Mystery Guest – Free Resource for Your Church

I challenge you to try a dangerous experiment. The idea is to pay an unchurched person to come to your church anonymously and evaluate the experience. What better way to get feedback from your community than to ask them to give their honest opinion? It’s dangerous because, if you do it right there’s a chance the truth just might hurt.

The fact is many of our churches are in-grown. We tend to be primarily focused on the people in church and end up seeming exclusive to guests. At Elim Gospel Church where I serve as Executive Pastor we try to remember to speak in guest friendly terms. Despite our attempts we still regularly catch ourselves making comments and references that assume every listener has been around our church a while, knows their Bible stories or has an awareness of basic biblical truths.

Just this past month I was speaking to a small group of adults who were attending a class to learn more about getting plugged into our church; many of those present had only attended for a few weeks or months. At one point in my teaching I referred to “Daniel when he was confronted by the official due to his unusual eating habits.” Those were just about my exact words. I assumed everyone knew who Daniel was, had read the story, and were aware of the end of that story. My one sentence was supposed to somehow convey the fact that there are often good reasons to question our leader’s motives. Wow. Talk about a serious “miss” when it comes to being guest friendly!

Our vernacular from the pulpit is just a piece of the overall puzzle. What else is confusing, irrelevant, or perhaps even offensive to your average unchurched guest (assuming you actually get those?) What about the worship experience? How about their interactions with other attendees? Here’s the big question . . . “What do they think of your bathroom?” I’m not joking. You’re bathroom speaks volumes and is a big “first impression” maker.

So we intend to hire several “mystery guests” with the express purpose of learning the truth. I challenge you to do the same. Here are my suggestions on how to pull this off at your church as well.

Stay in the Dark 
It is very important that you and all of your key leaders who are responsible for the Sunday morning experience stay in the dark about whom and when the mystery guest will arrive. There is no way in the world you can convince me that you or anyone else will treat the mystery guest exactly the same way they would a “regular” guest. You will be too self conscious. You will either be thinking too much about trying to impress them or trying NOT to impress them.

So keep it a secret from yourself and your Sunday morning leaders. Ask someone you trust in your church that doesn’t have Sunday responsibilities to recruit the mystery guest. Let them know that they shouldn’t tell anyone that they are the recruiter, who they recruited, or that they know any details about when they might arrive. Also request that your trusted friend have minimal interactions (if possible, none) with the mystery guest. They should make it clear to the guest in advance that this is intentional.

No Strings Attached
Remove from yourself and everyone who knows about this project any expectations that the guest will get saved or come back. There should be no strings attached to this guest in your minds. In a best case scenario your mystery guest will come back of her own volition and eventually experience transformation in her life, but you don’t want to give her the impression that you are actually trying to ‘trick’ her into that God-led experience. Keep it solely focused on how you can improve your environment on Sunday to accommodate and encourage guests in their experience.
Pay Your Mystery Guest 
I’m not going to tell you what we have decided to pay our M.G. That is a decision that’s entirely up to you. I will say that you should make it well worth it to them. They are setting aside a couple hours of their Sunday to serve your needs. They are willingly placing themselves in an environment that may be very intimidating to them. You also want it to be very obvious that this is a paid position and not something they are doing out of kindness or as a favor. This is important and will likely ensure their responses are really honest.
Keep it Anonymous 
I think this is important as well. If possible (in smaller churches it may be hard) the trusted friend should be the only one who knows who the M.G. was, and everyone should agree to not ask. The Mystery Guest should also be told in advance that your trusted friend will not be privy to their thoughts and opinions about the experience. This keeps lines of communication clear and open AFTER the guest has visited the church. Let me explain. Jane Smith is invited by Tina Churchgoer to be a M.G. Jane attends and has a bad experience. She holds nothing back and shares exactly what she felt during the experience. How awkward would it be if, after the guest’s appearance, Tina Churchgoer approaches Jane and says, “so it went pretty rough, huh?”
Provide All the Resources 
Your guest should be provided with a clear understanding of what they are evaluating. Your trusted recruiter should give the Mystery Guest a welcome letter on church letterhead and all of the questions or areas of evaluation you are looking for. Do not expect them to know what you want evaluated!
Hold Your Mystery Guest Accountable
Here is what I suggest this look like, tactically:

  • You recruit and train a trusted friend to be the contact. 
  • Your friend identifies someone he/she knows who is not currently attending a church. There is no need to find out if they ever have attended church. 
  • Your friend gives the new recruit a welcome letter and questions in a sealed envelope. 
  • The mystery guest attends and completes the survey. They mail or email it back to you. 

