June 11, 2021 The Guest Experience in BOTH Physical and Digital Realms of Ministry
Today we are going to take a deep look into your guest experience and how to identify what areas of your digital and physical space need special attention.
When was the last time you were the new person at church? It’s probably been a while. But maybe you remember it feeling a little awkward? Maybe you recall trying to sneak out unnoticed? Well, today we are going to take a deep look into your guest experience and how to identify what areas of your digital and physical space need special attention.
If you haven’t been following along, this is part four in our series on Hybrid Church. In this series, we are exploring what makes up an effective Hybrid Church, the shifts required to make a meaningful jump forward, and how you can prepare for (and enjoy) the journey ahead. I’d highly recommend going back to check out our other articles after you’ve read this one! (You can find the first article in this series here.)
Now, if you read the part about Hybrid Church and thought, “My church isn’t a Hybrid Church so I guess this isn’t for me,” we want to encourage you to keep reading! This is the perfect time to evaluate both your in-person and digital guest experiences regardless of if your church is a Hybrid Church or prioritizes your physical ministry. As many churches are returning to in-person services, we need to treat everyone as new. Remember, we are all re-learning how to interact with the physical church and now is the perfect time to make some adjustments!
Why does guest experience matter?
When we say “guest experience,” we mean the intentional hospitality and value you bring to your guests. Your guests may be people that are visiting you for the first time, have been around for a while, or may even be long-time attendees. Intentionally evaluating and planning your guest experience matters because, if we’re honest, this is ultimately what determines whether someone sticks around and becomes a part of your church community or fades away and chooses not to return.
If you have a Hybrid Church model, you probably have some form of an in-person guest experience already set up (parking team, greeters, etc.). While we are still going to talk about the guest experience in your physical space, we are also going to look at the guest experience in your digital space. Our focus needs to shift from thinking of the guest experience of only happening at our physical location to it happening 24/7. Hybrid church or not, you need to take a look at your digital space as most guests will never walk through your front door without first looking at your website or social media.
Take the time to identify your “guest zones”
As we start thinking critically about opportunities for your digital and physical guest experiences, we first want to highlight the most important guest zone. That zone is made up of the people associated with your church. The best way to provide a positive guest experience is if your people are intentional and welcoming.
“Your guest experience will thrive or die on human connections made.” - Aimee Cottle, Director of Marketing
Physical Guest Zones
As we walk through some of the physical guest zones, you could almost pull up a blueprint of your space and start marking out these areas. We want to analyze if it is easy for a new person to navigate these spaces and if we are anticipating our guests' needs.
- Arrival/Parking - Is it easy for a guest to find parking? Can they find the main entrance easily?
- Main Entrance/Greeters - When they first walk in, is there someone greeting them?
- Building Navigation - Is it easy to figure out where they need to go? Is it easy to find someone to help direct them?
- Worship Space - How are they guided in this space? Is it easy to find seats?
- Kids Area - Is dropping off your kids an easy experience? Can the parents rest easy knowing their kids are in good hands?
- Guest Services/Next Steps - When they get ready to leave, is there someone that has made a human connection with them? Will they walk away feeling like they belong here?
You may want to walk through your space as if you were coming for the first time. Or you may want to visit other churches and see what you notice about them doing well or not so well. Getting a fresh look at how people feel after visiting your space is the best place to start! A major goal whenever someone attends is that they make a human connection and feel like they belong.
Digital Guest Zones
These can be a bit harder to identify, but it is well worth the effort. As we said earlier, most people won’t visit you in-person until they have visited you online. This makes your digital guest experience that much more important because it is probably the first impression people will get about your church! As we look at the zones on our list, we want to consider how they bring value to our guests and make them feel seen and cared for.
- Public Social Media Platforms - This is any public platform, not your niche groups that would take some time for them to connect with. Do your posts require a response? Are you quick to message back if they have a question?
- Website Homepage - The main page of your website should be guest-focused. Since most people get their first impression of a church from their digital presence, you need to be sure your homepage is built with them in mind. You’ll want to think of this as the “front door” of your digital ministry. What information will a new person need to know? What will help them feel connected to a person?
- Guest Section / Plan Your Visit on Website - If you have a specific section just for guests, be sure it is easily accessible from the homepage. What on this page will make them feel cared for and welcomed?
- Content Spaces (Blog, Resources, Videos, etc…) - Just like your website homepage, this needs to be guest-focused. Are topics well organized so they can easily find what they are looking for? Does your content steer clear of insider language?
Pro Tip: While content is important to build trust, the value comes when the content facilitates interaction.
Make a guest experience plan
Now that you’ve taken the time to identify your guest experience zones, it’s time to make a plan! We’ve also linked our Guest Goals Worksheet below. We hope you print it off and use it as you start making a plan!
Step 1: Start with your church's story, values, and DNA.
Our goal is that who your church is can really shine through! When people feel like they know you, they will want to get more involved. Ask yourself: What do you hope guests feel when they interact with your church? What do you hope they think and feel after engaging with your content/website/physical space? What do we hope they experience?
Step 2: Know your guests.
You won’t be able to anticipate your guests' needs if you don’t know who they are. You’ll likely need to focus on different areas if your guests are primarily parents than if they’re college students. Ask yourself: Who are they? What needs do they have? What challenges do they have? What value do you want to bring to their lives?
Step 3: Prepare for your guests.
Once you've anticipated guests’ needs, it’s time to think through each Guest Zone and ask: How can we bring our guest value here? How can we meet a need here? What questions might they have here and how can we answer them? How can we connect our guests with a real person here? What do you hope they do next? How does this help them connect with someone from your church?
Step 4: Don't let them disappear.
Don’t let people “walk out” virtually or physically without saying goodbye. This helps make sure that they were able to make a connection with a real person, but you should also have a follow-up plan to move the connection beyond that one interaction.
We hope this has been a helpful exercise as you consider prioritizing the guest experience at your church! We know the value of the guest experience is both simple and biblical. When genuine love is at the center of how you care for your community, your guests will experience it in practical ways and in how they feel as they interact with your ministry.
If you want to continue thinking about this, we recommend starting with our free Guest Goals Worksheet. You can download it below!
We also covered this topic on a recent podcast episode. You can listen to the full episode here!
Up Next: The 2021 Church Website
Written by Shayla Kenworthy
Partner & Director of Business Development