only people engaging guests are the “trained professionals,” you’ll never do more than tread water.

We hear that type of feedback from time to time at the Summit. “The only people that spoke to me were the volunteers with the lanyards.” Now, a fuller rationale for that is another post for another day, but suffice it to say that we can only “wow” guests as much as we’re taking our hospitable culture to an organic level.

So how do you do that? How do you begin to inculcate a body of believers and retrain their brains so that guest services is everyone’s job? I think there are a few practical ways:

  1. Approach parking and seating with the guest in mind. If your regular attendees are grabbing the best parking spaces and the best seats, that’s a problem. If you have reserved parking for your pastor right beside the door but first time guest parking 200 feet away, that’s an unforgivable sin. Remind your members regularly of the need to park far away from the building and leave the best spots for guests. And inside the auditorium, remind them to scoot front and center so a late arrival doesn’t have to parade down front, drawing unwanted attention.
  2. Address guests from the platform. Every single weekend. Nothing will send a subtle reminder that “there are guests in our midst” like talking to them in front of your regulars. I didn’t say point them out or single them out. Never embarrass a guest in any way. Don’t drop a spotlight on them and ask them to stand up and introduce themselves and tell the sin they’re currently struggling with. Nobody wants that. But do acknowledge them. Mention your first time guest tent or table, invite them to fill out an information card, excuse them from participating in the offering, or tell them about a newcomers event.
  3. Watch your language. Similar to point #2, make sure you are using guest-friendly language from the stage. Sure, you know that the S.Q.U.I.D. Rally stands for Scripture Quotations Undermining Intelligent Design, but your guest has no idea what it stands for or why they should show up (shoot, now that know what it stands for, I still don’t wanna show up!). Be careful of assuming that because you know what something (small groups, sanctification, singles night, etc.) is, your guests will know, too.
  4. Provide a “tell.” At our first time guest tent, we provide a rather nice gift bag…a swag bag, if you will. It contains a simple brochure outlining our age graded ministries and key next steps, an invitation to Starting Point, a brief booklet explaining the gospel, and a big ol’ chunky tumbler emblazoned with the Summit logo. All of that goes into a flat bottomed brown paper bag, also with the Summit logo. We use a big fat tumbler and a flat bottomed bag for one reason – and it’s actually not to give our guests a gift. It’s so we’ll know who our first timers are. Think about it: they can’t fold it up and put it in their pocket. It’s a clear ID. But it’s not a name tag or a 1960’s era fabric stick on rose (yes, those existed). The result? I’m able to engage a guest once I spot their bag. They feel cared for, and I feel like the world’s friendliest pastor. Use your “family times” (prayer nights, business meetings, etc.) to remind members of the bags’ presence and purpose.
  5. Make your marquee behave. I brought it up last week. I’ll probably bring it up next week. Why? Because I hate 103% of the church marquees I’ve ever seen. If they don’t have horribly corny sayings on them (“God answers knee mail.” “What’s missing from ch__ch? UR!” “Without the bread of life, you’re toast.”) they have horribly offensive sayings on them. True story: I once saw a church sign that said “Sinners welcome.” Was that church surrounded by sinners? Yep. Do you think they felt welcome? Nope. A sledgehammer will do wonders to a misbehaving church sign. Just make sure it’s your church sign. And that you have the authority to destroy it. Might wanna check with a committee first.

What did I miss? Comment below.

Check out the entire series:

On our First Impressions Team at the Summit, we try to get by with just a very few rules: never be rude to a guest. Serve where you’re wired.

Never feed ’em after midnight.

But there’s one rule of thumb that we encourage at every turn. We talk about it when you start to serve on the team. We talk about it when you go through training. We talk about it every few months as seasoned team members go through some refresher training.

It’s the rule of “attend one, serve one.” Attend and fully engage in one service, then serve and fully engage in another. There are four reasons why we promote that:

