A previous post asserts that extraordinary hospitality for church visitors isn’t hard. Eliminate the things church visitors dislike, set the bar for church hospitality higher and it’s more likely they’ll return for a second visit.
Now that you’ve cleared the deck of things church visitor dislike let’s turn up the “wow” factor. Let’s re-think church hospitality so guests go away feeling great for having visited.
1: Give church visitors an online video tour
Church visitors dislike feeling out of place.
You might think that comes with the territory. After all, “church visitor” means they haven’t been to your church before, right? Seems like you’re boxed. You’re already down 0-2 in the count before you come up to bat! (I had to work a little baseball lingo in there since we’re in the post season playoffs)
Fret not, dear colleague. There’s a great Internet service that helps diminish your church visitors’ feeling out of place. Plug this service into your church hospitality operation and you’ll eliminate a lot of the fear around this issue.
Google Street View for businesses is the perfect solution. It lets us explore places we’ve never been to by means of 360 degree photos. Maybe you’ve seen them on realty sites where you can wander thru a house without leaving your own?
Churches can use this service. People can take a virtual tour without leaving home.
Let that sink in for a minute.
For the cost of a few quality photos church visitors can walk around, explore the Nursery and check out your auditorium. When they finally do visit they’ll have a sense of being in a familiar place. A lot of the questions church visitors ask will already be answered:
- Where do I park?
- Where do I enter?
- Where is the Nursery?
- What’s the dress code?
- Will I recognize the minister?
Place a prominent a link to the video in upper right hand corner of the church website’s home page. Just below that set a link to a short video invitation by you, the minister, welcoming them.
How’s that for eliminating that feeling of being out of place? How’s that for a fabulous church hospitality offering?
2: Station greeters in the parking lot
Church visitors dislike initiating introductions.
Take that off the table proactively but do it in a way that exceeds their wildest expectations. And do it in the parking lot.
Fine resorts insure that your first hospitality impression happens when you park your car. A valet or bell steward meets you, learns your need and offers assistance.
Last night I was pleasantly surprised when the parking valet at the Westin La Paloma said, “Thanks for visiting this evening, Mr. Brown.” He bothered to read my name on the key tag. That felt good!
Church hospitality should operate in the same way. If you are the interim pastor of a large congregation implement a valet service. Church visitors will marvel, especially if the church has multiple lots or if there is a long walk to main entrance.
Valet parking for may be overkill for smaller churches. But greeters can patrol the parking lot. They will be the first to spot your church visitors. All it takes is a bit of organization.
I served a church that had four services with 700-800 in each. There were three main parking lots and two overflows. Three attendants in each lot was sufficient. People tend to park in the same area week after week. Within a short time trained attendants become adept at spotting church visitors. Train them to initiate the introductions. Make sure they learn the guests’ names and find out what they need.
Parking lot attendants are a significant “value add” in bad weather. Equip attendants with umbrellas to distribute on rainy days. If there’s fresh snow fall put extra attendants on duty to escort people to the sidewalks or dry, sure footing.
How’s that for taking away the fear of initiating introductions?
3: Appoint “guest sitters” for church visitors
Church visitors dislike feeling isolated.
Solve this by raising church hospitality up to the next level. Recruit and train hospitality team members to invite church visitors (once they’ve been identified) to sit together in the auditorium.
Here’s the scenario:
- A church greeter signals me over and says, “I’d like you to meet Sheila Jones. Sheila and her two children are visiting with us today.”
- I say, “Sheila, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My wife, Lea, and I are here by ourselves today. Could we sit with you in the service?”
Screen your guest sitters. Don’t appoint someone with an agenda, or who chatters about political or religious hobby horses. Guest sitters should be visitor focused, attentive to guest needs. They must also introduce the church visitor to several other people after the service has ended.
I am coming to the opinion that greetings after the service are probably more important than greetings before. A warm, loving greeting is their last experience of the church. An article in the Wall Street Journal, ”The Mystery Worshipper“, gives an account of how poorly we fare in bidding our church visitors farewell.
How’s that for eliminating those feelings of isolation?