What Would It Take to Elevate the Dignity of Each Guest in Your Church?

The guest that enters our church should feel welcomed, comfortable, and honored.

I am obsessed with exploring the answer to one question: What would it take to elevate the dignity of each guest in our church? 

I attended a Guest Services Conference this week, and also had the opportunity to speak during a session to the group of influencers. I asked everyone one question, “What would it take to elevate the dignity of each guest in our churches?” To better set the stage, we watched this funny video of Target lady from SNL on how not to elevate the dignity of each guest.

I believe the answer to the above question is discovered when we unearth and respond to eight subsequent questions.

Question 1: Do we allow our interactions with a team member and guest to remain active in front of the backdrop of hospitality?

From a sociological perspective, hospitality was the bedrock of the Middle Eastern culture because only by caring for others could societies, or even individuals, guarantee their survival.The harsh, arid climate, coupled with the nomadic lifestyle of the region’s early residents, made kindness towards guests an imperative. To deny a traveler hospitality – whether it be someone familiar to you or someone completely unknown – was to deny them life. Like any society, a mutual understanding arose that those who were in need could find relief at any house, and would repay the kindness whenever a stranger or guest came knocking at their door. Hospitality found its cultural staying power in the exchange of mutual survival, the willingness to see the value in another life because your life is bound to it, even if not obviously so.

From a theological perspective, the first acts of hospitality were not from human to human – they were from God to man via creation and His grace in the aftermath of the Fall. The specificity of the universe, its fine-tuning and precision, are the first and most excellent examples of creating an environment for guests that makes them feel at home and frees them to interact with God. In the Fall, we see God’s graciousness (which is the root of all hospitality – the extension of grace to the weak) in the fact that he provided clothes to cover their nakedness and a closing off of the Tree of Life to ensure that mankind wouldn’t die in sin. The implications of both of these acts formed a clear through-line for Semitic culture and history: human life is precious, and must be cared for and shown grace. This belief was codified in the Mosaic Law with its statutes on how to treat strangers and sojourners among the Nation of Israel.

Romans 12:13…’practice hospitality’ is included in the list of qualities of a Christ follower. These two words mean one who goes after someone unfamiliar with an environment. You pursue them as if you were pursuing a criminal or enemy. However, you are doing it because you have a love for the stranger.”

Question 2: Are the feelings we have for a guest coming in reflected in how they feel about us when they leave?

“Yes. The Image of God is not selective; it does not appear in some people and disappear in others. All human beings bear the Image and thus have the ability to be moved by displays of the Image in another person. Human beings are wired for goodness—and the best way to draw goodness out is pour goodness in. We see this image most fully in the person of Jesus Christ and in his interactions during his ministry. If you consider how Jesus treated the marginalized, sick, and lost, you see he brought people to faith not by doctrinal savvy but by touch, compassion, and kindness. Jesus brought out the good in people by extending goodness to them—he resurrected the image of God by deliberately appealing to it in his work.”

Question 3: Does our church culture provide freedom for team members to make quick decisions that create a better experience for the guest?

“Is caring for people assigned to a specific team (i.e., Guest Services) or is it the responsibility of everyone regardless of an ‘official’ role – staff and volunteers. The church that has the guest as the priority in its DNA empowers volunteers to make quick decisions to care for the guest. This is seen and felt from the top down.

Think of a something being widespread versus isolated. If something is widespread, everyone in the midst feels it. When something is isolated, only a few are involved and feel the impact.”

Question 4: Do we empathetically prioritize the guest enough to naturally go the second and third mile?

“Do we prioritize the guest so much that it becomes our DNA to never think of going the extra mile as the exception? Rather, we gladly go as many miles as it takes to deliver a feeling of comfort and care. This becomes the expectation and norm.

Our view of three words influence our response to this question:

1. Hospitality – focus is on the guest and the feeling being delivered

2. Service – focus is only on the actions

3. Entertain – focus is on you, the experience provider”

Question 5: Do we break the big picture down into scenes that are more manageable and yield a better guest experience?

“Designing an end-to-end experience can be overwhelming. Writers, directors, and producers, don’t write and shoot everything in one scene. They break it down into manageable and individual scenes and then thread them together. Start small and then thread it together. Your experience will be better!”

Question 6: Do we discipline ourselves and help our team members to be fully present?

“Jesus came into a house. Martha was busy doing and Mary was fully present with the person who mattered. One was caught up in doing everything but hosting the person. Jesus said what Mary was doing was better.

When we choose to be fully present, we are telling the guest that we value them above everything, even all that must get done.”

Question 7: Do we lead in such a way that our team members feel empowered to show care in ways that the guest has a story to tell later?

“Every guest drives on our properties and walks into our buildings with a story that involves a number of characters, mountaintop moments, tragedies, and baggage. Perhaps they have even had a bad church experience in their past. When we posture ourselves to be sensitive to the person driving on our property or walking in our building, we are better prepared to listen and respond.

The main person in the story is not the church. It is not the team member. It is the guest and they should feel that from us. We can influence their experience with us so that they have a story to tell later. We are influencing environments where life change happens.”

Question 8: Do we focus on brokering an experience for the guest in order to protect them?  

“A bodyguard shields the person they are responsible for guarding. We are trusted with protecting each guest from any feeling that might be a distraction in their experience with us. We have the opportunity to replace an insecurity or negative emotion they have with a positive emotion.”

> Read more from Jason.

Want to know more about Guest Experiences in your church? 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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Jason Young

Jason Young

I love growing leaders, building volunteer teams, designing guest experiences and being strategic about how they intersect. I am the Director of Guest Services for North Point Ministries. You can also find me helping organizations and churches. I have worked with Ford, LifeChurch.tv, LifeWay, Growing Leaders, PossibleNOW, The Fellowship, WinShape, Loganville Christian Academy, First Baptist Church Woodstock, Chick-fil-A, Catalyst and others. I have fun reading, watching movies, hiking, and visiting Disney World. I live in Atlanta, GA.

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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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