  1. It creates a better experience for the guest. If there’s one thing that our guests’ arrival time has in common, it is that there’s nothing in common. We have people who show up 20 minutes early, people who drag in 20 minutes late, and people who will get there right on time. Having a fully-functioning team for an entire service allows us to greet guests regardless of when they drop in.
  2. It allows a better experience for the volunteer. A volunteer who’s asked to serve and attend the same service is a disjointed volunteer. They are never sure when the cutoff time is where they can got into the worship service. They’re always “on call” throughout the service. They always feel like they’re missing something in the service. And they never…never…are able to balance that schedule in a way that works for them. Or for the demands of their role.
  3. It gives consistency across the board. There’s not much that’s sadder than a church that pulls out all the stops for the “:15 before” crowd, and then just stops for the “:15 after” crowd. We’ve found that the guests who are late are usually late for a good reason: stalled car, cranky kid, WWIII marriage battle before church. If anyone needs a good first impression, it’s those folks.
  4. It creates space for a stronger team. We obviously don’t need a 100% staffed team for 100% of the service time. That’s why 20-30 minutes into the service we scale back to a skeleton crew. 6-12 people will stay in place to cover the necessary bases, and the rest of the team will retreat to “Volunteer Headquarters” (VHQ) for food and conversation. It’s a brief oasis from a busy morning that allows relationships to foster…something that can’t always happen when you attend and serve the same service.

I recognize that’s just one model. It’s just our model. If your church only has one worship service, that’ll make it considerably harder for people to attend one, serve one. Some churches with multiple weekend service ask volunteers to serve every service, but serve one weekend every 4-6 weeks. The point is not the model, the point is determining how you allow for the four principles outlined above.

Oh, and how about those that just can’t attend one, serve one? How about people with unpredictable work schedules or folks who depend on others for a ride? Well, we have allowances for those cases (but don’t tell anyone at the Summit I told you that). However, they are allowances…not the rule. We do everything we can to give people an opportunity to serve, as much as they can serve. But we always challenge them back to the four principles above, and we always push back against the perception of “I’m too busy.”

What’s your model? And what are the holes you see in this one? Comment below.

It hit me again yesterday morning. The temperature was in the 40s. The cold, cold rain was steadily coming down out of a dreary gray sky. It was a great day to be a duck. Or at least someone with enough sense to stay inside by the fireplace in a pair of fatpants (you know, for the inevitable cinnamon rolls).

And yet, there was a group of die-hard volunteers who refused to stay home. Who refused to get comfortable. Who refused to sacrifice personal preference over selfless service.

While most of us sat in a somewhat heated auditorium, a couple of dozen volunteers parked cars, directed foot traffic, opened doors, and offered umbrellas. They got cold, wet, soaked to the bone. And while I appreciate those men and women every weekend, I especially appreciate them on weekends where the weather makes a place like Seattle look downright attractive.

If you’re a volunteer – indoors or out – you matter. What you do every single weekend matters. When a volunteer stands out in the rain to serve a guest, they’re doing much more than performing a task. They’re communicating value. They’re telling a guest, “You’re a big enough deal that I’ll go through some discomfort to make you comfortable.”

And when that happens, our volunteers are heroes.

You may think that the role you serve on the weekend isn’t important. You may think that because you have stretches of inactivity punctuated by moments of panic, the team would be better off without you. You might think that if you didn’t show up, no one would notice.

But you’d notice.

And a guest who got less than a five star experience would notice.

The reason you serve is because God has wired you to serve. And hopefully, he’s wired you to specifically serve in a particular area. You’re not a cog in a wheel – you’re a contributing member of the body of Christ who’s been given a real gift to share with real people.

And what you do matters.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t take your giftings for granted. Don’t squander what you’ve been given for the cause of convenience. Serve strong. Serve well. Serve big. Serve the One who is worthy of your very best, and serve others the way that Jesus served you.


Every Friday I pull up an old post out of the wayback machine. As they say on prime time TV: if you ain’t seen it, it’s new to you!

…my God wants me to call him “Daddy.”

I can’t get over that insight.  I’ve always known it to be true, but now I’m meditating on what it means.  If God is my Daddy, it means that he knows what is best for me.  He is for me, not against me.  He wants me to look like him, talk like him, think like him.  He wants me to emulate and model and follow him, because he’s crazy about me.

Read the entire post here.

Three links. Three things I’ve been reading this week. Starts in three…two…

Granger Community Church establishment reaches out to communityI’ve long been a fan of my friends at Granger. They’ve designed their new facility with their community in mind.

The Eatery, Reads and Things operators pride themselves on being more than a restaurant or cafe. According to their business profile on yelp, “While excellent food and drink and an open atrium atmosphere with great reads are all accounted for, we truly believe those who serve you and how they serve you is the difference. You aren’t a simple transaction. You aren’t just a number. You’re a testament to the way we do things and a treasure worth hanging onto.”

Communication is a path, not an eventAs usual, brilliance from Seth Godin.

Don’t sell us anything but the burning desire to follow up. The point of his talk wasn’t to get a new customer (impossible), nor was it to get through the talk and get it over with (silly and selfish). No, the point of the talk should have been to open the door to have a better, individual conversation soon.

