Does Your Church Accommodate Visitors or Expect Guests?

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When it comes to churches, more often than not we accommodate visitors rather than truly expect Guests.

It may be a little thing to you, seeming like mere wordplay, but there is actually a powerful first impression that needs to change if your approach is to accommodate visitors on Sunday rather than to expect to have Guests at your church.

Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…

The first step in creating a memorable Guest experience is to remove the word “visitor” from your vocabulary, never to be used again. Think about it, what kind of person is a visitor at your house, as opposed to a Guest?

It’s a small thing to be sure. But often changing one small word in your church’s vernacular can reflect a substantial mental shift, impacting the entire experience of someone new. One word change can draw someone back the next weekend, and one word can begin to close the proverbial back door of your church.

What would it look like to expect Guests this Sunday?

Guests come to your church, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience carefully crafted to welcome them and point them to Christ. This type of expectation does not require anything phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just leaders who will welcome them as Guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences they can.

When it comes to understanding and welcoming Guests, the Disney organization has long been the “gold standard” – the best of the best. Instilled by Walt Disney in 1955 at the opening of Disneyland, expanded over the decades since at locations around the world, and refined today as both an art and a science, the Disney approach to Guest experiences provides a wealth of information that can help your church not just “accommodate visitors,” but to expect Guests.

Solution: Think Church-wide in your Guest Experience, not just Sunday morning.

Exceeding expectations rather than simply satisfying them is the cornerstone of the Disney approach to customer service. Be Our Guest outlines proven Disney best practices and processes for generating customer loyalty. One visit to a Disney park reveals that their Guest Experience extends beyond the front gates, and into the heart and mind of every employee at every level.

Be Our Guest takes you behind the scenes to help you learn new and creative ways to create and deliver a world-class Guest Experience.


“Be Our Guest” has been the invitation the Disney organization extends to people long before the song from Beauty and the Beast became a box office hit. It underscores an important element in the Disney vocabulary that customers are not referred to as customers or visitors, but rather as Guests. In the Disney nomenclature, the word “Guest” is capitalized and treated as a formal noun. It takes little effort to extend this line of thinking to your church:

What’s the difference between treating someone like a visitor, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We clean up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs. We even open the front door for them – every time.

Does your church expect Guests, or just accommodate visitors? How does Guest expectation extend beyond the front doors on a Sunday morning, but even into the office suite on a Thursday afternoon?

Realizing that God is bringing Guests to your church has to be the starting point, the foundation on which all else is built. Exceeding Guest expectations is the standard call to duty for every leader at every level and on every day.

At Disney, every leader at every level and on every day is a part of the Guest Services Team.

Exceeding Guest’s expectations is Disney’s service strategy, and paying attention to every detail is the tactic by which it is accomplished.

Disney’s Quality Service Compass encapsulates the organization-wide model that demonstrates Quality Service. It is the production process through which practical magic is created. In its essence, the compass can be used to create a shared vision of service that aligns the major elements that every organization shares – its people, infrastructure, and processes – in a cohesive, comprehensive effort to deliver that vision.

The Quality Service Compass has four main points centered on our service objective: to exceed Guest expectations.

  • Guestology – the art and science of knowing customers.
• Quality Standards – establishing the criteria for actions necessary to accomplish the service strategy, and the measures of Service Quality.
  • Delivery Systems – the systems that deliver service: employees, the setting, and processes.
  • Integration – combining and aligning delivery systems, creating a matrix to troubleshoot problems and benchmark practices.

– Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni, Be Our Guest



At your next leadership team meeting, review the four points of Disney’s Quality Service Compass outlined above. Using the introductory questions suggested below, ask, “What is working within our Welcoming Teams?” “What is missing or confused?”

Guestology; Understand your Guest Profile

  • Do you know who your Guests are? Do you collect basic demographic information from Guests? What does a study of the last 12 months of this information reveal about your Guests?
  • Do you collect additional information about your Guests (through a website survey, etc.? Do you know about their attitudes, lifestyles, values, and opinions? What does a study of the last 12 months of this type of information reveal about your Guests?)

Integration: Extend your mission to the Guest Services teams

  • How can you extend your church’s mission so that your Guest Services teams understand how their role is in alignment?
  • How is your mission seen through your Guest Services teams by the Guests they serve?

Standards: Define Guest Service

  • Do you have service quality standards that ensure the consistent delivery of Guest services?
  • Do your Guest Services standards reflect the values of your church?
  • Do your Guest Service teams use the standards as filters through which they prioritize the actions that contribute to a memorable Guest Experience?

Delivery: Establish systems that welcome Guests

  • Your Guest Service Team Members are the first and most important part of your Guest Service delivery system. They are the heart and soul of your Guest Experience. How do you select, train and evaluate your team members? What steps have you taken to create and maintain
a culture of hospitality that nurtures your team members and encourages them to deliver a memorable Guest Experience?
  • How does your Environment (the physical and virtual resources of your organization) contribute to the delivery of a memorable Guest Experience? Do you regularly evaluate your setting?
  • Do you have a Process (the various series of operations used to deliver a memorable Guest Experience) that your Guest Service Teams understand and follow? Is this process regularly evaluated and improved as needed?

Finally, lead everyone in the meeting to identify one next step to take in THEIR ministry area or leadership to welcome Guests.


Taken from SUMS Remix 20-1, published August 2015.

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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