April 2013


Disclaimer: those feet above are not mine. Shoot, it’s not even my ficus, or whatever that plant is. Because the fact is, you couldn’t handle seeing my feet. They would cause you to flee screaming in the opposite direction, except that you’d keep bumping into things because the sight of the feet would have blinded you at first glance.

And yet, that’s what my feet are doing this week. They’re up, so the blog is down. Never fear: I’ll be back in a few days. Until then, feel free to keep yourself entertained by clicking this link over and over for a random post, or by watching this awesome video of an orchestra orchestrating hidden camera pranks.

But whatever you do, don’t think of my feet. Yuck.

Around these parts on Friday, I kick back, relax, and turn some dials on the wayback machine.

AAO: What is the name of your listing?

Me: Lowe’s Hardware.

AAO: Did you say, “Roses’ Variety Store”?

Me: No.  Lowe’s Hardware.

AAO: Did you say, “Moe’s Hardwoods”?

Me: No.  Lowe’s Hardware.

Read the entire post (or else all that stuff above makes no sense).

It’s the last week of a six part 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, a firing-on-all-cylinders team, or anywhere in between, we’re going to talk about the factors that make your team great. If detail-oriented nerd talk makes you sick, watch this video of a guy cutting up a watermelon instead.

It takes a foundation to raise a village.

Well alrighty: in reality, it takes several foundations to raise a village. But work with me here.

If you’ve followed this series from the beginning, you know we’ve talked about culture, vision, leadership, and staffing. But that’s just the beginning. You can get all of those elements in place within the first few months of your team’s existence. But then what? What do you do to maintain momentum? How do you grow the ministry while protecting the DNA? How can you allow other people to speak into the vision of the team?

This is an area where I struggle greatly. As our church has gone multi-site over the last several years, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep my arms around the First Impressions ministry of the Summit (spoiler alert: I shouldn’t be trying to do that anyway). But I know that I have a responsibility to keep the core vision intact at all of our campuses. We shouldn’t have a thriving FI team at one location and a lackluster, “who-gives-a-rip” team at another. But regardless of whether your church has one site or many, how do you protect the vision while the organization is ever progressing forward?

  1. Circle the wagons. You have to be crystal clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing. That means that key leaders (in our case, FI directors at each campus) have to be on the same page when it comes to ferociously protecting the vision. I haven’t always led well in this area, and 2013 has seen a renewed focus on bringing the voices of the Connections Team around the same table, regardless of our campus affiliation. We’re working diligently to make sure we’re in complete alignment as we continue to grow.
  2. Watch for sacred cows. What is fresh, new, and innovative today will be stale, old, and outdated tomorrow. We have to make sure that the programming of our ministry can stand the test of time. That’s why there’s a difference between protecting the vision and propping up the vision. Your leadership team needs to have the integrity to know when it’s time to tweak focus, overhaul initiatives, or wipe the slate clean and start over.
  3. Remember your mama. Chances are you don’t lead a First Impressions Team that exists on its own. We all have a “mothership” – the church body that we’re serving each weekend. I’ve seen far too many ministries of churches that go rogue and no longer support the vision and mission of the church that birthed them. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you not only remain in alignment with your First Impressions leadership, but with your staff and elder leadership as well.
  4. Build systems that scale. I had a conversation recently with one of the wisest people on our staff. She said ” Remember that what works now with seven campuses will never work for twenty.” Will we eventually have 20 campuses? I have no idea. What I do know is that our current tendency to be five degrees off at each campus works for us…at least for now. It won’t work then. That’s why we’re attempting to go back to the drawing board to draft systems, plans, and strategies that will work at one or 100 locations (I got tired just typing that).
  5. Give ideas a greenhouse to grow. This is not the time for you to rule with an iron fist. It’s not a chance for you to assert absolute authority over your teams, whether you’re a single site or multi site church. While you do need to have a solid foundation and scalable systems, there needs to be a culture of idea generation that permeates the organization. For us, we allow campuses to “test market” certain ideas and then scale those that work to the entire ministry across the board. I learned a long time ago that I’m not the best idea generator around our Connections Team table. That’s why I’m honored to have men and women who are blazing those trails and letting me learn from them.

As I said, this is an area where I’m still weak, but hopefully growing. I want to hear from you. What are the ways that you protect and progress? Comment below, and thanks for playing along in the Guesswork series!

Check out the entire series:

(Remember kiddies, click on the bold print to see the original article.)


The Language of Success: Creating a Culture of HappinessBob Adams nails it on this summary of language from Disney U.

What’s the difference between treating someone like a customer, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We spruce up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs.


My Favorite Memories of President George W. Bush. Regardless of my political views, I always enjoy the behind the scenes stories of presidential life. These are solid.

One night when I first took the deputy press secretary job, I went with him on Marine One to an event in rural Virginia for the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Weather had kept us from going for two days, but on the third night, we made it out before another storm rolled in. On the way home he insisted on sharing his peanut butter and honey sandwiches with me and the chief-of-staff, Andy Card. The sun had started setting as we left to return to the White House and we talked just like friends do – he asked me all about my family, travels, pets and goals. I remember every moment of that night – including the orange and pink sunset that lasted the whole flight.


