We recently moved, not just moved to a different house, but moved to a different state!! When we arrived in our new town we decided to try a couple of churches that were recommended by friends. First church we went to we loved! We were greeted as soon as we entered the parking area with a wave and a smile from a parking team member and after we parked were greeted again as we entered the building. So far, so good, but what happened after the Sunday service? We received an email a couple of days later and we also received a phone call. I don’t actually answer phone calls if I don’t recognized the number so they left a nice message inviting us back. Second church was just okay. We arrived early, I guess we were too early because even though the doors were unlocked and we were able to go inside, volunteers were standing around talking but did not engage with us. 15 minutes before the start of the service they opened the doors and then started to engage with people. We received an email 4 days later inviting us to return. Even though we enjoyed the message and the worship music, it’s not a church I would want to attend because we did not feel welcome when we arrived. Third church, oh my stars!! Not so good! There were volunteers inside looking at you as you opened the doors to enter the building! We walked around the lobby and even into the kids area without ever being addressed. There was a parking team member, one parking team member, trying to direct cars as they exited and it was just not enough! Total chaos as we left. We did receive a handwritten note three days later, that was nice!! Right?!?
First impressions matter! So does the follow up!! Everyone has their own expectations for first time guest follow up, whether they realize it or not!! I was expecting an email, a phone call, a handwritten note, and an invitation to learn more about the church! Probably because that is how we would follow up with someone at the church I was on staff with! We chose our strategy for follow up to try and reach all ages and communication styles to the best of our ability! Here are our four steps;
1. We sent an email thanking each guest for choosing to spend their day with us on the day they visited after the last service ended.
2. A handwritten note was sent to each guest family by Tuesday following their visit welcoming and again thanking them for choosing to attend our church.
3. A phone call was made by Thursday welcoming them and thanking them for visiting, as well as asking if they have any questions we could help answer about the church.
4. An email invitation was sent on Thursday inviting new guests to attend our discover class. This class would introduce them to the church and give them the opportunity to partner with (or join) the church.
We found that the handwritten notes and the welcome email received on Sunday were the most impactful to our guests!! We found out about that because they answered their first time guest phone call and told us! Attached is a generic welcome email that we used, maybe it will spur you on to create a welcome email for your church or organization!!
Example Welcome Email
Yesterday I received the best phone call ever!! My daughter coaches a traveling club volleyball team. She was at a volleyball tournament in Tampa, Florida which happens to be close to where her grandparents live. She decided to stop by their house on her way home to Georgia to say hi. While she was there, her grandma showed her two cranes that live in their neighborhood and decided to take her picture by them.
Now, here’s my daughters version. “Mom, I almost died!! You almost didn’t have a daughter!! Memaw (that’s what she calls her grandma) made me stand close to two ginormous cranes to get my picture taken! The cranes were huge!! Like in the movie UP!! I was petrified they were going to come and peck my eyes out!” Can you just picture her by the birds with a look of pure terror on her face by her description??? One story, painted two different ways!
Each Sunday your guest experience team members get to paint the story of God’s love to each person they interact with!! Do they take the time to get to know each guest better? Do they stop their conversations with each other because they want to make sure guests feels welcome? Do they arrive early to pray for the people they are going to serve? Do they take people where they need to go? Do they smile and make eye contact when they greet guests? Of course they do!!! The way team members serve others is a reflection of Christ’s love for them!
To all the guest experience team members serving each and every Sunday I say THANK YOU for continually thinking about others and putting them before yourself! THANK YOU for keeping your eyes wide open looking for opportunities to serve the incredible people you are blessed with each week! YOU ARE AMAZING!!
Yesterday I decided to get a coffee from Starbucks, I do that from time to time! As I was leaving I noticed they had trash overflowing from their garbage cans, and garbage outside of the cans right where everyone could see, including the drive through! In fact the garbage was right behind the menu board where you order your drink in the drive through area!! My first thought was, come on Starbucks, you’re better than that!! Just because people are repeat customers it doesn’t mean they won’t notice when you ignore your standards!! I was so disgusted I was afraid my cold brew was going taste bad!! Not really, but it was a great reminder that no matter how many times I have been there, the first impression makes a difference.
When we use the term “guest” in ministry, we aren’t talking only about our first time guests! We are talking about every single person on our campus! We want to be excellent for them because we want to honor God and point people to Him! We need to remember to never lose the guest mentality! Each time someone attends your church, they are your guest! Look around your area before people start arriving, what do your guests see? If you see trash, pick it up! If you notice the bathroom need to be cleaned, do what you can to help make it clean! And of course, if you ever see a garbage can overflowing, get a new liner and take the full bag out to the dumpster!! The first impression matters!!
