November 2013

Behind the Scenes of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade(via @AOLJobs) I thought it was just about holding on to some balloons.

Macy’s has standards and no smoking, eating, drinking or gum chewing are permitted once in costume. Given that I’m at the end of the parade, I’ll be marching for at least three hours. So I plan to keep my fluid intake to the absolute minimum. Those who march in the front of the parade can finish in 45 minutes. Some have been known to get back home in time to see Santa on TV.


Funny Thanksgiving Help Line Calls(via @ReadersDigest) Back in my student ministry days, one of my favorite annual traditions was the Wednesday-night-before-Thanksgiving phone call to the Butterball hotline. We’d put the turkey expert on speaker phone, quiz her on turkey trivia, and send her a prize package. Boom.

A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat. After a conversation with a Talk-Line operator, it became apparent that the woman’s turkey was lying on the table upside down.


The Story of Thanksgiving as Told by Kids. (via @PremiumFunny) Sit back, crank your speakers, and thank me later.



There are two businesses that I frequent on a regular basis. (And by “regular” I mean “compulsive.”) These are different businesses, with two different product lines, two different bottom lines.

Both businesses are great. Both are leaders in their industry. And the particular franchises I’m referring to? Well, they’re simply top notch.

But like all businesses, there are times (albeit infrequent) that there are missteps. Incorrect orders, inattentive employees, underwhelming experience.

Infrequent, although it happens. Sometimes.

But here’s the difference: when it does happen, there’s one business that I tend to be more forgiving of. One that I intentionally overlook the misstep, forgive the inattention, and know that the next experience will be better.

The reason? Relationship. At one business, I’m known. I’m on a first name basis with most of the employees. They know my regular order. They know my face. They know my family.

At the other, I’m…well…not known. I know a couple of employees, but not more than that. I recognize some of the regulars, but I don’t feel like a regular. And a lot of that is my fault. Before I grouse that they haven’t gotten to know me, I have to realize that I haven’t made a concerted effort to get to know them, either.

Both are great places. Both are staffed with great people. But it’s the relationship with one that sets it apart.

It works the same with our churches and our guest services teams. We’re more likely to forgive the inevitable missteps when we know the people doing the misstepping. It doesn’t excuse mistakes, but it does soothe mistakes. And that’s one of many reasons that relationships matter.

So what are you doing to facilitate relationships between your servant team and those they’re serving? I’d love to hear your success stories. Comment below.

I’m dialing the archives back five years today. Enjoy a tip o’ the pilgrim’s hat to next week’s holiday:

Really Old Pilgrim Picture

The obvious guests for the celebration would have to be the Indians; so instrumental were they in the pilgrims’ survival.  The pilgrims immediately issued the invitation, but were stunned to learn that many of their guests would be boycotting the dinner because the term “Indian” connoted savagery, beastliness, and an incorrect geographical location of origin.

Squanto was unable to come because he was the target of a lawsuit by the local farmers’ union. His tutoring to the pilgrims on how to plant corn constituted a violation of the local agricultural standards and “no-compete” clauses.

Miles Standish was being investigated by the EPA and USDA for implementing Squanto’s practice of using dead, rotting fish to grow the crops.

PETA showed up and protested the cruel and inhumane treatment of the turkeys prior to the meal.  One of the pilgrims suggested that inhumane treatment was probably okay since the turkeys weren’t actually human, which only served to anger the PETA protesters and caused them to throw raw giblets onto the gathering crowd.

The Democrats came and declared that the pilgrims’ crop had netted too many vegetables.  They forced the pilgrims to hand over half of their vegetables, which they promptly reallocated to a neighboring colony that didn’t have as many vegetables.

Read the entire post here

Why It Matters What Outsiders Think. (via @davidcmathis) David Mathis hits it out of the park again. (Earlier I linked to his previous post, A Reason To Really Be Offended.)

Paul prominently mentions “outsiders” again in 1 Corinthians 14. This time the context is corporate worship, and far from ignoring them, or planning things in such a way as to turn them off, Paul wants to engage them. To win them.

Can Excellent Customer Service Really Be Delivered Over Email? (via @HelpScout) This is a lengthy read, but oh so worth it. If you ever email clients / customers / supporters / guests (hint: that’s all of us), you need this in your toolbox.

Many might tell you that email is too impersonal to deliver the kind of quality service that customers remember—but is that really the case?

In order to answer that question, I ventured out to see if I could find examples of customer service over email that were so good that the customer just had to share his or her experience.

Best Ride Photos From Disney’s Splash Mountain. (via @PremiumFunny) These are amazing. Absolutely amazing. The Jenga photo is jenius. (Um, genius.)



photo credit:

I thought this article from Help Scout was pretty interesting. The skinny: researchers examined the effect of customer loyalty programs on…you guessed it…customer loyalty. The test involved handing out two sets of “free carwash” cards. On one set of cards, customers needed to get eight car washes to earn a free one.

On the second set, customers had to earn ten car washes for the freebie, but the first two boxes were already stamped, thereby giving them a head start.

Now if you’re awesome at the maths, you know that in both cases, they’re buying eight washes to get a free one. And if you’re awesome at common sense, you’d think there would be no difference in response.

But you’d be wrong. The people with the “head start” cards had nearly double the rate of loyalty as those who were eking out an entire punch card on their own.

