Thursday, March 31, 2011

Surprise Your Guests

From time to time throughout this 40 Day Guest Services Journey, I want to drop in some "Best Practices" from Mark Waltz and the Connections team at Granger Community Church. Author of the books "First Impressions" and "Lasting Impressions," Waltz and his team at GCC consistently knock it out of the park when it comes to Guest Services.

Surprise Your Guests

I'm not talking about jumping out from behind bushes and scaring your guests. That'd be a surprise, but no.

And I'm not thinking about blowing your budget to lavish you guest with extravagant gifts.

Think simple. Think functional. Think...
  • Umbrella escorts in inclement weather
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers around your building
  • Chairs/lounge area in the women's restrooms
  • Clean everything
  • Follow-up when guests request help
  • Mouthwash, lotion, and mints in the restroom
  • Soft seating in the common areas
The point isn't to merely surprise your guests. The surprise communicates care and value.

...because people matter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Do You Do When It Rains at Your Church?

Overnight rain lingering into the morning redirected my original thoughts for today.

Rainy days, especially on Sundays and other days you have worship, can be a real challenge - for guests and for your regular attenders and members.

What do you do when it rains?

Maybe your facility has a covered drop-off area and it's not much of a problem. Many churches don't have that option. Now what?

Here are a few "rainy day thoughts" you might consider:
  • Make sure your parking team is dressed appropriately for the weather (unless it's cold, simple ponchos work great)
  • Purchase a quantity of large golf umbrellas (with your logo!)
  • Recruit extra team members if possible to walk guests from the parking lot to the entrance, holding the umbrella for them
  • Or give them an umbrella to use walking from their car to the entrance
  • Coordinate with your greeter team the logistics of running umbrellas back and forth as needed
  • Reverse the process when the worship experience is over
  • Rain usually slows people down - plan for latecomers
  • Umbrellas left at the entrance can get tangled up in a mess pretty quickly; organize them neatly
  • Rain means wet floors, especially near entrances; alert the housekeeping/custodial crews so that the floors can be kept as dry as possible to prevent slips and falls
  • Rainy days mean visibility is less than optimum; have flashlights and directional lights available as needed
  • Rainy days are an opportunity to encourage your congregation to be servants; take a look at this post to see what I mean
That's just a few ideas - what can you add to the conversation?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Importance of One Anothers

The ministry of guest services in churches today often seems to rank below that of preaching, teaching, and music. While that may be indeed be true, it is important that the ministry of guest services is most often the first impression guests get of your church – well before any of the others listed above! Guest Services is a ministry – one that is becoming more important than ever in today’s experience-oriented culture. The guests coming to your church next Sunday may not understand all the words they will hear, but the warm and caring actions of your Guest Services Team will speak very loud and clear. To a person seeking Truth and Peace, an ounce of kindness is worth a pound of preaching. Christian kindness is a ministry for church guest services teams who care deeply about people.

No assignment in the church is more one-on-one than the ministry of the guest services teams. The foyer is their chapel, the information desk their pulpit, and the walk-around spaces their parish. Church guest services teams have a one-another ministry – face to face, hand to hand, and heart to heart with the people they are called to serve. From the largest megachurch to the smallest rural church, their Christian service is to one customer at a time. And to make their service even more important, church guest services teams are the first face and voice guests meet when arriving at church.

Church guest services should be elevated to its fully deserved and recognized status as a one-another ministry. Scattered throughout Paul’s letter to the Romans are seven references to the one-another ministry. What a great spiritual and biblical foundation for the ministry of church guest services teams! Here are some brief thoughts about these one-anothers by Leslie Parrot, author of "Serving as a Church Greeter."

Accept One Another – Romans 15:7 gives us the ministry of mutual acceptance, resting on Christ’s teaching of unconditional love. A verbal greeting and the offer of a handshake are ways of focusing on the other person. As Jesus accepts us – no matter what – accept each and every person who comes through the church door.

Honor One Another – Romans 12:10 provides the one-another ministry of an encouraging word. Effective guest services teams hone their skills at the capacity to come up with a few words or a brief sentence that is appropriate to the person and the situation.