Car-b-q. I heard that saying a lot on the radio while living in Atlanta. I always thought it was sort of funny!! Lots of things are funny until they happen to you!! When my daughter graduated college, we celebrated with a graduation Bar-b-q. During the party we see dark smoke billowing up in the air near our driveway and the next thing I know my daughter is handing me her car keys and she says; “My car is on fire.” My husband quickly responds with a couple of amazing friends and they put the small fire out and then disconnect the battery! It was just a little electrical fire, thank goodness!! So, back to the Bar-b-q! No big deal, right?!? It was handled and we were not going to stop celebrating a big accomplishment!
I feel like when you serve on a guest experience team each week there always seems to be a distraction to take your focus off of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe your alarm didn’t go off so you were late to prayer time before service, or your children have decided they want to sleep in, or while you are serving a friend comes up to chat about the week. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to keep you distracted from serving with your whole heart! I know it happens to me! So often on Sundays I feel like I am running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off! I have to consciously remind myself to slow down and talk to people! If I see a need, I try to stop and help where I can. Let’s all remember this weekend that there is an enemy who seeks to cause confusion, but we are not going to let that stop our celebration!! We are going to focus on serving and hopefully help our guests take a step closer to Jesus!! That’s what I’m talking about!!!
Car-b-q at the Bar-b-q, who would have thought!!! I’m sure this happens to everyone!! (not)
What are the things that distract you? What can you do to keep from being distracted?
My husband was blessed a couple of years ago with a ticket to the Masters golf tournament for the first round on Thursday. He was absolutely giddy!! Because he is married to me, he noticed all the first impression touches and shared them with me!! He noticed that the walkways were made out of green rocks like you use in a fish tank so that everything looks green on camera! He saw people running, and I mean running, to get any trash that touched the ground! Of course, he walked up to one of the team members and asked them why they were running and the response was “If my supervisor sees any trash on the ground I get fired immediately.” My husband said they were not allowed to bring phones in and if they wanted to sit down they had to rent one of Augusta National’s “Masters chairs” so everything was green and uniform! What I liked about hearing his “report” was the strategy behind it! They have a vision and they pursue it with all they’ve got!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if each guest experience team did the same thing every weekend!! Each guest, first time or 2000th time, would feel welcomed, team members would answer any questions a guest may have so they are informed, and team members would go the extra mile to serve guests with excellence!! It would be awesome for each person that walks through the doors of your church to have 4-8 touch points from your guest experience team!! A “hi, how are you?” is a touch point! A wave at the entrance to your parking lot is a touch point! We had a guest tell one of our host team members that the reason she returned for a second visit was because the host team member greeted her genuinely and made her feel welcome!! Everything matters!! Every guest experience position is needed and necessary!! It’s all to make Jesus famous!! It’s kingdom work my friends!!
What is your vision? What strategy have you put in place to make that vision become a reality? If you would like a guest experience consultation, give me a call!! I would be happy to help!
When we moved into our home the family moving out told us not to remove the nests in the corners of the porch because swallows return every year to lay their eggs. Up until a week ago, we hadn’t seen any but then they arrived!! Four dive bombing birds that flew directly at us every time we left the house or arrived home! My husband said, “That’s not going to last long.” of course I asked why and he said, “I’ve got my money on Loretta Lynn (our cat)!” Well, he was right! Yesterday morning, Loretta Lynn had one in her mouth. We woke up to the dog going crazy and we had to see what the ruckus was! That’s when we saw that she had one of the swallows. Don’t worry!! My husband snatched it right from Loretta Lynn’s mouth, then he opened the front door and the bird flew away!! I figured all was well, right?!!? Not so much, they all left. No more birds flying at us but now I am worried they might have abandoned their eggs!! I asked my husband if the birds could carry their eggs to a new nest, he laughed just like you probably are right now!!
When something doesn’t go our way it’s easy to just pack up and go isn’t it? Sometimes people are looking for a reason to leave, especially when they try new things! Put yourself in the shoes of a first time guest. They arrive really early, or a little late and they have no idea where to go. They walk into a rather large building full of people and could become overwhelmed. If they have children, they don’t know the process to check their children in or which rooms to take them to and next they have to find the worship center! What if they need to use the restroom? There may be two doors, but that doesn’t mean women on one side and men on the other! After reading that I am feeling anxious!! This is why your first impression teams are SOOOOOO IMPORTANT!! They help take away the barriers that might make people want to leave!
Team members wave at guests as soon as they drive down the parkway! There are parking team members directing guests to a close parking space where a team member greets them and walks them past smiling, friendly greeters right to a first time guest kiosk. There are first time guest kiosk members who stay with each guest and walk them through the child check in process, to possibly purchasing a drink in the cafe, all they way to the worship center where a host team member helps them find a seat. If guests have questions when they leave, our help center team is ready! Then a team takes the time to follow up with each guest by sending a note thanking them for attending and making a phone call asking if they had a positive experience!
This process is not only for your first time guests, but every guest who drives onto your campus! THANK YOU first impression team members for loving on the people God blesses you with each week! You are serving Him with excellence! You are breaking down barriers so people can hear directly from God!