3 Unpardonable Sins of the Guest Experience

Some of your visitors are looking for reasons not to return.

These guests are difficult to please. If they look for the flaws in your church, they will find them. There are no perfect churches, and pleasing everyone is impossible.  Do your best to love everyone, but the prospect of chasing people who are intent to run is usually a futile process.

Some of your visitors are looking for reasons to stay.

These guests are looking for a few things that are important to them, such as friendship, spiritual growth, help in a crisis, or a healthy environment for their kids. If they find a few things they care most about, they will overlook a few less than ideal aspects of your church.

In fact, it’s amazing how forgiving people can be if you treat them well as a person.

The musicians on your worship team may not be world class, or perhaps you don’t have enough parking, or maybe your student ministry isn’t what you want it to be. But if you treat people well they are usually pretty forgiving.

This is not an excuse to ignore the things that need attention, but it’s enough grace to know that you can still do great ministry while you work on what needs to be improved.

First time guests and people new to your church will give lots of grace for the flaws and shortcomings if you treat them with:

  • Kindness
  • Respect
  • Love

But there are some things people who are new to your church will not forgive. These are mistakes you cannot afford to make.

3 Experiences Guests Won’t Forgive:

1) If you treat their kids as a program to be managed rather than kids to be loved.

Structure can beat out spirit, and the programs and processes can become more important than the person.

This can happen in any ministry in your church, but there is little to no grace when it comes to people’s kids.

I’m willing to bet that the heart of your church is about life change, meaning, and real spiritual transformation through Christ. You want to see the children love Jesus and enjoy church!

But here’s where it breaks down. If you begin to make your children’s ministry easier on the staff and volunteer leaders by making it more difficult for the parents and kids, you are making a big mistake. You’d never do that on purpose, but it happens.

The leaders must always absorb the pressure, not the guests.

If the kids become a number in the check-in process or are scolded more than encouraged because they didn’t behave just right, or there are so many rules that it’s impossible to keep up with, it’s highly unlikely that the new families will return.

2) If you treat the adults in any way “less than.”

Most reasonable adults are pretty resilient. As I’ve said, they understand there is no perfect church. But if you treat them poorly as a person, you don’t get a second chance.

One thing that’s easy to forget is that even though someone may be spiritually unresolved or disconnected, they are still usually spiritually sensitive.

If the pastor says something that makes a person feel spiritually foolish, or an usher or greeter treats someone with disrespect, they won’t give you a second chance.

We can’t live on pins and needles worrying about offending everyone, but we can do our best to serve with intentional love and grace.

I remember several years ago trying to help a young mom tend to her crying baby in church. I did my best to be kind and respectful, but I inadvertently offended her by asking her to take her child to the nursery. Maybe I could have done a better job, or perhaps it was a no-win situation, but the result was she was upset and said she’d never come back.

Most of these situations are nuanced and unintentional, but it’s so important to do our best to treat our guests with love, respect, and kindness.

3) If you treat any guest with an eye to get more than you give.

It might seem nearly impossible for a church team to treat any guest in such a way where that person felt like you wanted more from them than for them. But once again, this is easier than it sounds.

Church leaders are often under pressure. They are under pressure for things like more volunteers, larger offerings, and support in general for the vision and direction of the church.

For example, if a church is hurting for more volunteers, they can put pressure on people, including guests, to sign up.

When pressure (or even guilt) is employed rather than inspiration and encouragement, you have fallen into the mistake of wanting more from the people than for them. Your guests have no appetite for that.

Another example might be if a church is behind in the budget. That can sometimes “leak” out in a sermon, or during the time to receive the offering. This kind of pressure makes it feel like the church wants more from the person than for them. If this is what your guests experience, they are not likely to return.

Kindness, respect, and love will always help you treat people well.

> Read more from Dan.


