You might think a lot about the guest experience at your church, but do you treat it like a program or a culture?
Easter, the Super Bowl of church services, has come and gone. If you’re like most church leaders, you spent the weeks leading up to Easter trying to create the best possible experience for guests for Easter services. You recruited extra volunteers, ordered donuts and bagels, brewed the premium coffee and splurged for your photo backdrop in the lobby.
All of these efforts impacted the guest experience for your Easter services, no doubt. But what about next week?
The truth is, we can’t sustain our Easter-level guest experience efforts for the other 51 weeks, nor should we. Here’s the secret about guest experience—a great guest experience has more to do with culture than a program.
Don’t worry, taking steps towards a culture-over-program approach might not be as complicated as you think. Here are five steps that your church can take to create a great guest experience for the other 51 weeks.
Make good use of your people’s gifts.
Hospitality volunteer positions are often seen as entry level roles. This can be a big mistake! Your volunteers in the parking lot and at the doors are the first interactions that a guest will have. This is a great opportunity to position your warmest people, who know your mission, vision and values, to make a connection with your guests. You want to establish a culture suitable for guests? Use your best people with a gift of hospitality to set the tone for the guest experience. You won’t regret it.
Greet in the seats.
So often churches position people as greeters at the doors, but miss opportunities for real conversations inside the worship venue. Please don’t see this as a call to over-greeting (we’ve all been there)! Instead, see this as an opportunity for a casual interaction that can be a key to helping a guest to feel at home. Have a few casual volunteers positioned in different areas of the worship venue before and after the service looking for people that might be guests.
You’d be surprised at how many people remember their first conversations at their church home and attribute those conversations as the primary reasons for staying. Start to retain some guests with this experience and you have the beginnings of a healthy guest experience culture.
Acknowledge your guests every week.
You are probably doing some kind of a greeting or host announcement time as part of your services. It is a great idea to incorporate a guest welcome with this each week. This will accomplish two things. First, it will help a guest to know that they are welcomed and not alone. Secondly, and maybe most importantly, it helps your members and regular attenders hear the value of caring for guests on a weekly basis.
It is so easy for a church family to grow comfortable with familiar faces. Consistent reminders from leaders in the church about how much you value welcoming new people can make a huge difference in building a healthy guest experience culture. Something like, “If you’re new with us, welcome! We are so glad you are here. Hopefully you have had the chance to meet a few people already, but if you have questions please feel free to stop by our guest services desk in the lobby,” can go a long way.
Have a strategic next step.
While you’re welcoming guests each week, make sure that the messaging includes what you want a guest to do next. Guest gifts, “new here” orientation luncheons or connection cards are common steps for a guest to take. Whatever yours is, make sure this is something that is repeated every week at your services. Of course this is helpful for your guests, but it’s also helpful for your members and regular attenders. As a healthy guest experience culture starts to take hold, the people at your church will know exactly how to help guests take a next step with your church as casual conversations take place.
Can you imagine not relying exclusively on staff or hospitality volunteers to help guests on Sundays? This is the difference that a guest experience culture could make.
Make it a value.
Creating a great culture for guest experience ultimately comes down to what you value. The suggestions listed above make sense only if hospitality is a value of your staff and your church family. Otherwise, you will spend time and energy trying to “program” a guest experience which can produce some results, but has limitations. If you value welcoming new people and helping them to feel comfortable, your guests will naturally be the recipients on a weekly basis.
Churches should be the most welcoming places in our communities. Let’s build a culture of hospitality to welcome guests every week!