Once you have received the survey, you place the $ amount on a Visa card with a thank you note in a sealed envelope and ask your friend to deliver it to the mystery guest.

Don’t Wait 
I urge you to do this now. Don’t wait until you revamp your service or train your ushers. Just do it now. This will give you a great first benchmark for how your ministry is operating right now. It will also force your hand. It would be so easy to wait for a while – and then for a while longer. There’s always something else to do and something else we should fix first. The potential for negative feedback is enough to put off this idea indefinitely. Take the plunge.
Let Me Know How It Goes! 
Free Resource: I have included a copy of our Mystery Guest welcome letter and survey for your benefit. Feel free to utilize some or all of what we have created to get you started! You may download it HERE.

Guest Experience #5 – Tactical Planning

You ever have the mildly embarrassing situation where you are looking for something, like your hat or glasses, only to discover it’s on your face or on your head? It was so obvious we missed it.

In my final installment to this rather lengthy series on Strategic Planning I want to talk about something just like that. It’s called tactical planning. There are five key steps to Strategic Planning as outlined in the book, Being Strategic by Erika Andersen. Feel free to click on the links below to explore each step in the process as I walk through a hypothetical scenario where a church is trying to discover a way to encourage first time guests to return as second time guests. The focus of this series of blogs has been on the strategic process more than the solutions presented in the church scenario.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’
Tactical Planning is the process by which we put flesh and blood on our strategic plan. It’s not enough to say, “Here’s what we want to do.” Someone needs to do it too!
In tactical planning you close the loop you created with Determine ‘What’s the Path?’ by answering several key questions for each strategic step:
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who will do it?
  • When will it be done or completed?
  • What resources will need to be created or released?
Let’s do it:
All right. We’ve identified the several strategy steps in Determine ‘What’s the Path?’  Here are a couple of those strategic steps with some tactical steps attached to them:
Build greeters into the Sunday morning experience.
  • What needs done?
    We need to recruit four greeters who will serve every other week on Sunday mornings.
  • Who will do it?
    The newly recruited Host Ministry Directors will serve as one couple and will recruit two more people.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 10 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    None.
  • What needs done?
    We need to create a space for greeter supplies in the usher’s closet as well as name-tags for the ushers.
  • Who will do it?
    Pastor will identify space for greeter ministry. Host Ministry Directors will create name-tags.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 15 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    Closet space. A budget of $50 for supplies.
Train ushers and new greeters in how to greet and host guests.
  • What needs done?
    We need to identify quality training material to use to train our hosts, probably through one or two books or an online resource.
  • Who will do it?
    Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Within the next 15 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    A budget of $50 for training resources.
  • What needs done?
    We need to schedule a training date and communicate said date to all greeters and ushers.
  • Who will do it?
    Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    Date will be chosen and communicated to all within 20 days.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    Classroom space at the church.
  • What needs done?
    All preparations for greeter training including room setup, refreshments, training materials, etc.
  • Who will do it?
    Pastor and Host Ministry Directors.
  • When will it need to be done?
    By the designated training date.
  • What resources need to be created or released?
    $20 for refreshments. Paper supplies for training materials. Tables/chairs.
You get the idea. Amazingly, we often just assume someone will think of these things and they will get done all by themselves.

Go to “Guest Experience #5: Determine ‘What’s the Path?'”