Thorough, Wearable Do Not Disturb SignAdmit it. If you work in an office you’ve wanted one of these. (via TwentyTwoWords)


A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness something absolutely amazing. It was my son Jase’s 11th birthday, and he asked me to pick up Taco Bell and join him for lunch in the school cafeteria.

(This is normally the time where I’d make a current events-related joke, like “He said, ‘Dad, do you want Taco Bell?’ and I said ‘Neigh.'”

But I’m trying to be more mature, so I’ll leave that joke aloDANG IT!)

But I digress. I grabbed his normal order (two cheese roll ups, nachos, and cinnamon twists) and made my way to the cafeteria. Amidst fifth grade boys who wanted to tell me all about their Minecraft strategies (I countered with Dig Dug stories), I watched my son enjoy an otherwise normal birthday.

Until the Lunch Lady came.

You see, at Jase’s school, there’s a Lunch Lady who works magic. I didn’t know this until my visit to the cafeteria. She has a microphone made out of a wad of aluminum foil, a list of kids’ birthdays, and an insatiable desire to put a smile on every kid’s face. So whether there’s one birthday or 12 on any given day, Lunch Lady is going to make sure every kid gets a memory they won’t soon forget.

(I’m thankful for Mr. Minecraft, who gave me the heads up that the song was coming.) Here’s how it went down…


Maybe you don’t have an aluminum foil mic or a cafeteria full of fifth graders or even a very un-Lunch Lady like singing voice (let’s face it, she’s got some pipes), but you have the power to make any experience memorable for your guests. How will you wield that power this weekend?

As my role has grown and developed over the last decade, I find myself getting really excited over certain things. Nope, not the inevitable leftover Chick-fil-A sandwich at a Saturday night Starting Point event (hello, forbidden Sunday Christian Chicken!).

I’m talking about seeing the vision for first impressions taking root among my staff team, volunteers, and even random church people. And when I say “taking root,” I mean taking root on the level of infectious. For example, occasionally I’ll see a tweet like this one:

Tried to check out [name of business deleted] last night. Let’s just say @LetMeBeFranks won’t be using them as a good 1st impressions example. (via @PhilWhi)

Or I’ll get a text from a co-worker, telling me that a fast food employee actually sighed (loudly) in the middle of taking their order. Or an email from a church member, telling me they visiting another church and no one spoke to them (although in their defense a lot of people stared viciously and maybe even pointed).

It’s moments like those that make me realize that as a pastor, I have a responsibility to raise the awareness of our commitment to our guests. I have a role to play in raising the bar of hospitality at our church. And I have the honor of attempting to create that culture not only at the Summit, but at any other church that will listen.

In our first impressions training, it’s the point I refer to as “Never losing the guest mentality.” It means that whenever we walk into a church, we have to think like a guest. Whenever we go into any other organization or establishment, we have the opportunity to use that experience to help ramp up (or tone down) what we’re doing here at the Summit.

As my friend Mark Waltz said in his first book:

A helpful exercise in retraining your senses is to evaluate an unfamiliar place. The next time you dine out, take a notebook with you and plan to do more than eat a meal. Be the critic. Record impressions about the parking area, the building, your host or hostess, wait time, service, food, and ambiance. How did you feel about the entire experience? What wowed you, if anything? The goal is not to see what you can find wrong, but rather to train yourself to see from a guest’s perspective (after all, you are one).

If I can curse people with one thing that I’m cursed with (besides my boyish good looks) it’s going to be the inability to detach from the guest experience. I go through very few worship services or consumer experiences without evaluating my treatment as a guest. It’s not because I feel like I deserve to be treated well, it’s because I believe that the gospel demands that we treat our guests well. And thinking through my experience from their perspective helps make that happen.

So as you observe your own worship service, visit a retail establishment, check out the hot new restaurant, or hit up the new vacation destination, do it through a new set of eyes. Redeem your experience and use it to honor those that God is sending your way. Think like a critic: not a critic who deserves better but a critic who wants to serve better. I promise it will change both the way you are served and the way that you serve.

I apologize in advance for the infection.


It’s Friday, where I kick back with the proverbial bag of chips and reach into the archives. As they say on TV, if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!

All of us are familiar with the term “Bless your heart.”  Most of you have already filled in the blanks on this one, but in case you’re uninitiated, it means “What an idiot.”  As in, “Jim Bob has done flipped his four wheeler again.  Bless his heart.”  Or, “My goodness, Sally Mae is still trying to fit into them size 12 jeans.  Bless her heart.”

I believe that church people are the primary offenders when it comes to bless-your-heart hospitality.  We tend to be heavy on pretense and light on sincerity.  You’ll notice it in churches of all sizes and applied to first time guests and long term members alike.  Here are some of the dead giveaways:

Read the original post.