Be Kind to One Another – This one-another kindness is found in Romans 12:10 as well. Deliberate acts of kindness welcome worshippers no matter what their week has been. A guest services team member with a kind heart can set the tone for the rest of the day with his or her actions.

Love One Another – Found in Romans 13:8, this is the one-another ministry of unconditional goodwill. It is expressed in a positive attitude toward all people, a love that bans all kinds of verbal abuse and an attitude of love toward life in general and people in particular.

Understand One Another – Romans 14:13 phrases it negatively, but a positive approach and a spiritual understanding will overcome a negative attitude. Guest services teams need to also remember that their lives outside the church make a powerful statement, and must be lived in an uncompromising manner.

Instruct One Another – Romans 15:14 reminds guest services teams that they are to be role models in the fruit of the Spirit at all times. They live out their craft by being, doing, and demonstrating, not by telling, admonishing, and finger-pointing.

Greet One Another – In Romans 16:16 we are reminded of the ministry of the human touch and its import healing and calming qualities. The guest services team member needs to be sensitive to the manner of the touch and the recipient; in most cases, the offer of a handshake is appropriate for guests, while a friendly hug may be more appropriate for friends and long-time members. The key is to express a genuine welcome in the manner most appropriate.

A Final Admonition: Serve One Another – Paul, writing in Galatians 5:13, spelled out the final one-another: a ministry of service that leads guest services team members to welcome all in the name of Christ, serving all who come without prejudice or judgment.

When the guest services team members at your church understand and practice these one-another ministries, they are well on the way to living out the presence of Christ within – and it becomes very obvious to those to whom they are extending a friendly hand.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wayfinding-More Than Just Signs

Most churches do a pretty lousy job at wayfinding. Because many churches are built as add-ons over time, sometimes many years, buildings tend to be mazes of corridors and stairwells with little rhyme or reason. Many churches suffer from poor layout, people-traffic control, and wayfinding.

Wayfinding is the process of using spatial and environmental cues to navigate through an environment. In its most literal sense, wayfinding is the ability of a person to find his or her way to a destination. It can also be defined from the standpoint of the designer or owner who is seeking to improve the function of a particular environment.

Wayfinding is not separate from traditional signage design, but is a broader, more inclusive way of assessing all of the environmental issues that affect our ability to find our way to a given destination.

A comprehensive wayfinding system can greatly improve your congregation’s ability to not only find areas of the church campus they are seeking, but to direct guests and others to these areas as well. A clear wayfinding system can add to the accessibility and friendliness of the church buildings. Here are a few tips on wayfinding:
  • Focus people on buildings by labeling them
  • Avoid long directional signs that slow people down
  • Divide the campus into distinct zones
  • Use color and monuments to create bread-crumbs
  • Make room numbers make sense
  • Develop a simple campus map
A church of even moderate size should address basic wayfinding

After all, how can anyone really connect with your church if they can't find the front door?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Parking is More Than Just Cars

Yesterday's post introduced the concept of parking teams and how important they are to welcoming guests, members and attenders to your campus. Today I want to expand the parking concept beyond just cars.

I lead the Guest Services (Parking) Teams at Elevation Church’s Uptown location. As the “first face” of Elevation, my crew and I get weekly opportunities to practice guest services and make a lasting first impression.

We don’t just park cars; we also:
  • Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking deck we use
  • Pick up trash along the route from the parking deck to the theater
  • Put up 19 parking signs (3 different types) in a 2 block area around theater
  • Pull the parking ticket from the dispenser and personally hand it to guests entering the deck and welcome them to Elevation
  • When possible, push the call button so the elevator is waiting for guests to take them from the parking deck levels to the ground floor
  • Hold the door for guests entering and leaving the parking garage elevator lobby
  • Validate parking for all Elevation guests
  • Provide VIP (our first time guests) and family parking right next to the theater
  • Know what’s going on Uptown so we can help any and everyone who has a question (sporting events, concerts, special activities, etc.)
  • Provide umbrellas to guests when it's raining for the walk from the parking deck to the theater
  • Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going - in at least three different locations
  • Be alert to any special needs and radio them ahead to the VIP tent
  • As guests are leaving, we take the validated ticket from them and feed it into the dispenser, giving them a verbal blessing as they head out of the garage
And that’s just the parking team! Elevation’s audacious Guest Services Team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent (but that’s another part of the journey). All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

Your church is different than my campus - you probably don't have a parking garage. But you do have parking lots - and that is an excellent opportunity for you to make a powerful first impression.