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #5 – Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

We have been walking through the “Strategic Process” based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. In this installment in the series we will be looking at step 5 – Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

If you haven’t read the rest of the series, you’ll want to so you’ll understand the overall context of this conversation. You may do so by clicking on any of the below links.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’
So we’ve gathered a lot of information. Our final step is to review all of this information and identify the necessary steps to reach our hoped for future. It took a while for us to get here, but it was well worth it. Had we attempted the path before the prior steps we would likely have ended up with a complicated path with a lot of twists and turns – and it’s very possible we would never have reached our desired goal. At the very least we wouldn’t have understood the full scope of our problem and all of the possible solutions.
We’ll want to apply the following principles to this step again. We’ve also seen some of these principles in previous steps:
  • Be a “Fair Witness”. (be honest and objective)
  • Pull back the camera.  (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for F.I.T. 
Here’s what we mean by “F.I.T.”:
  • Feasibility. (Can we reasonably do this?)
  • Impact. (Is it worth it to do this? – Count the cost.)
  • Timeliness.  (What should we focus on first, and what should wait?)
So we’re going to look at all the data we’ve collected. We’re going to keep the big picture in mind and honestly assess what we should focus on first and what the most reasonable path might be for us to take. Incidentally, you’ll also discover that creative thinking is greatly enhanced due to us following this process from start to finish.
In this blog entry I’m going to focus on one of the three areas of focus we identified in “Guest Experience #3 – Sort it Out“. Remember, there were several categories we identified to focus on in this step. We sorted them out and came up with these three to focus on first:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendants, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guests in sanctuary.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
Focusing in on “Host Ministry” we will also remember to take into account the internal and external barriers while we build our path.

Here we go:
Here’s my first stab at building directional choices towards a desired future (a strategic plan) in the area of host ministry:
  • Cast the vision to the church leaders and then the congregation about hospitality and reaching our community.
  • Recruit one couple to champion a new “Host Ministry” for the church.
  • Build greeters into the Sunday morning experience.
  • Train ushers and new greeters in how to greet and host guests.
  • Create simple “Welcome Packets” for each guest (welcome letter from pastor, info about church ministries, map of building, etc.)
  • Free up 10-12 chairs near back of sanctuary for easy access to guests.
That’s a start. It’s the beginning of a strategic plan to cover just one of the many areas we identified we know needs addressed in order to create a guest friendly environment on Sunday morning and encourage first time guests to return. 
We aren’t finished yet!
I want you to realize one very important thing. We aren’t finished yet! There is one final step to finish this strategic plan. It’s called the “Tactical Plan”. Coming up with several directional choices isn’t enough. We also need to identify what steps need taken, who will take them, when they will be finished, etc.
Coming up next…Tactical Planning.

Go to “Guest Experience #5: Tactical Planning”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #4 – Face ‘What’s in the Way?’

“What’s in the way?”

This is part 4 in my series of posts walking you through the “Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen. You may read the rest of the series by clicking on the links below.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

      1. Define the Challenge
      2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
      3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?
      4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
      5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

Today we will Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ In this step we hope to identify any external or internal roadblocks that might prevent us from reaching our goal. This is where we compare the results of Clarify ‘What Is?’ with Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’  What might prevent us from reaching that goal? What’s standing in the way?

Understand, there’s a difference between the brainstorming you did in Clarify ‘What Is?’ and Face ‘What’s in the Way?’  The big difference is this.  In Clarify ‘What Is?’ we are looking at what we know about ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ we are identifying what could end up stopping or sidetracking us from reaching our goal. It is a fine but very important distinction.

  • Internal Barriers: There are barriers that I would identify as internal barriers. These are the mindsets, beliefs, habits, fears, etc. that may prevent us from getting ‘there.’ For instance, there are key leaders in your church who are very critical of this vision, you have a fear of failure or the pastor before you already tried to address this area and failed These would count as internal barriers.
  • External Barriers: There are also barriers that I call external barriers. These are physical things or situations that may come against your goals. For instance, you and all of your leaders are already maxed out and have not time, nothing has been budgeted to address the area you want to improve.

Note: It’s not important that you identify a lot of barriers, or any barriers. What is important is that you take this step seriously and ensure you haven’t missed any barriers that may be present.

In Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ we will follow three guiding principles. you’ll find these are the same principles we applied to the question, Clarify ‘What Is?’:

  • Become a ‘Fair Witness’   (try to be objective in your evaluations)
  • Pull Back the Camera   (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for Impact   (identify what is most relevant to your problem and it’s potential solution and organize them into groups when possible)
Here we go:
Let’s apply this step in our hypothetical situation regarding the Guest Experience, and in particular regarding the goals regarding the host ministry we identified in my last post.

