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Guest Connection FAQ’s!

March 31, 2010 3 comments

I want every guest to have the same experience my wife and I had on our first visit to Milestone Church –  welcomed, valued, and authentically engaged. Since our first visit, Milestone has grown from a hundred to thousands in attendance, but when the heart is the same and the vision is carried, the experience can be replicated. Here are my thoughts on some guest connection FAQ’s to help you carry the vision for reaching people and building lives by welcoming guests this weekend.

Who do I introduce myself to?

That’s easy – people you don’t know! A healthy church is not just welcoming to guest but a genuinely friendly environment. Yes we want to serve our special guest and make them feel especially welcome, along with those who have come for a second time, a month, year, etc. As you are introducing yourself to people you don’t know, you will meet guests along the way.

If you want to intentionally welcome guests, here’s a couple cues to lookout for. First, guests walk in and look around like you did the first day at a new gym, help them find their way around. You’ll also find them sitting down in the auditorium 10 min before the service, reading the service guide/bulletin. For those serving at children’s check-in and classrooms, you have it easy because guests identified themselves! We have volunteer stationed at these check-in kiosks ready to host new families. You can even host them from the curb if you have dedicated guest parking where they identify themselves.

What do I say?

First off, let me tell you what NOT to say… “Is this your first time?” is never a win! For starters, it’s really hard to know and second you’ll be in an odd spot when they say “no, we’ve been coming about three years.” They’ll walk away feeling noticeably-unnoticed and you’ll walk away voicing an internal “I’m a moron!” Ha!

Even when you know it’s their first time, and you get it right – you’re still wrong! When you blindly identify them as a guest it means they stand out for some reason which mis-communicates to them they don’t fit in. Not good. Of course there are many other things you don’t want to say, such as… “When are you expecting?” Don’t say it! Don’t go there! No matter how obvious! ha!

After many mistakes. Here’s my secret line I use every time… “Hello I’m Steve, how long have you been coming to Milestone?” From there I can go pretty much anywhere. “Two years, great have you gotten involved in the growth track?….” or  “Two hours, great, I’m glad you’re here…” Based off their response and body language I can tell if they want to talk some more or if that’s enough for now.

How do you remember people’s names?

We are our name. Knowing someone’s name is valuing them as a person, not as a guest, a target, a number, but someone that may be your best friend one day, the first person you lead to Christ, someone you take family trips with down the road. The more you value the individual, the more prone you are to remember their name or try to remember their name.

My secret – I write it down. I know I’ll talk to and meet hundreds of people on the weekend. So after I meet someone new, I discretely walk away pull out my iPhone and put their name and some info in my notes app. If I don’t have my phone, I’ll grab paper, a bulletin, or something I can look back at.

The following week when I see them again, I can greet them by name. There’s no greater way to show people you authentically care about them, then to surprise them by remembering their name. (For church staffers, you can also merge your notes with your standard follow-up process to provide greater personalization.)

What’s the win for connecting with guests?

Make their experience as easy (anxiety free!) as possible by answering questions before they are asked….”Where do we park? Check-in kids? Find classes? Restrooms? Water? Auditorium?” As you answer questions never point, but always guide. As you guide them along, learn about them and find out what they want to know more about. It may be more about Jesus, more about the youth program, more about kids ministry, small groups, outreach, etc.

A very practical win is resourcing them. Give them something of immediate value (coffee, water, pen, Message Series CD, Bible) or getting their information so we can send them a gift, send them information about the church, and inform them of their next steps. We send all of our guests a Sonic gift-card. This is another way we add value, and surprise them with a gift in the mail. “Did you fill out a communication card, we want to send you a gift in the mail?” It’s a small but impact-full way to model the generous giving and living of our members.

Sometimes there is an immediate connection. If the door is opened, maybe take them to lunch, invite them to coffee, welcome them to your small group or schedule a play date with the kids.

Finally, the BIG win of guest connection…… invite them back next week!

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Romans 12:10

Closing Disclaimer:

Connection is an art, not a science! Prayerfully ask to be used each weekend to impact a life. Ministry may happen at the altar or from the stage, but more than likely it will start with a personal connection in the atrium. Make yourself available to be used by God, get His heart for people, and get them connected!

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