Take the principle - Parking is your first opportunity to make an impact on your guests - and apply it to the context of your place.

What will you do this week to implement/change/improve your parking team?

Do not underestimate the power and influence of the first impression your parking lot makes!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The "First Face" of your Church...

...should be in the parking lot.

Guests and members coming to your church should see an energetic, welcoming, smiling group of people helping you pull into the parking lot and getting safely to the buildings.

I admit my bias: I serve as the Parking Team Coordinator for Elevation Church's Uptown Campus, so I'm all over this thing called parking.

You should be too, because it's often the "first impression" your guests receive of your church.

At Elevation Church, our worship experiences begin in the parking lot.

You may have thought that church parking lots, and the teams that staff them weekly, were just about cars, orange vests, and two-way radios.

We see it differently: we’re the first face of Elevation, and we are connectors to the current of the power of God. The parking teams at Elevation have a vision that is the same as the church’s: So that people far from God become filled with life in Christ.

We fulfill that vision by welcoming everyone to our four campuses, giving them the first of several audacious welcomes for the day. We remove every barrier possible so that they can be a part of a powerful worship experience.

As a Parking Team Coordinator at one campus, and after surveying our other campus team leaders, here’s why we think parking is a very important part of what happens at Elevation Church. From the first few sections of our parking manual:

Purpose:The Parking Team exists so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ.

Goal:We will “WOW” every guest by exceeding their expectations.

Strategy: Create and ensure a quick, easy, and stress-free parking experience.

Elevation Church is called to dominate the city of Charlotte with the Gospel of Jesus. No one person can accomplish that. God accomplishes that through us as a team. You have a role to play in that - God wants to use your life. When the calling is significant there is no role that is insignificant. Parking is a demanding role in a high-pressure environment, and it requires quick thinking and high organizational skills. It is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, it is extremely rewarding.

Statistics show that guests make a decision on whether or not they will return to a church within the first ten minutes of driving onto the campus. It’s the role of the parkers to instantly exceed each guest’s expectation. Parkers are the first impression of Elevation, and a smile, a wave, and quick direction to a spot can ease fears and prepare a guests heart to hear the Gospel. Parking can either be a disaster or can instantly make someone’s experience great. Pastor Steven is depending on us to create a problem free parking experience so that our guests are entering the worship experience with a positive impression and high expectations.

Our priority is to help traffic enter and exit smoothly but more importantly to honor people and get them excited about Elevation.

Our basic parking guidelines are very simple:
  • Make eye contact 
  • Smile
  • Wave
  • Go the extra mile to make someone else smile
So are our suggestions for moving traffic:
  • When you move, they move.
  • Keep the main line of entrance traffic flowing the majority of the time. 
  • Quickly help those that are stopping to ask questions and get them moving again. 
  • Be aware of pedestrian traffic and be considerate of those going the wrong way.
  • Stay visible.
  • Wear your vest and make motions with the entire arm instead of just the forearm
The parking teams may have a single vision, and simple guidelines, but we express them differently at each campus. Even though we are one church in four locations and there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences in the parking lots. For example, consider the locations:
  • Providence – a high school, with limited entrances and exits and multiple lots
  • Matthews – retail shopping center with shared designated parking areas
  • Blakeney – mixed development with five means of egress in multiple lots
  • Uptown – parking garage with two entrances
Our locations alone make a big difference in how we serve as a parking team.