HOST MINISTRY: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guest in building, chairs saved for guests in sanctuary.
  • INTERNAL BARRIERS: many at church like the back seats in the sanctuary for themselves, some may have a hard time with us selling coffee/pastries in the sanctuary – feeling it is inappropriate.
  • EXTERNAL BARRIERS: we are in the middle of a capital campaign, many of our leaders are focused on the campaign.
Go to “Guest Experience #5: Determine ‘What’s the Path?'”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #3 – Sort it Out . . .

Sort it out . . .

If you have been following along in my series of blogs on applying the “Strategic Process” to the guest experience at church, you will have just read a couple of days ago: Guest Experience #3 – Envision ‘What’s the Hope’. I’d like to complete what I started in that blog entry here. If you remember, we dreamed about a future that looks something like this:

  • WHAT WOULD I WANT A GUEST TO SAY DURING HIS OR HER VISIT? “I feel welcome at this church. The people are friendly and I believe they are glad I’m here. Everything is done with excellence. My whole family enjoys being here and feels cared for. They teach the Bible in a relevant way and I’m learning how to apply it in my everyday life. I am experiencing God here, and I know He’s transforming me. I feel I am part of something great, and I look forward to inviting my friends and family. I can’t wait to find out how I can get more involved.”
  • WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE AS A GUEST ARRIVES?  As guests drive up to our church they see a well groomed lawn and building on a paved parking lot. There is someone outside dressed as a parking attendant just greeting people and offering to help with the elderly or little children. As they enter the building they are greeted warmly by a married couple and are given clear directions to the childcare programs, with an offer to accompany and help them get acclimated to out kids’ rooms. There is upbeat, contemporary worship playing in the halls, plenty of light, and a smell of fresh brewed coffee. They will be given a Welcome Packet with information about our church and asked to fill out a very simple guest card before entering the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is well lit and offers comfortable seating. There are special lights and props on-stage supporting the sermon series. Once the couple enters our sanctuary they are handed a simple bulletin and easily find seats near the back where they won’t feel too uncomfortable. The worship is new to them, but they notice that people seem to genuinely love God and are obviously singing to Him. Everyone on-stage communicates in a friendly and clear manner when they address the congregation. The sermon is delivered with passion and is completely relevant to their lives today. There is an opportunity for guests to make a fresh commitment to Christ near the end. etc. etc. etc.

