Week Three – Implementing the First Critical Process
I shared, in my last blog, how my initial investigation revealed a host of things that were not working in my new church. This included the mysteriously missing “visitor” check box on the contact cards to lots of broken pathways for newcomers to find their way from the crowd to the core. After some initial quick fixes, it was time to start building a solid process from the ground up that would increase the church’s ability to connect visitors. I call this, a church’s “Velcro factor.” It’s a good starting point to get the house in order before trying to attract a lot of outsiders.
Liken it to a home that you just purchased. You are excited to invite friends over and to make your home a place of outreach and ministry. But you bought a fixer-upper. Maybe you need to do some work in the front yard so people can have a clear path and see the street number on your house. Or you might have to replace some carpet and paint to get rid of a musty smell that will insure few return visitors. You want to make your home an inviting place and sometimes that can take a lot of work.
The same is true with a church. Just having greeters at the front doors does not make a church an inviting place. It takes a lot more intentionality in ministry design to make a church a warm and friendly place to outsiders. It takes inspiring and tenacious repetition of vision to change the hearts of a congregation from being inward focused to becoming focused on the welfare of newcomers. Accordingly, the lead pastor began infusing his language every week with a focus on guests and our guest center. Over time, this has an enduring impact on a church’s DNA.
My part was threefold. I conducted a church-wide training event for ministry leaders and key participants where I trained on what it means to be an Optimized Church. I have found this seminar to be transformative in numerous settings when enough of the core of the church attends. We need to give lay people more credit when it comes to their ability to grasp their contribution towards their church becoming an outward focused church. The truth is simple. A church will never be genuinely warm to outsiders without a major shift in the hearts and minds of its attendees. The second thing I did was to… ramp up a strategically placed, and well designed Guest Center that would attract a high volume of our visitors. A Guest Center can be a powerful starting point for a robust Connection Process. It is the beginning of a pipeline for guests who are on their way to the discovering the church. Once we have them in the pipeline we can be very strategic about moving them along towards the core of the church.
I have heard a lot of objections over the years with claims that “very few of our visitors actually come to our Guest Center. My experience in working with thousands of churches over the past 30 years is much different. Very high percentages of visitors will come to a Guest Center and even stand in a short line if you use the right strategy. In our case we incented all our guests to come to our Guest Center by offering them special gifts for 1st, 2nd and 3rd time guests. Our results were similar to what I have seen over the years. Over 90% of our guests end up engaging with our friendly people at our Guest Center. I think it has a lot to do with the “bargain” mindset of this generation. I have marveled to see even affluent people, standing in long lines to save a measly $20 on a pair of shoes.
Another question I often get is, what do you put in gift bags? In our next blog I will reveal how to put together great gift bags for under $3. I will also share the third major thing that I did to implement the first critical process of connection.
Be Blessed In Your Ministry!