Why do people stick at your church? A new family shows up and they either visit once or stick around. What’s the difference? Often it comes down to how they felt during the experience. It comes down to hospitality.
How do you grow in hospitality at your church? Here are five ideas for improvement.
We all need to shift our understanding when it comes to showing hospitality to guests because most of your guests are online. In fact, if they don’t have a good experience when they visit online, they’ll probably never visit in person.
So, how is your online experience? I’m guessing you aren’t attempting to grow a huge online church following, but your online church experience is important, but not because you are attempting to become a giant global megachurch. It’s important because you are a local church and people visit online before showing up in person.
A few questions to get you thinking:
- Is your website up to date?
- Is your online service easy to access?
- Visually speaking, is your online service engaging?
If you want to grow in this area, I found Carey Nieuwhof’s interview with Sean Cannell on How to Do Video Well for Churches to be really helpful.
While we’re on the topic of people visiting your church before they actually walk into your building, how’s your parking situation?
Personally, when I show up to an event my mood has already been altered by my experience parking my vehicle. If I had to search and search for a parking spot and I ended up a long way from the event…I’m already in a bad mood. If there is free valet parking or spots reserved for guests…I’m in a good mood! You get the idea.
All I’m saying is that you may have an opportunity to impact a new family’s experience before they walk into your doors. If you don’t already have them, consider reserved parking for guests and parking attendants to provide a good experience in your parking lots.
I’m a parent of five kids. Yes, that’s right. I’m mildly insane.
Mornings are a little crazy at my house because all my kids are in school. They are crazy but manageable, unless one or more of the kids isn’t excited about going to school, then it becomes intolerable.
The same is true when it comes to church. When I know my kids are excited about and having fun in our Kid’s ministry, I can relax and fully engage in the worship service. When I know that they aren’t excited about the Kid’s ministry and their number could possibly appear on the number board that says,
“Hey parents, come pick up your kid because we surrender!”
…well, my church experience is a little different that weekend.
Here’s my point: Your kids ministry could be your greatest opportunity to provide a fantastic hospitality experience for new families. We hear all the time about families who stick at our church because their kids loved their experience in our Kid’s Ministry.
Building a high-quality Kid’s Ministry is one of the most strategic investments you can make as a church for a number of reasons. One of them is that more new families will stick when they visit your church.
Yes, I know we haven’t talked about your actual church service yet, but hang in there. We need to talk about warmth in your atrium space. I’m talking about how it feels to be a guest among your regular church attenders.
You know how it is when you can just feel that you aren’t welcome? And, you know how it feels when you are a guest at Chick-Fil-A? Yes, that’s the difference. That’s what relational warmth feels like.
Something you can do to grow hospitality at your church is to train and equip volunteers and attenders to be hospitable at the doors and in your atrium space. For example, one of the ways we train our volunteers is the 5-15 rule. I first learned this from Horst Schultze. He is basically the godfather of hospitality.
Anyway, the 5-15 rule is whenever someone is within 15 feet you always acknowledge their presence with eye contact and a smile. And, when someone is within 5 feet, you greet them verbally.
There was a season that we were so intentional about this training that I found myself smiling at and saying hello to random people at the mall and grocery store. Ok, maybe that’s too far. But, it’s a great tool for increasing the personal warmth of your atrium spaces.
The last aspect of hospitality is how people experience your church from the stage. Years ago, our senior pastor experienced something that forever changed the way he and anyone else in our church communicates from the stage.
What happened? His neighbor showed up at church—his unchurched neighbor who knew nothing about the Bible and what you’re supposed to do at church.
As he was communicating from the stage that day, our senior pastor realized that this guy was totally lost for most of the service. From that day forward, we have tried our best to be hospitable from the stage. Here are a few ways we do this:
- When we share an announcement about our student ministry, we say, “Lifeline is our ministry to middle school and high school students.”
- When we say that a certain event is happening in “The Studio” we say, “The Studio is one of our worship venues upstairs.”
- When we begin a sermon, we show a table of contents of the Bible and show where the book is located.
- When we talk about the Apostle Paul, we explain who he was and why he mattered.
- When we talk about the book of Philippians, we show where Philippi was in the ancient world.
You see what I mean. To be clear, we don’t dumb down our messages or make them less challenging. However, we do seek to be hospitable.
It’s kind of like when a friend joins a conversation between you and another friend and you are part way through a story. If you are hospitable, you help the newcomer catch up on the details of the story. That’s exactly what we are trying to do for guests at our church.
Hospitality matters. Often it’s the difference between a one-time guest and a family that sticks and becomes part of your church family. I hope these ideas have been helpful!