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.