30 things turning 30 this yearI turn 40 this year. Which means that I remember when most of these things came on the scene. Zoiks.


McDonald’s executive chef Rene Arend created the Chicken McNugget way back in 1979, but it wasn’t available in McDonald’s restaurants nationwide until 1983 because there simply wasn’t enough processed chicken to go around. Oddly enough, that McNugget shortage was what led Arend to create the McRib in 1981.

Today we begin a new weekly series called Taking the Guesswork Out Of Guest Services. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader of a church with no guest services team, a lagging guest services team, or a firing-on-all-cylinders team, or anywhere in between, we’re going to talk about the factors that make your team great. Submit your questions for future weeks in the comments below.

Some ministries need a good mercy killing.

That’s harsh, but it’s true. Many of us have ministries in our churches that are extremely cutting edge…for 1962. We do things the way we do because it was good enough for grandpa, and doggone it, it’s good enough for us.

Now if you’re a regular reader of this blog, chances are I don’t have to convince you that an outdated guest services culture is bad. You’re painfully aware that what’s happening in your church just isn’t working. Maybe you have greeters who don’t actually greet…ushers who don’t actually ush…or a hospitality team that isn’t all that hospitable. Maybe they haven’t authentically greeted a newcomer in years. Maybe they’ve just been going through the motions for the last year or two or twenty. But the way they do what they do is so ingrained in them, it’s hard to convince them that there’s a better way.

But if your church is ever going to be effective, the ineffective culture has to be killed, starting today.

That takes courage. It takes a fresh set of eyes. And it takes a leader with a big vision and a deep passion to lead the charge.

So how do you kill culture so you can rebuild it? Here’s a start:

  1. Ask the “Why are we doing this?” question. A lot. “Why?” is a great litmus test for much of the “what?” that you’re doing. “Why don’t we plan the weekend with guests in mind?” “Why do we structure our team this way?” “Why don’t we have greeters in more strategic places?” “Why aren’t we training our team on a regular basis?”
  2. Assess the messages you’re sending to your community – both overt and covert. The overt messages are easy – what does your church communicate on a regular basis? Can people find you based on signage? Website? Other advertising? What about your church sign? For many of us, the church marquee is the death knell of your communication to your city. Get rid of it. Covert? That’s stuff like the cleanliness of your facility, accessibility to your guests, and reputation within the city.
  3. Confront the “We’re friendly” myth. There’s not a little old lady in a little country church anywhere in America who would admit that her church is unfriendly. “We just love each other!” she’ll tell you. But that’s the point: they love each other. Friendly does not equal intentional. I’m friendly to people I know. It takes intentionality to move your church to the next level of a guest-friendly culture.
  4. Take a hard look at what’s not working. This is where you have to put on your big boy pants. Got an usher who hasn’t smiled since Carter was president? Maybe he needs to be retrained, or maybe he needs to be replaced. Got a hospitality committee whose only purpose is to guard the holy of holies tea party supply closet? Dismantle ’em. Do what it takes to clear out what’s broken to pave the way for what will work.

What’s missing from this list? What would you add, and what have you experienced when it comes to killing culture? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Next week: starting fresh with an organic culture.

Check out the entire series:

When you have four kids, people wrongly assume that you’re a parenting expert. They come by the droves asking advice, lining up at the front door like pilgrims in search of a guru on a misty mountain. Or at least they used to. That was before people started actually hearing my advice, which basically boils down to:

  1. Never lose your kids.
  2. If you do lose your kids, find another kid that looks like the one you lost, so you don’t get in trouble with your wife.

But my wife? Now there’s your parenting expert. This latest gem comes from her very creative / somewhat devious mind.

You see, our two year old is what you would call…active. Perhaps insane. I’m not sure. We affectionately refer to her as Hurricane Haven, because if her eyes are open, she’s on the move.

So last week, Merriem was painting her fingernails, and the Category 5 of Cuteness strolled by. Cat 5 wanted her nails painted, too. So Merriem painted her toenails.

And then proceeded to tell Haven that she had to sit very, very still while her nails dried.

Which took quite a bit longer than the average nail drying time of – 0h, say thirty minutes.

If you’re catching my false imprisonment drift.

But the amazing thing is – it worked. Haven believed her mommy. She sat stock still on the couch for an inordinately long time. And Merriem actually was able to get a few things done around the house without wondering what piece of furniture the Hurricane was currently dismantling.

My wife: she’s a genius.

Oh – and here’s the finished project. Pink paint on brown toes? That’ll melt a daddy’s heart.


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