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You can build a great guest services team, fine tune your systems and strategies, and get rid of ineffective and outdated models.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: