(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

A few weeks ago, an alert reader alerted me to the fact that they’d never seen a post of this kind on the blog. Sadly, I was not alert enough to jot down the alert reader’s name, and even several seconds minutes worth of inbox searching failed to produce any identifying info so I could give ’em credit.

So alert reader: I apologize.

But the question remains, how do you spot a first time guest? How do you distinguish a seasoned member of your church from one who’s walking in the door for the very first time? Ideally, you’ll simply follow your procedure: have a process that you can use as a tool to identify and greet guests as they arrive.

But what if there’s no process? Or what if there is a process, but your guest missed the signage or the instructions or just wanted to fly under the radar? Here are six things that might help (and yes, these are likely cobbled together from the thoughts of Mark Waltz, Nelson Searcy, and others. This same non-alert person also failed to find specific references in their books).

  1. Heading towards the wrong door / parking spot / building. Seasoned people know the rules: where to park, where to walk, when to get there. If a guest looks lost (and if you have an observant outside team), you can help get them to their destination.
  2. Slowing down as they approach. Seasoned folks confidently maneuver your sidewalks and front doors; guests do not. If they’re slowing their pace, chances are they’re new.
  3. Looking around / looking up. A first timer will try to take it all in. They’re looking for visual cues: signs, banners, and overheads that let them know they’re in the right spot.
  4. Over- or under-dressed. If you’re a casual crowd and a guy shows up in a three piece, he could be a fancy hipster. Or he could be dressing for what he thinks your church expects.
  5. Really late or really early. Let’s err on the “really early” side. Your regulars are probably the ones showing up for an 11:20 service that you don’t have.
  6. Texting. A lot. Sure, this could be the sign of any 12-59 year old in your church. But it could also be the sign of a first time guest who is trying to find the friend they’re meeting there. True story: I once approached a lady who had been texting for 10-15 minutes as she stood in the lobby. She said she was trying to find a friend of a friend who’d invited her. The good news: that friend went to the Summit. The bad news: she was at the wrong campus. My wife invited her to sit with our family and the experience was (partially) saved.

 

There’s gotta be a #7. What would you add? Comment below.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

The first time my wife and I went to a Broadway show, we saw the value of a good usher in action. From the moment we entered the theater, we were literally ushered to our seats. If you’ve ever experienced Broadway, you know the drill: The usher who scans your ticket points you toward the correct entrance…there is another usher who points you toward the correct aisle, where there is yet another usher who walks you directly to your row and motions to your seats. In that first Broadway experience, we knew that as long as we had our ticket in hand for the ushers to see, they would do all the work. We were along for the ride. That’s usher service. [emphasis mine]

Read the entire original post here.

Wedding Crashers

Last weekend I attended two weddings in northern Virginia. The first I was invited to: the oldest son of our seminary besties got married, simultaneously taking the best selfie that I’ve ever personally witnessed.

The second was not one that I was necessarily invited to, unless you count “invited” as “I used my spiritual gift of nosiness to watch a wedding go down at the hotel where we were staying.”

I emerged from my hotel room at about 9 AM Sunday, fully expecting to grab a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby and kick back with my Bible to get some literal quiet time. (We were traveling sans three year old, so my wife and sons were exercising their spiritual gifts of sleeping until check out.) But the quiet time never happened. I walked out into the cool Virginia morning to hear the nadaswaram rocking and to see the stage being set for a genuine Hindu wedding.

If you’re like me, you didn’t grow up with genuine Hindu weddings. You grew up with genuine Southern Baptist weddings: elegant soirees with the exact same vows usually officiated by the exact same preacher followed by a reception in the exact same gym decorated with the exact same lattice while you enjoyed the exact same butter mints. 

Oh sure, I knew lots of different couples who got married in lots of different churches, but all the DNA of all the ceremonies were a 99.14% match. In other words: I’m familiar with Southern Baptist weddings. I know how they work. I know what all the traditions and trappings mean (for example: butter mints mean you’re too cheap to spring for a buffet).

But a Hindu wedding? Entirely unfamiliar. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when 9:55 rolled around and an announcer took the stage, explaining that the wedding would be commencing in five minutes and that she would be serving as an emcee of sorts, explaining what each of the traditions meant as we went along.

And so she did. From the entrance of the groom and the welcome of the bride’s family to the exchanging of garlands to the blessing of the couple by the priest, the emcee broke down every element of the service for the non-Hindu wedding guests and the non-guest / creepy pastor who was hanging out fifty feet away. While I couldn’t stay for the entire ceremony (Hindu weddings go long but my check out time only went till noon), I caught as much as I could, aided greatly in my understanding by the helpful emcee.

What does this have to do with the price of chole bhature in Delhi? Quite a lot, actually. I was struck on Sunday morning not only that I was a minority culture, but that I felt like a minority culture. I was an outsider in the truest sense, trying to make heads or tails of traditions that were entirely foreign to me. I was trading my 20 minute wedding ceremony for an all-day affair, my church gym reception with a lavish party, and I didn’t have a clue what any of it meant.

But the emcee did. And she faithfully guided us through the meaning of each element of the service. And so, as an outsider, I was able to feel a little more like an insider.

Every single weekend, someone shows up at your church with the same level of knowledge that I had at a Hindu wedding. They don’t understand communion (“Okay everybody, time to drink the blood and eat the flesh of the man who died for us.”). They don’t understand baptism (“So I went to this church, and they pushed this fully clothed guy under the water for no good reason.”). They definitely don’t understand the offering (“I told you those church people were just after my money.” / “Is it okay if I make change?”).

Churches that plan for their guests and want them to return will provide an emcee of sorts. Churches that want to make outsiders insiders will take frequent moments throughout the service and explain what’s about to happen and why. It doesn’t have to be a theological defense. It doesn’t have to be an extended soapbox. It just needs to convey the value of the moment and the value of the guest.

It’s time to grade your service: how do you address the wedding crashers?

84kb cropped version

…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.

Read the entire post – including six ways to take another look – here.

“Spy” Considerations for Easter Sunday(via @ThomRainer) Easter’s coming. You ready?

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

As we approach the season of Resurrection Sunday—when guests are more abundant at our churches—perhaps these questions will help you consider what guests experience at your church. You might want to evaluate over the next two weeks so you are more prepared for Easter Sunday.

 

Why UPS Trucks Don’t Turn Left(via @Priceonomics) Remember: two wrongs don’t make a right. But three rights will make a left.

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved “a series of right-hand loops,” UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy.

 

Street Painter is a Master Craftsman(via @22Words) I dare you to stop watching this video before it’s over. You can’t. It’s too awesome.

Somebody's gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

Somebody’s gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

I spent the last few days in a guest services geek’s dreamland: I was fortunate enough to sit around a table with seventeen of the sharpest church hospitality minds in the country. We came from churches of different backgrounds (from maybe-sorta-traditional to hey-wow-you’re-not-traditional-at-all), churches of different sizes (from really big to good-glory-are-you-a-church-or-the-population-of-Montana), and churches with varying philosophies and approaches to how we do just about everything.

But one thing united us all, and that’s our vision that churches nationwide must step up to reach those who are far from Jesus. In addition to being missional communities who send people out, we have to be attractional communities that welcome people in. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By the time the first sixty minutes of our conversation had elapsed, my brain was full. I picked off enough ideas and “aha!” moments to last me for months (and I’ll share many of those with you in the days to come). Even this morning – a half a day removed from the event – my mind is racing as I try to process some of the things I learned and some of the topics we discussed.

But here’s my first big takeaway: planning is not the same as dreaming. 

I plan a lot of things: from weekend volunteer teams to training opportunities to large scale events, planning runs in my blood. I love it. I love wrestling a spreadsheet under my control, ticking every little item off my to do list, and seeing it all come together at the end of the day. And the insidious nature of planning the work and working the plan is this: you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

But planning isn’t the same as dreaming. Executing a plan doesn’t mean you’ve created an experience. I can plan an event down to precise detail but never see the experience change from one time to the next. So if I never take time to dream, my plans will never really evolve into something better.

When it comes to guest services, I’m prone to take the easiest, cheapest, simplest, pragmatic-ist way out. I want it to be replicable across eight campuses. I want it to be simple for our staff and volunteer teams to understand. I dumb down the plans in the name of simplicity. But creativity is not the enemy of simplicity.

Here’s what I learned this week: sometimes you need to just dream. Forget the practical nature of what you do. Forget the budgetary constraints. Forget your lack of volunteers. Yesterday eighteen of us spent a couple of hours simply dreaming: “What if we could implement this?” “What if we had a blank check?” “What if we had an unlimited staff or a bottomless pool of volunteers or 27 hours in a day?”

When we get to the end of the “What if?” road, we know there will still be some limitations there. We’ll never have unlimited cash or the millions of volunteers we hope for. But the great thing about dreaming is that it knocks the ceiling off of some of our preconceived notions. When we get out of the world of spreadsheets and checklists and start staring into the blue sky of creativity, we see new things evolve. New initiatives arise. New values emerge. And sometimes those new insights may indeed mean just adding a couple of volunteers here or a couple hundred bucks there. But that small tweak is the thing that raises the bar and helps us truly create an experience that captures the imaginations of our guests and points them to the truths of the gospel.

So how about it, guest services friends? Ministry friends? Leader friends? Are you planning or are you dreaming?

 

To find out more about what we’ve been up to the last few days, check out a couple of posts by our fearless leader Bob Adams here and here.

 

[Editor’s note: before you read the following post, please take notice of two things:

1. It was originally penned on April 1. (APRIL. FIRST.)

2. And if April 1 does nothing to jog your brain, you should definitely click the link at the bottom. No seriously. Please click it.

Okay, carry on.]

SocialMEdia logo

Every once in a while an announcement comes along that’s just too good to sit on any longer.

In just over a month, the Summit Church is launching a brand new initiative called socialMEdia™ Small Groups. For the last nine months, I’ve been collaborating with Spence Shelton, our Spiritual Formations Pastor, as well as a ton of our IT people in order to roll out this launch. Nine months is an appropriate time frame, because in many ways it feels like we’ve been preparing to give birth. We’ve labored over it, cried over it, wrestled with it, but we’re ready to introduce this proverbial baby to the world.

 

THE BACKGROUND.

Every “what” needs a “why.” Here’s ours: we know that getting into a small group is tough. Every month we see hundreds of people attempting to join a group, and the truth is, it’s hard to keep up. We want to have well trained group leaders, but training takes time. And time is something that prospective leaders and members just don’t have.

But one thing Americans (even American Christians) seem to have time for is social media. Whether you love it or hate it, most of us are tech junkies. We love our Twitter, our Facebook, our Instagram, and our MySpace (shout out to our 90’s brethren!). So last year several of our pastors asked the obvious question: Why can’t we do both?

Why can’t we increase involvement by CHANGING commitment?

Why can’t we lower the risk and give a better return?

Why can’t we – for lack of a better term – dumb down the process?

So that’s exactly what we did!

We took the best that social media had to offer and applied it to the fast paced lifestyle of the 21st century disciple. We worked with some of the best and brightest tech people out there to flush out the kinks in the system. We vetted the go-getters of the online community to build a new kind of community, and we think you’re going to love what you see.

 

THE PRODUCT.

Imagine: what if you could have all of the benefits of a small group without the difficult commitments? What if you could connect with your fellow disciples anytime, anywhere? What if you never again had to walk into a strange living room, endure a long and awkward prayer request, or risk rejection from a group that’s already gelled before you showed up? Maybe you laugh at those examples, but then again, maybe you’ve never had to face these realities.

socialMEdia™ Small Groups changes all of that. For starters, you choose the group that’s right for you. When the SMSG site launches, you’ll complete a profile that describes your preferences. You can tag your profile with any descriptor from seeker to serious, from dog lover to Democrat, from Lecrae devotee to Larry the Cucumber fan club president. From those tags and profiles, our database will run an algorithm that will generate up to ten social groups that might be right for you, much like E-Harmony or Match.com. You can pick one or several, and try them out at your leisure.

Some groups will meet weekly, much like our traditional groups. Others will meet at more random times: sometimes every other week, sometimes several times a day, sometimes once a quarter. Because there are no houses, childcare, and schedules to deal with, the sky is the limit and the pressure is off.

Group facilitators will be chosen by the group members. Once a group has been formed for two weeks, group members will take an online poll to select the person who appears most qualified to lead. It’s Seth Godin’s Tribes principle at it’s best: find someone who seems to be passionate about what they’re doing, and follow them.

