The 11-Minute Difference: 7 Checkpoints to a Great Guest Experience at Your Church

When a first time guest drives onto your campus, they will decide within 11 minutes whether or not they are coming back.

Yes, the decision is made before your guests experience worship and the content of the sermon- the two elements that demand most, if not all, of our time and attention in preparation.

What would it look like if you extended the same level of intention to the 11 minutes prior to walking in the sanctuary or worship center? Maybe the better question is “What would it feel like for your guests?” 

It’s hard to overstate the wow factor a church body creates by serve generously through a system of hospitality. For the last 14 years our team has observed and analyzed over 500 churches while conducting a “secret worshipper” experience.  It is a service at Auxano we call the “Guest Perspective Evaluation” and an essential part of our vision clarity consulting practice. One of my greatest thrills in ministry is tasting the variety of size, location, and spiritual heritage of these churches. But the most important observation is that any church can take small steps to make a dramatic difference in welcoming guests.

The first place to start is to imagine seven checkpoints for your guest. Think of the checkpoints as “gates” or even “hurdles” that any first time guest must navigate to get from their comfy family room to your worship service. With every gate comes a simple question: Has the church removed the inherent difficulty of navigating the gate for the first time, without insider knowledge of your church or church attendance in general?

More specifically I look for every opportunity to make each gate simple, easy and obvious to navigate.  Any particular difficulties created by your location or facility should be viewed as hospitality opportunities. By providing a great solution to an obvious barrier, you enhance the wow-factor of the hospitality.

THE SEVEN CHECKPOINTS

#1 Before Departure: Are directions and service times immediately accessible to guests from your church website, phone recording and yellow pages?

#2 Travel to Location: Do guests know where to turn into your church location from the street?

#3 Parking Lot: Do guests know where to park?

#4 Building Entrance: Do guests know which exterior door to enter?

#5 Children’s Ministry: Do guests know where to take their kids?

#6 Welcome Center: Do guest know where to go for more information?

#7 Worship: Do guests know which interior door to enter?

Want to have a conversation with your team around the concept of the Seven Checkpoints? Here’s a tool that will help you!


 

Want to learn how to create an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience at your church? Check out Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp in Cincinnati, OH on August 7-8.


 

If you are interested in how vision clarity impacts every aspect of your church – especially your Guest Welcoming systems and processes – start a conversation with the team at Auxano, and see how break-thru clarity can help you realize vision.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Bruce — 08/31/15 9:09 am

Important ! Arrows to restrooms. Very important to some visitors.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Seven Checkpoints: The Critical First Eleven Minutes at Your Church

If you ever check out multiple churches in a short period of time, you will likely be surprised by the differences in hospitality expressed to first-time guests. In some churches a guest knows exactly where to park, is graciously welcomed, escorted to the children’s area to drop off kids, and introduced to several helpful people. In other churches, a guest has no idea where to go and is not welcomed by anyone.

While some churches have become so guest-driven that they lose focus on Christ in a hyper-attractional attempt to draw a crowd, others almost ignore guests as a badge of their spirituality or a sign of their apathy. Both miss the mark, as hospitality is deeply biblical. For example, hospitality is included in the necessary qualifications for an elder (1 Timothy 3:2) because hospitality is a direct and tangible link to how Christ has received us. We were all strangers to the family of God and the household of faith. We were enemies, but God in His great mercy welcomed us. He has practiced hospitality toward us and challenges us to accept others as He has accepted us (Romans 15:7).

I am honored to work alongside Auxano in consulting churches on mission, strategy, and values. When we guide a church through a process, we also help them evaluate the hospitality that is expressed to a first-time guest. We know that the first 11 minutes at your church are really important. My friend and colleague Will Mancini believes, based on consultations with hundreds of churches, that a first-time guest will decide if he/she is returning in those first 11 minutes.

To get really practical and helpful, Will encourages church leaders to think about the following “seven checkpoints” in expressing hospitality:

  1. Before Departure: Are directions and service times immediately accessible to guests from your church website?
  2. Travel to Location: Do guests know where to turn into your church location?
  3. Parking Lot: Do guests know where to park?
  4. Building Entrance: Do guests know which door to enter?
  5. Children’s Ministry: Do guests know where to take their kids?
  6. Guest Center (or some other name): Do guests know where to go for more information?
  7. Worship: Do guests know which door to enter?

It is helpful to look at these checkpoints through the eyes of a first-time guest. When a guest pulls into the parking lot, does he/she know where to park? Are there signs that direct where to go next? Clear and visible signs that direct people to the next point are helpful, but it takes people to express hospitality. Signs can direct a guest, but only a person can shepherd a guest.

You may find it helpful to divide the first few minutes of a guest coming to the service into waves or sections and then staff with people appropriately: parking, outside greeters, inside greeters/ushers, etc. Sometimes churches view these roles as “anyone can do them,” and thus, they merely fill slots. For strategic hospitality, the right relationally savvy people with grace-filled hearts must serve in these critical roles. These roles are more important than we often realize.

Be sure you have a plan for expressing hospitality to first-time guests. Having no plan sends the signal that “the message we preach has not impacted how we welcome you.”

> Read more from Eric.


Start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.