Here are some interesting parking factors anyone with a parking team might consider:

1. Our parking teams have more fun than you can pay for!
2. We understand the power of a great first impression.
3. We understand the letdown of a poor first impression.
4. Safety is at the top of our list; juggling lines of moving cars and walking people is always a balancing act.
5. Multiple parking lots with many entrances and exits (Blakeney, Matthews, and Providence Campuses) are great-until you try to staff all them at once.
6. Traffic cones are a wonderful invention (see #5).
7. People sometimes pay more attention to a traffic cone than a person in a vest directing traffic flow.
8. Parking teams have to know everything about the church in order to answer guest’s questions.
9. Sharing parking spaces with retail stores (Blakeney, Matthews Campuses) is a science – and an art.
10. Checklists help parking teams do it right, every time.
11. Grace helps the parking team deal with situation when #10 doesn’t work.
12. Safety orange is everybody’s favorite color!
13. With large multiple lots, two-way radios help direct traffic flow efficiently
14. Parking garages (Uptown Campus) are a whole different world, especially when they also serve two very large nightclubs.
15. When in parking areas with major attractions nearby, the parking team will be asked directions, times, etc. A little knowledge and a great smile make a great first impression even when someone isn’t coming to Elevation.

All Parking Teams do is help guests find spaces to park their cars, right? At Elevation, there’s so much more to being a part of the parking team.

We serve everyone with audacious, radical hospitality – “just” by parking cars!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Virtual Experience

Guests coming to your church have already checked you out - maybe in person, but almost certainly online.

What are your digital experiences telling your guests?

My good friend Mark MacDonald, founder of Pinpoint Creative Group, is the best source on church digital information around.

Go here to view his website for all kinds of great information on the church digital world.

Go here to download his eBook on "The Ten Commandments of Church Websites."

Becoming a Experience Architect begins in the digital world.

Friday Resource Wrap-Up

A companion resource to Mark Waltz's excellent book "First Impressions" is his book "Lasting Impressions." Picking up were the first book left off, "Lasting Impressions" will help you discover how to create a church culture that encourages connections - lasting impressions - and continually draws people deeper into the life of your church...and of the Kingdom.

Another excellent resource is Nelson Searcy's book "Fusion." Searcy is the founding pastor of The Journey Church in New York City. "Fusion" is an innovative, practical guide full of practical, how-to-information, testimonials from newcomers-turned-members, and helpful materials and check points to make sure you stay on track.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It All Starts with a Single Word

When it comes to ChurchWorld, more often than not we have visitors.

It may be a little thing to you, just a word, but I think it's actually a powerful first impression that needs to change.

Do you have visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor's Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the service? And so on.

The first step in becoming an Experience Architect is to remove the word visitor from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

It's little thing, to be sure. But it's a mindset change that will really impact how you create the rest of the experience at your church.

You are expecting guests this weekend.

Guests come to your place, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience designed to make them feel like, well, guests. Nothing phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just welcome them as guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences you can.

Can we agree to start with a simple change that conveys a powerful image, one that will be reflected throughout your church?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creating an Experience Blueprint

Now that you have a basic understanding of one critical part of guest services, it's time to go back to school - design school

Becoming an Experience Architect
One of the game-changing concepts related to guest services came from Tim Brown's book "Change by Design". Brown, the CEO of the innovation and design firm IDEO, has challenged my thinking about design in a number of ways: it's not just for creative industries or people designing products. Design thinking is most powerful when applied to abstract, multifaceted problems that address a wide range of issues and concerns. Problems that the typical church encounters every day!

Here's a great example from one chapter on the design of experience:

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

Wow-that's a lot to think about! In the world of serving the church where I work and live, the concepts of designing for experience are so important, yet so often totally overlooked. Brown goes on to talk about 3 "themes" of the design of experiences:
  • The experience economy - people have shifted from passive consumption to active participation
  • Best experiences are not scripted at corporate headquarters but decided on the spot by service professionals who create an authentic, genuine, and compelling experience
  • Implementation is everything-an experience must be as finely crafted and precision-engineered as any other product
Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction, including emotive elements, from beginning to end.

It captures how people travel through an experience in time. Rather than trying to choreograph that journey, its function is to identify the most meaningful points and turn them into opportunities to positively impact the individual. What might be a source of discomfort or pain is now an opportunity for an experience that is distinctive, emotionally gratifying, and memorable.

