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.