  • WHAT WILL THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AFTER THE SERVICE IS OVER? The guest will receive an email from the Senior Pastor by the end of the day letting them know he was glad they were able to visit the church today and encouraging them to reply to the email, letting him know what they thought of their experience. By Wednesday, the guest will also receive a phone call from a church member who will simply ask if they had any questions about their experience in church on Sunday and to “look him up” should they choose to visit again sometime.
Wow! That’s a great vision! I’m sure that, as time goes on your team would refine and clarify hopes and expectations for the future. That’s an important part of the process too.
Why it’s important . . .
The more you clarify what you want the future to look like, the less likely it will be that you and your team strays from that future as you strive to reach it. Putting in black and white what you are hoping for is one of the best ways to ensure unity and focus as the weeks, months, and potentially years go by. A dream like this transcends people and will likely stay alive even after key members of your team (and maybe even you) have moved on to other things or other churches.
Sort it out . . .
Here’s what we didn’t do yet. We need to sort out the key elements of this dream into categories. This is important for us to be able to Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ and Determine ‘What’s the Path?’  So I’m going to attempt to sort out some (probably not all) of the key elements that we will want to focus in on in the weeks and months to come (in our hypothetical church setting).
START BY LISTING THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS YOU SEE IN YOUR VISION: people are friendly, excellence, whole family (children/teens), care, relevant Bible teaching, Application in Bible teaching, experiencing God, equipped to invite friends, equipped in how to get involved, facility appearances (external/internal), signage, seating, lighting, greeters (outside/inside), coffee, guest seating, welcome packet, guest card, staging, simple bulletin, contemporary worship, congregation worships, opportunities to receive Christ, email guest, phone call to guests.
NEXT, GROUP THEM INTO CATEGORIES:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guest in sanctuary.
  • Production: welcome packets, guest cards, simple bulletin.
  • Core Values: excellence, caring, relevant.
  • Worship: contemporary style, congregation engaged.
  • Children/Youth Ministry.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Facility: outside, clear signs, comfortable seating, good lighting, (sanctuary/hallways/lobby), stage is relevant to series.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
  • Other: way to invite friends, opportunity to get involved, (Next Steps).
FINALLY, IDENTIFY THE AREAS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU RIGHT NOW:
  • Host Ministry: greeters, parking attendant, cafe host (coffee), friendly, trained to host guests in building, chairs saved for guest in sanctuary.
  • Sunday Sermon: relevant, application oriented, opportunity for salvation, opportunity to respond to God.
  • Guest Follow Up: email from pastor, phone call from member.
Final Thoughts
At this stage you may discover a couple of things.
  1. There is a lot more to a solution than we thought. Praise the Lord! Consider what would have happened had you not walked through this process! No wonder we often feel like we are trying to make progress, but never get traction. Often it’s because we haven’t really identified all the important elements necessary to see our vision successful.
  2. We didn’t do an adequate job in step two of the Strategic Process.
    Now that you’ve clarified what you want the future to look like, you will likely discover that you didn’t really think through step two: Clarify ‘What Is?” Now that we’ve drilled down to the areas in our ministry that we really want to focus on, we should really go back and do some more clarification. For instance, if you compare the above list with our ‘What Is?’ list you will see that we haven’t really clarified how well we are fulfilling our core values in the lobby, worship, sermon, children’s ministry etc. We should clarify where we are strong and where we are weak in each of those areas.
  3. Some of the things we want to focus on will impact much more than what we intended.
    Awesome! You identified that you want the sermon to include opportunities for people to respond to the Lord when they are over. That will not only impact guests, but everyone! You decide you’d like coffee in the lobby. Cool! That will help stimulate fellowship among everyone in the church.

Guest Experience #3 – Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’

This is part 3 in my series of posts walking you through the “Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience in a hypothetical church scenario. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book, “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen. You may read part one here and part two here to catch up.




The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:


       1. Define the Challenge
       2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
       3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’ (Part 1 / Part 2)
       4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’ 
       5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

Today we will Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’  This is my favorite part of the strategic process because we get to dream about the future. We are going to brainstorm the most perfect future we can think of for our particular church and situation. We’re going to pull together everything we know God has spoken to us about the future and pray for more wisdom and discernment. We are also going to include anything we have learned through workshops, books, personal experience, etc., that might play a role in what we believe the future should look like. When finished, you and your team should have a sense of excitement about the possibilities.

In this step, we will engage four key elements:

  • Pick a time frame for success . . .
    (When is a realistic goal that you believe you can reach one or more of your “hope” objectives?)
  • Imagine yourself in that future . . .
    (Mentally put yourself “there” so that you can accomplish the next objective below.)
  • Describe what success looks and feels like . . .
    (Very important. You give details as to what you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel about your environment. This should be written in the present tense, not the past or future tense.)
  • Select the key elements . . .
    (Sort out your brainstorming and future-casting into several categories or key elements.)

Note: Sometimes you will want to describe the future from several different perspectives. This will help clarify for you later all of the different elements that are really important to you.

Here we go:
In our hypothetical situation described in parts one and two we’ve already completed “Define the Problem?” and “Clarify ‘What Is?'”. Now let’s pull together some ideas of what the future might look like for our guests.

  • WHAT WOULD I WANT A GUEST TO SAY DURING HIS OR HER VISIT? “I feel welcome at this church. The people are friendly and I believe they are glad I’m here. Everything is done with excellence. My whole family enjoys being here and feels cared for. They teach the Bible in a relevant way and I’m learning how to apply it in my everyday life. I am experiencing God here, and I know He’s transforming me. I feel I am part of something great, and I look forward to inviting my friends and family. I can’t wait to find out how I can get more involved.”
  • WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE AS A GUEST ARRIVES?  As guests drive up to our church they see a well groomed lawn and building on a paved parking lot. There is someone outside dressed as a parking attendant just greeting people and offering to help with the elderly or little children. As they enter the building they are greeted warmly by a married couple and are given clear directions to the childcare programs, with an offer to accompany and help them get acclimated to out kids’ rooms. There is upbeat, contemporary worship playing in the halls, plenty of light, and a smell of fresh brewed coffee. They will be given a Welcome Packet with information about our church and asked to fill out a very simple guest card before entering the sanctuary.