So what hath customer loyalty programs to do with Jerusalem?* Obviously there are stark differences: we’re not getting people to buy into a product or an organization, but into a mission. And it’s not about what people can purchase from the church, but the gospel that the church has been called to freely distribute. However, I believe that there’s a connection between loyalty programs and guest services within the church:

People are more likely to “stick” if they feel like an insider.

I understand that plenty of churches want people to remain anonymous as long as they want to remain anonymous. I have friends who oversee guest services in those churches, and I completely get their reasoning. And while we can’t force anyone to identify themselves, we do everything possible every weekend to make self-identification not only easy, but a natural first step.

And when they do, we want to make that first time guest feel like a family member as quickly as we can. It’s a delicate process: too much information feels like we’re desperate, clingy, and assuming way too much (kind of like picking out china patterns on the first date). Too little information leaves guests confused, wondering what they should do next, and often not even knowing the right questions to ask.

But there are a few simple things we try to do to make outsiders insiders, and thereby make them stick:

  1. Clear access points. From the first moment a guest drives onto a campus, we want them to know we’ve prepared for their visit. We do that through signage, greeters, and an obnoxiously in-the-way first time guest tent that just dares them to bypass it. Guests can choose to self-identify, and when they do, we help take the edge off of an anxious first visit.
  2. Targeted conversations. While there’s a certain “one size fits all” approach to dealing with guests, we all know that one size definitely doesn’t fit all. That’s why the goal is always to figure out how we can specifically connect with a specific guest’s specific needs, and respond appropriately.
  3. Tailored event. We offer a newcomer’s event once a month at every campus called Starting Point. More than anything else we do, Starting Point makes the Summit feel like home over the course of a couple of hours. I’ve known people who have attended here for years, yet they said that it wasn’t until they (finally) showed up at Starting Point that they had one of those infamous “AHA!” moments and felt like they’d infiltrated the bubble. That’s why our goal is to get every first timer at Starting Point within one to three months of their first visit.

The point of all of these things isn’t to build the attendance metrics of the Summit. It’s not to bump our membership stats. The goal is to create an environment where people who are on the outside can relatively quickly move to the inside. Because when that happens, it’s fertile breeding ground for the gospel to go forward and truly impact their lives.

*It’s a takeoff on a quote by Tertullian, and when I say junk like that I feel 24% smarter.

We like what we know.

Whether it’s our favorite lunch spot or trusted vacation destination or a go-to pair of shoes, we’re fans of the familiar.

And familiar is okay, as long as we remember that one man’s familiar is another man’s uncharted territory.

Because when things get familiar, we tend to get sloppy. We turn inward to our own convenience rather than outward for the sake of our guests. We structure systems around our comfort rather than ease of use for someone who’s new.

That’s why I’d encourage you…every once in a while…to take another look. Arrive at your weekend worship experience with the heart of a pastor and the mind of a critic. Look for things that are incredibly basic to you, but might be incredibly confusing to a guest.

84kb cropped version

Identifying signage: if someone is driving down the road past your church, do they know that you are a church? Is there signage to point them your way? You know that there’s a building behind those trees on the frontage road, but do they?

Greeters in the great outdoors: we tend to staff our volunteer teams from the inside out. We focus on the auditorium, the kids area, the lobby, etc. And when guests arrive, they tend to see backs…lots and lots of backs headed away from them and into the building. But what if you had a few friendly faces outside for the entire morning? What if you lowered someone’s defenses by maintaining an outward-focused posture?

Clearly marked entry points: if you have a traditional church building, you may have more entrances than you have people. What if you structured your guest parking in a way where every first timer parks in the same lot and enters the same door? Their worst nightmare is to walk in the wrong door and end up in the “forbidden hallway.” (and yes, nearly every church has one)

Lots of signs, complemented by lots of people: signage is important. You should have lots of it, at a viewable level, that clearly communicates the areas you want people to know about. But signs don’t replace people and conversations. If someone looks confused, a volunteer should be trained to react and respond appropriately and to get them where they need to go.

Blind spots and fear of the unknown: does your auditorium have a wooden door separating it from the lobby? (yes) What will you see when you open that door? You know the answer. But your guest doesn’t. Wooden doors should be paired up with yet more people, placed there as a security blanket to help guests feel more comfortable about what’s on the other side.

Confusing language from the stage, temperature of the auditorium, spell check on the screens, screaming babies in the back…: you name it, there’s something else that you’ve become all too familiar  and comfortable with. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably learned to tune it out or ignore it altogether. But your guests won’t. And those things could make or break whether or not they return. So this weekend, take another look. It might be an eye-opening experience.

In light of our current Staying Faith series, I thought this was a fun post to pull out of the archives for today:

Our people simply respond well to the call to give. Whether it’s turkeys for the Durham Rescue Mission or coats for students at Neal Middle School or school supplies for teachers at Eastway Elementary, they just give. And give. And give.

And it’s not just structured giving – the kind where somebody stands up and tells a sad story and shows pictures of sick kittens and plays a Sarah McLachlan song and then asks people to empty their pockets and maybe sell a vital organ and then go dig a well. No, this culture of generosity goes deeper than a corporate call and digs into the heart of individual mission.

It’s the small group raising money to pay for an uninsured surgery. It’s the campus staff gathering funds to fill a family’s propane heater before winter. It’s the sound tech arranging for a sound system to be loaned to a school for their Christmas program. It’s the young professionals who host an auction to fund a ministry to street kids in Rwanda.

Read the entire original post.

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