Remember campers, click on the bold print to see the whole enchilada.


How the devil comforts us. (Ray Ortlund) Wow.

“When the devil accuses us and says, ‘You are a sinner and therefore damned,’ we should answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’  ‘No,’ says the devil, ‘you will be damned.’  And I reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ, who gave himself for my sins.


Five hidden axioms of volunteer management. (Rich Birch) The statement below is worth the price of admission:

Effective church leaders find ways to create more “spaces” for volunteers. Rather than a scarcity mindset that focuses on not having enough people to fill roles … our job is to create more spots for people to serve.


Reasons my son is crying(HT Laughing Squid) Shoot. I wish I’d thought of this first.

Some dad out there has recently started Reasons My Son is Crying, a funny Tumblr blog that chronicles his toddler son crying over a bunch of (seemingly) little things. He posts a photo of his kid mid-cry and then captions why he’s bawling his eyes out.I broke this cheese in half.

  • I broke this cheese in half.

We’re in week five of a 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, a firing-on-all-cylinders team, or anywhere in between, we’re going to talk about the factors that make your team great. Have a question? Submit ideas for future weeks in the comments below.

Structure your team for future success.

One of the challenges of a first impressions / guest services team is knowing exactly how to build the team. Some churches apply the generic label of “greeter” to anyone who is responsible for hospitality. While there are strengths in that, one of the drawbacks is that generic titles often breed generic results.

That’s why I recommend that you break your team down into specialty subteams, and assign your volunteers to one particular team so they become professional practitioners in that area. Here’s how to make that happen:

  1. Consider your context. If you’re a church with an attendance of 100 but parking spaces for five times that, you may not need a full scale parking team. On the flip side, a couple of our campuses have parking areas that are spread out for blocks around the church. Those are the places where we need more of a directional presence. And parking is just one example of many. What needs do your particular context dictate? Start with a whiteboard and a brainstorming strategy and go from there.
  2. Think outside in. Regardless of whether you need a parking team (to draw on the above example), don’t make the mistake of only staffing inside the walls. When we do so, we’re still catering to the needs of insiders. Think about it: someone who has never been to your church needs the subtle assurance that you’ve thought through the experience. Seeing a volunteer outside, proactively engaging your guests, will do wonders in setting them up for the experience to come.
  3. Decide on a schedule. There are as many ways to schedule volunteers as there are volunteers. We adhere to an “attend one, serve one” strategy: volunteers serve for one service every week, and they attend the other. Our Summit en Español campus only hosts one service per Sunday, so their volunteers are on a one Sunday per month schedule. Still other churches have volunteers serve once every few weeks, but they serve every service all weekend long. Regardless of the schedule you choose, make sure you have an adequate presence at all times during the service…not just the beginning or end.
  4. Put leaders in place. Don’t try to lead your guest services team solo. The old adage is that Jesus invested in twelve followers. You probably shouldn’t try to be more ambitious than the Son of God. Our goal is a leader over every subteam of 8-12 people. In addition, each shift (service time) has a shift leader, and each venue has a director. Multiplicity of leadership means that no one person shoulders the burden alone. It also means that you have key people that you can invest in so that they can continue passing your vision down to their teams.

Check out the entire series:

Yesterday’s post was intended to be a stand-alone topic. I didn’t mean for it to turn into a two parter. But I also never mean to eat the whole plate of Kung Pao Chicken at Pei Wei, and yet there I am, chasing the final grain of rice around the plate like it’s the last starch in RDU.

But the “Answer the Question They’re NOT Asking” post raised another question question in my mind, namely, “Why?” Why is it important for us to go through the acrobatics of stepping up to the plate and answering the questions our guests should be asking, but aren’t? I think there are three reasons:

  1. It shows great honor to the guest. Helping them think through their next step connects you in a way that you wouldn’t through a surface answer. It proves to them that they’ve honored you by attending, and you want to honor them by helping them stick. It lets them know that you’re more concerned about getting them where they need to be, rather than just giving a stock answer to get them off your back.
  2. It shows that you’ve thought through the total guest experience. If we’re honest, we can all point to churches (maybe our own) who act surprised when a guest shows up or someone wants to take a next step. For the life of me I’ll never understand how we can call ourselves evangelicals but then not have a plan in place to reach outsiders. Or worse – we get outsiders on the inside and then completely drop the ball. Answering the questions they’re not asking helps a guest feel valued, cared for, and makes them understand that we’ve done the heavy lifting of thinking through their connection experience…so all that’s left for them to do is to connect.
  3. It delivers the second mile ministry that Jesus talked about. True, we probably won’t have any soldiers showing up anytime soon asking us to carry their equipment for them. But Jesus’ principle remains true: we should never settle for minimal service. The gospel displays generosity, but once the gospel invades our hearts, it demands that we display generosity as well. And generosity means that we are thinking through guest services lavishly. Not lavish gifts or lavish spending, but simply well-thought through processes and systems.


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