 

Want to know more about Guest Experiences at your church? Let’s talk! Connect with an Auxano Navigator here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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Growing an Irresistible Welcome

Have you been to Walt Disney World?

Did you leave with a “can’t wait to come back” attitude?

You’re not alone. In 2017, more than 20.4 million attended the Magic Kingdom theme park alone (there are three others at Walt Disney World in Florida).

One of the first leadership books I devoured was In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman. Among their profiles for best business practices was the Walt Disney World (WDW) Resort, specifically for quality service that generated customer loyalty.

In the book Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, the folks at the Disney Institute spell out their approach to customer service. It’s not complicated: “Quality service means exceeding your guests’ expectations by paying attention to every detail of the delivery of your products and services.”

You might think that the heart of making this happen is money, or technology, or the “wow” factor of a ride.

Nope.

What is one of the most frequently stated reasons why guests return for another visit?

The cast.

Disney calls all of their employees “cast members.” They have roles and responsibilities, the most important of which is “courtesy.”

As Jeff James, Vice President of the Disney Institute, puts it, “A $200 million attraction won’t be fun if the cast member at the front is less than pleasant.”

Beyond this is the attention to detail, particularly in matters of quality. In Disney theme parks they have the saying, “Everything speaks.” This means, “Every detail – from the doorknobs to the dining rooms – sends a message to guests. That message must be consistent with the common purpose and quality standards, and it must support and further the show being created.”

If only the church could be more like Disney World.

Not in terms of existing for mere entertainment, and not in terms of a vision of providing “happiness.”

No, the church is much more than that.

But the church is meant to be Disney World in terms of its effort to reach out to others in a way that makes them want to return. Its volunteers should be marked by friendliness and courtesy. If “everything speaks,” then nothing about the church should speak against the message it is trying to convey, or the honor due God.

When it comes to serving guests, opening the front door to guests, and having our guest relations mirror our message and purpose, then yes, we should not only be like Disney, but put Disney to shame.

Disney wants to say, “Be Our Guest.”

Unless I’m missing something, so does the church.

It’s just that we’re not saying it as well as Disney.

But we should be.

Sources

The Disney Institute, with Theodore Kinni. Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (Revised and Updated Edition).

Read more from James.


 

It may seem like magic, but there’s really one reason Disney excels at Guest Experiences. Check out Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp in Cincinnati, OH on August 7-8 to find out what that is.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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How a Mere 18 Inches Can Start a Counter-Culture Revolution

Look at this picture. What do you notice?

Counter-Culture

These guys that change oil and rotate tires made a small adjustment to their store that could also make a big difference in a first-time guest’s perception of your church:

They came out from behind the counter. 

By turning the computer screens around and standing next to the customer, a type of counter-culture revolution started. According to the mechanic, without the physical barrier in front he feels more connected to each customer and a higher level of trust exists, as they can see what he sees on the computer screen.

And who does not need more trust from their mechanic?

Most churches need a revolution from the “counter-culture” as well. Moving about 18 inches out from behind the typical welcome center desk…

… communicates readiness. Removing the barrier helps host team members feel more accessible to someone new, almost as if guests were actually expected. Take a walk around your church hallways or lobby. Which counters are ripe for removal and which should reside against the wall?

… forces simplicity. Church communications clutter diminishes when it can no longer hide in cabinets or shelves under the counter. Take a look at everything on and behind your welcome desk. Thinking next steps, ask yourself: What are the one or two most important pieces of information a guest needs right now?

… builds intention. Volunteers who are not standing behind a counter move from a passive posture and naturally become more engaged with their surroundings. Take an evening and schedule some training. What skills and practices will help lead your host team members from reactive welcoming into proactive hospitality?

Counters are great when dispensing a product in coffee shops and fast-food restaurants. However, even tire stores can see the relational benefit of moving out from behind desks to serve and engage people where they are.

Isn’t it time to start a counter-culture revolution in your church?


Would you like to know about how your environment can be more engaging? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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