Article Art by Shane Harris

Breaking the Guest Experience

Posted by Jason Young on December 01, 2012.

Author: Jason Young

We can all agree on the number of ministry areas in the church that are needed and important – including children’s ministry, student ministry, music, and preaching.

But what if the church is overlooking one very crucial are of ministry?

What if I told you about one area of focus that could make or break all the previously mentioned ministries?

I’m not just pitching a hypothetical. I’ve spent years working with churches and well-known companies on this often overlooked, yet vital area of ministry. What is it? Creating remarkable experiences. In fact, my everyday job is working for Andy Stanley at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, Georgia doing just that. Why? He believes what happens before hearing the music or preaching can either make or break the guest experience.

Question 1 – Are there thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that a guest brings with them to the church?

Yes!

When we take time to understand who our guests are, we can better host them with empathy.

When we take time to understand who our guests are, we can better host them with empathy.
 Here are ten thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that a guest may have as they pull into your church parking lot.

Prevent reinforcing my insecurities. I walk in with fears. Put together a strategy that will anticipate my needs.

Deliver a simple, reliable, and easy-to-use process. Streamline the steps it takes to achieve my goals. Make it as if I could do it alone but choose to incorporate you into the process.

Show me you care. Be authentically interested in me. If you’re empathetic toward me, I’ll become your raving fan.

Do what you say you will do. If you commit to a positive behavior or process, please honor your word.

I will have a memory after an experience with you. My life is a story. The time I spend with you factors into my story, and I would love to have a positive memory to share with others.

Personalize the experience. I don’t want to be just another person to you. I want to be an individual that’s listened to and then provided a process that feels customized.

Carefully select vernacular that speaks to me. The terminology you use gives me insight into how well you know me. The more I feel known by you, the more memorable the experience.

Technical skills matter, but soft skills matter more. If you can talk about the kids’ ministry and check my child in, good for you. If you can interact well with me, including active listening, that means more to me as a person.

If there’s a problem, please be quick to recover. The bottom line is that something could go wrong. That’s not my fear. My fear and built-in doubt is that the problem will be drawn out and painfully resolved – if at all.

Trust me. Give me the benefit of the doubt. I want to feel honored by you relying on me and my role in the experience. I will reciprocate the trust.

Question 2 – Are there practical elements that can break the guest experience?

Yes!

The natural assumption for fixing problems is that we would begin outside and work our way in. However, I want to begin inside and work our way out.

Culture is greater than the department. A staff member that leads a team of volunteers to park cars, greet people, and collect money can simply become an execution of function. If a senior pastor puts heart, time, energy, and budget behind creating a remarkable guest experience, other staff members realize this is part of the vision. Guests can feel when the flow doesn’t cascade from the top.

Plan your experience scene-by-scene. Think in terms of breaking down the macro into the micro. This approach helps the team understand their role inside the big picture. You, as the leader, can more easily create processes without being overwhelmed. Here are four big scenes that matter:

1 – The parking lot is where the guest first (apart from online) experiences what you’re all about.

The parking lot is where the guest first (apart from online) experiences what you’re all about.

2. A host is any person on the team that’s working to create a remarkable experience regardless of their function. If we invite guests into our home, we are their host. When guests make the decision to attend our church, we are their host.

3. The stage can easily be missed when planning for a guest. Every element is really seen, felt, and/or heard: song choice, music volume, stage design, colors, and length of message.

The exit must be equal to if not greater than the welcome.
4. The exit must be equal to if not greater than the welcome. I love how the Ritz Carlton calls this their fond farewell. If the experience coming into the church is free from obstacles, they can pay better attention to the music and preaching. If their exit adds to a memorable experience, they can pay better attention to the draw to return.

People who attend our churches spend more time having experiences at stores, online or physical, everyday than in our buildings. If companies work hard on creating experiences for customers, why shouldn’t we strive to provide the same for our guests?

If the experience a person has in the parking lot, entering the building, placing children in the right areas, and finding a seat is poor, they are distracted before the music or preaching begins.

The details matter. As church leaders, we have a responsibility to remove obstacles that could potentially break the guest experience.

About the Author

Jason Young | T w
Jason loves growing leaders, building volunteer teams, designing guest experiences and being strategic about how they intersect. He is the Director of Guest Services for North Point Ministries that includes six Atlanta-area churches. The staff and 3,000 volunteers on Guest Services serve over 35k guests each Sunday.

1 Comment

  1. What are some ideas or tips for the “exit” part of the experience. I’d love to hear what others may be doing in this area.


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