10 Lessons From a Year of Guest Services

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2447778421_be0dc88c3f_oLast January, I moved from my position as a youth pastor at our church—I had been a youth pastor for eleven years at that point—to a newly created position that combined the leadership of small groups, assimilation, and guest services into one role. Though I attended seminary, enjoyed working with people, and leading teams, I really had no experience or specific expertise to take on this new challenge. They were areas that we knew as a church we were weak on, and my task was create systems and build teams to help us improve in those areas.

It’s been an incredible year of learning. On a personal level, I have had to rely more on the wisdom and experience of others in the form of books, mentoring, and visiting other churches than I ever did the first eleven years of vocational ministry. In that respect I’ve grown as a leader far more than had I done a job that I felt like I had a pretty good handle on. Still, most of what I’ve learned has been trial and error, and I thought it might be time to jot down a few (or ten) of those lessons.

1) Guest services volunteers are at the front lines of your church’s mission and vision.

This might seem dramatic, especially since guest services isn’t exactly the sexiest (am I allowed to say that on a ministry leadership blog?) ministry in your church. But think about it: The first people that a visitor—including someone who has yet to meet Jesus—encounters on your campus are your guest services volunteers. So yeah: guest services is more important that you think.

2) Define and protect the first-time guest experience.

This one is the most important, and we learned it from a Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. The purpose of guest services is to provide an incredible experience for first time guests. One of the roles of a guest services director is to protect the first-time guest experience, whether that means de-cluttering the lobby, making sure a guests next steps are clear from the minute they walk through the door, or providing great coffee.

3) You need lots of people.

I was surprised when I began leading our guest services teams how many people we needed to pull off the kind of environment we were trying to create. Because guest services is a highly relational volunteer role, you can’t just get by with a few people. If you don’t have enough people on your team, chances are some visitors are going to feel ignored.

4) Guest services is a simple volunteer role, but not everyone can pull it off.

I discovered very early on in my role that when it comes to people who don’t have the relational skills to serve in children’s ministry or on the production team, it’s not uncommon for ministry leaders to suggest they try out the guest services team. Guest services is not a catch-all team for people who can’t or won’t serve elsewhere; only quality volunteers will give you a quality team.

5) Attitude is everything.

Volunteers who have a negative attitude are a terrible fit for guest services. Being a guest services volunteer requires a great attitude no matter what Sunday morning brings, whether it’s a new visitor who doesn’t trust church people, a 2-year-old puking near the coffee table, or any other unforeseen event.

6) Lead with vision.

Since most guest services volunteers have a very short job description (greet at this door, usher in this aisle, etc.), you’d think it would be easy to just give them their job and let them do it. But guest services volunteers need to know that what they are doing makes a difference. We have a saying on our team, “Don’t work a shift; make a difference.”

7) Lead as a team.

To be honest with you, guest services isn’t the part of my role that I’m the most passionate about. Thankfully, I have a few team leaders—including an incredible administrative assistant—who love helping with guest services on Sundays and giving visitors guests a great first-time experience at our church. There are several people on our team who are far better at what we do than I will ever be…and that’s a good thing.

8) Even the best volunteers need lots of reminders.

Whether you use Planning Center to schedule volunteers or a pen-and-paper system make sure that your volunteers get a reminder each and every time they serve.

9) Share stories of your team doing a great job.

I try to send out an email to our teams at least a couple of times a month sharing with them an email from someone had a great visit to our church because they were treated well by our guest services volunteers. People love to hear about how what they are doing makes a difference in the lives of other people.

10) Give your guest services volunteers insider information.

Since the campus I serve at is fairly large—especially for Utah—our guest services volunteers (they are easily identifiable because of their orange name tags) get a lot of questions each week about what’s going on. We need to do a better job at this, but we’ve started alerting them to event registrations, letting them know about changes in the service schedule, or just giving them answers to questions we think people will be asking that Sunday. It makes them feel more like concierges than volunteers who simply open the door for guest.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below!

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