Then the fun begins: once your group is fully operational, you have the opportunity to fully explore all that the socialMEdia™ Small Group has to offer. We’ve pulled in all of the major social networking sites to give you the opportunity to integrate your discipleship with your everyday lifestyle:

  • “Like” your group on Facebook and post it to your wall so that your non-Christian friends can see what they’re missing.
  • Encourage other group members on Twitter. Discipleship doesn’t have to be lengthy; sometimes it can happen in less than 140 characters.
  • Watching a great documentary on Jesus? Link your Netflix account so your other group members can join in the learning. (Or comment on your favorite Walking Dead episode; we won’t judge.)
  • Set up a Google Hangout in order to discuss the weekend sermon in real time.
  • Connect your LinkedIn profile to remind your friends to live out the gospel at work.
  • If you’re one of those who tagged yourself a Lecrae fan (98% of you), let people know you’re listening to him on Spotify.
  • Share inspirational sayings, gospel-centered kids craft ideas, and home improvement tips with Pinterest.
  • Want to get together with a group member for a meal? Make a recommendation on Yelp and a reservation on OpenTable.
  • And that’s just the beginning. Share a mini-message with Vine, a funny selfie with Instagram or Snapchat, or a sermon link on YouTube.

Keep in mind that all of this is just the beta version. In the months to come, we’ll be integrating VimeoPathFlickrUrbanSpoon, and tons more. The best is yet to come!

 

THE PAYOFF.

So how does learning happen? While you’ll still have the opportunity to participate in the Summit’s alignment series like Sent, socialMEdia™ Small Groups will give you far more flexibility on what you learn and when. The voted-on group facilitator will be able to select from all the resources of the internet. We’ll provide links to LifeWayGroup, RightNow Media, even Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You find something that looks interesting and go to town. And of course, group members can access the material by simply downloading to their Kindle device or app. Amazing.

I am incredibly excited about what the future holds. Our team believes that – while admittedly non-traditional – this model may soon overtake traditional groups in popularity. Life is busy, so “doing life together” will necessarily look different.

Imagine: connected to the community without the constraints of community. Life together while doing life solo. Growing in grace without getting off the couch. It’s a new kind of paradigm for a new kind of pilgrim.

 

GETTING STARTED.

socialMEdia™ Small Groups don’t officially launch until mid-May (just in time for your summer travels), but you can join the waiting list and fill out your profile starting today. Simply follow the link to get started.

Get ready to get social!

 

Embed from Getty Images

At Chick-fil-A, HATCH comes first – even before the chicken or the egg(via @robertvadams) My friend Bob Adams gives us a behind the scenes tour of Chick-fil-A’s new innovation center. How are you thinking ahead in the guest service experience?

hatchwelcome

If you’re going to innovate in ministry, you will have to find ways to identify the fledgling innovators in your church and then find ways to support some of their seemingly crazy ideas.

Five things we expect (and rarely get) from conference sessions(via @360connext) Good stuff here. If you are a part of organizing, leading, or speaking at conferences, these are great things to keep in mind.

Ensure content isn’t completely redundant. If speakers keep saying “well I guess Joe already covered this,” that’s not the presenter’s fault. Planners and organizers should know who is presenting what and how it can benefit the audience.

Things I’ve said to my children(via @NathanRipperger) Yep. Guilty.

enhanced-10045-1393768046-3

(click the photo for the entire list)

 

Are we putting too much emphasis on the moment of conversion? (via @_MichaelKelley) Sobering stuff to think about.

You, like me, probably know someone in your life who at one time or another had what seemed to be a really genuine encounter with the gospel. They heard the word of truth, accepted they are a sinner, and asked Jesus to forgive them and be the Lord of their lives. And though the decision seemed genuine at the time, over the years you’ve seen them slowly but surely drift from that original moment until now they are just another story of someone who prayed a simple prayer, maybe got baptized, but now seem to have no real affection for Jesus.

 

Should you teach the world a new word? (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Before you ask, yes: Connections Pastor is a real thing.

Choose a new name when it helps you achieve your goals, not because you’re worried about some truth-in-taxonomy commission giving you a hassle. It doesn’t matter if you’re right, it matters if you are understood.

 

Sweet little old lady smiles and waves at passing kids every day(via @22Words) Every high school student in America needs a Tinney Davidson.

Are you a pastor? Preacher? Speaker? Ministry leader? Businessman? Marketer? Butcher, baker, candlestick maker?

This may help end the white noise and drill down to the heart of your message:

A unified message cuts through the clutter. A unified message reinforces what someone should do next. A unified message is outrageously simple to understand. We owe it to our people to cut the clutter and make the message clear.

Read the entire original post.