     The sanctuary is well lit and offers comfortable seating. There are special lights and props on-stage supporting the sermon series. Once the couple enters our sanctuary they are handed a simple bulletin and easily find seats near the back where they won’t feel too uncomfortable. The worship is new to them, but they notice that people seem to genuinely love God and are obviously singing to Him. Everyone on-stage communicates in a friendly and clear manner when they address the congregation. The sermon is delivered with passion and is completely relevant to their lives today. There is an opportunity for guests to make a fresh commitment to Christ near the end. etc. etc. etc.

  • WHAT WILL THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AFTER THE SERVICE IS OVER? The guest will receive an email from the Senior Pastor by the end of the day letting them know he was glad they were able to visit the church today and encouraging them to reply to the email, letting him know what they thought of their experience. By Wednesday, the guest will also receive a phone call from a church member who will simply ask if they had any questions about their experience in church on Sunday and to “look him up” should they choose to visit again sometime.
Go to “Guest Experience #3: Sort it Out”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #2 – Clarify ‘What Is?’

Define ‘What Is?’ — Self Evaluation

In my last post I started working through “The Strategic Process” by exploring the guest experience. The premise of the strategic process is based on the book “Being Strategic” by Erika Andersen.

The Strategic Process includes Five Steps:

  1. Define the Challenge
  2. Clarify ‘What Is?’
  3. Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’
  4. Face ‘What’s in the Way?’
  5. Determine ‘What’s the Path?’

So far, we have been able to Define the Challenge here.

Now let’s Clarify ‘What is?’  In this step we want to evaluate where we are right now. This is an honest assessment of our current resources. It is also our opportunity to identify what we are doing right now, what we aren’t, what’s working, and what’s not. One tool we can use to do this is to utilize the acronym, S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).

Emotionally, this is probably one of the hardest steps. It can be very difficult to be totally honest with ourselves, and it’s easy to feel discouraged when facing what’s not really working well. This is where we can be very tempted to cheat the process by not being fully self disclosed. It’s also a great opportunity to set the stage for true change.

In Clarify ‘What Is?’ we will follow three guiding principles:

  • Become a ‘Fair Witness’   (try to be objective in your evaluations)
  • Pull Back the Camera   (look at the big picture)
  • Sort for Impact   (identify what is most relevant to your problem and it’s potential solution and organize them into groups when possible)

Enough talk. Let’s tackle our hypothetical problem and move to step two in the process: Clarify ‘What Is?”

NOTE: The below ideas are completely hypothetical and do not represent the actual ‘What Is?’ for Elim Gospel Church or any other church that I am aware of. Also, this list is a very basic list and does not fully represent what the list would actually look like if several team members sat down to this discussion in a lengthy brainstorming session.

Define ‘What is?’ S.W.O.T. analysis:

Strengths:

  • We have a welcoming facility with good, clear, signs.
  • We have an awesome worship ministry that is contemporary, professional, and Spirit led.
  • We have a nice welcome center in our lobby.
  • Our ushers greet everyone as they arrive to church every morning in a friendly way.
Weaknesses: 
  • We do not have anyone greeting people at the door or helping visitors when they arrive.
  • Our services are not very visitor-friendly.
  • The messages tend to be full of a lot of christianeze and often presume that everyone is already a believer.
  • We have no way of identifying who our visitors are and getting info from them for the future.
  • We do no follow up with visitors.
  • Signs outside the building are not clear. 
  • We do not have any visitor parking areas.
Opportunities:
  • We just purchased several books with great ideas to help us along.
  • Mary Smith recently expressed a strong interest in helping in this area.
Threats:
  • There are already a number of visitors who have come through our church who may have expressed a negative opinion to their friends/neighbors about us.
  • We don’t have anything allocated in our current budget to develop this important area.
Go To “Guest Experience #3: Envision ‘What’s the Hope?'”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Experience #1 – Define the Problem

We have a problem . . .

OK. Here we go. I’m going to walk through the Strategic Process by exploring the “guest experience” in a hypothetical church scenario. Please notice two things:

  1. The Strategic Process.  {1.Define the Challenge, 2.Clarify ‘What Is?’, 3.Envision ‘What’s the Hope?’, 4.Face ‘What’s in the Way?’, 5.Determine ‘What’s the Path?’}
  2. The ideas that I begin to clarify about the guest experience.  {How might you take advantage of the hypothetical strategic steps I walk you through over these next five blog entries?)

Define the Challenge
The first step in the Strategic Process is to define the challenge. In this step we want to draft a clear statement that clarifies what’s wrong. There is no point in engaging in future planning if we don’t have something that isn’t working, or that couldn’t work better.

Utilizing the principles in the book, Being Strategic, we will define the challenge by asking:

  • What isn’t working?
  • How can we (I) . . . ?  {finish the sentence}
  • Would this {the previous sentence} feel like success.

The Guest Experience Challenge
All right, here’s my first stab of how we would define the challenge as it relates to the guest experience on a Sunday morning in many of our churches today. Let me know what you think.

“It doesn’t seem like many of our guests return to our church after their first visit. How can we ensure that a considerably larger percentage of our first time guests will actually want to visit us again? If we can accomplish that, then it would feel like success to us.”

Notice that the first sentence describes what isn’t working. The second sentence finishes the sentence, “How can we . . .?” and the final sentence clarifies that we have adequately defined the problem.

I welcome your feedback.

Go to “Guest Experience #2: Clarify ‘What Is?’


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Guest Experience – Critical

I’m curious, how important are your guests to you? If you can’t describe how important they are to you then I suspect they may not be in the habit of staying. We have a holy responsibility to take each and every guest that darkens our door extremely seriously. They represent the lost, the needy, the broken. They represent potential members and leaders. They represent church growth.

Unless you and your leaders really aren’t interested in reaching your community you will give great thought to what your guests think, feel, see, hear and even smell on any and every given Sunday morning. We did this a couple of years ago at Elim Gospel Church. We asked ourselves, “What would we want guests to say about us in an imaginary interview, if someone were to ask them:‘What do you think about Elim Gospel Church?’” Here’s what we came up with:

Guest Vision Statement: “I feel welcome at Elim Gospel Church. The people are friendly and I believe they are glad I’m here. Everything is done with excellence. My whole family enjoys coming and feels cared for. They teach the Bible in a relevant way and I’m learning how to apply it in my everyday life. I experience God here, and He’s transforming me. I feel I am part of something great, and I look forward to inviting my friends and family. I want to get more involved and people are showing me how.”

Strategic Planning Scenario #3

Wondering what I’m talking about here? Read THIS BLOG ENTRY and these scenarios to catch up!

Strategic Planning Scenario #3: Joe and Jane walk through the front doors of your church. Because they’ve not been in church in so long, certainly not as a couple and with kids, the first order of business is to figure out where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do. Do the kids stay with them in the service? Are they supposed to be dropped off somewhere? Where are they supposed to go first? 

By now you know what questions we are asking ourselves. What are you feeling about this scenario? Are you confident Joe and Jane will have a positive experience?

Obviously, we can keep walking with Joe and Jane through your church service. Their experience will likely include:

  • Sitting in your service before it begins.
  • Experiencing worship in your service.
  • Experiencing various elements like offering, announcements, and some creative element(s) in your service.
  • Listening to a message by either yourself, another church leader, or a guest.
  • Experiencing your church in the post-service environment – between the pew and the car.
It’s a very valuable exercise to walk through what Joe and Jane will experience on a normal week and ask yourself what you feel about their experience and how confident you are that Joe and Jane will have a positive experience.

This exercise is a foundational exercise in Strategic Planning. It has to do with evaluating where you are today in the ministry activities and environments you offer to your congregation and community.
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