The experience blueprint is at one and the same time a high-level strategy document and a fine-grained analysis of the details that matter.

It's time to create an Experience Blueprint for your Guest Services!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crash Course in the A Word... in Assimilation

The opening of baseball season is just around the corner, so maybe a little "baseball analogy" is in order to help with this "A" word. Click on the links below to look at posts relating to guest services and the assimilation process.

First of all, it's nice to have a winning team.

Then, it helps to get a hit.

Of course, proper hitting requires proper follow-through.

And finally, you always want to stay in the game.

As depicted in the posts above, assimilation is really just a definition of biblical hospitality, applied in today's world, using today's methods.

The goal is to have first time guests become second time guests who become regular attenders who then become members.

It's not rocket science, but it does take some planning and follow-up.

And when you do that, you can hit a home run every time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jumping Ahead to Easter

I'm eight days into a 40-day series of posts about the importance of guest services, especially this year (read the kick-off post here). I thought it would be appropriate to jump to the end so you can get your orientation.

Imagine with me...
It's Easter Sunday night (or the end of the weekend, for those of you that have multiple services spread out over the weekend). You have had great numbers of guests and attenders in your services today. Everything went off pretty well as planned. You're tired - probably just plain worn out. You can't think about another thing.

That's why you need to think about it today (if you haven't already, and I hope you have).

So what are you going to do with the information you collected on all your guests and attenders?

You did collect information, right?

You do have a plan to follow-up on all those people, right?

It's already started, correct?

Just is case you haven't, don't panic! There is still time (with a lot of hard work over the next few weeks) to plan, prepare, and process information that you can gather at Easter services.

Information that will help you connect with guests, and lead them to take the next step in their faith journey...

...even if they don't realize they have one!

Tomorrow: Crash Course in the A word

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Turning the Ordinary into EXTRAORDINARY!

At Starbucks, an ordinary commodity - coffee - is transformed into an EXTRAORDINARY experience.

ChurchWorld can learn a lesson or two - or three from Starbucks.

To learn more about the secrets to EXTRAORDINARY customer experiences at Starbucks, click on these links below to previous posts:




How can you apply these lessons at your church?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Your Church Has Competition...

...and it's not the church down the street.

Like it or not, we live in a consumer-driven society, and the people who come to our church - you and me - and the people we are trying to reach are consumers.

With consumers comes competition.

If your church is going to be effective in its mission, you must beat the competition.

Pretty strong words by Mark Waltz, author of "First Impressions."

But dead on accurate.

The good news is that our "competition" is not the other churches in your town. As a matter of fact, they're on your team.

So who is your competition? Here is how Waltz sees it:

Your competition, the rival that will keep people away from your church, is any business, services, or experience your guests have encountered in the past few weeks.

That competition includes restaurants, malls, golf courses, amusement parks, movie theaters, sporting events, and so on.

Bottom line: the competition for your guests began when they were wowed in another environment. Your guests have high expectations that are formed every day from new encounters with excellence and conscientious care.

Although too much of their world is merely adequate, they know excellence, and they return to place where they experience it.

Bottom bottom line: Will your guests' experience in your church be worth getting out of bed?

Thanks, Mark, for a challenging word on the critical importance of understanding who our competition is.

Now it's time to do something about it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making Your First Impression a Lasting Impression

Mark Waltz, author of "First Impressions," suggests the following word-association exercise:

Look at the following list, and jot down your first thought about each place. Don't spend a lot of time on this - just write the first thought that comes to mind.
  • McDonald's
  • Your last hotel stay (not the name of the hotel, but your impression of it)
  • Your last airline experience (again, not the name of the company)
  • Your bank
  • Your local church
  • Starbucks
Now take a moment to evaluate the impressions you jotted down. Which reflect your feelings from initial encounter, and which ones describe your thoughts at the end of your experience with that organization? What does this tell you about the impressions we retain?

Organizations that understand the lasting nature of first impressions also understand that people matter. When people matter, guests are wowed. And when guests are wowed, they know they matter.

What kind of lasting impression is your first impression making?

Friday Resource Wrap up

This week kicks off a 40 Day Journey of Guest Services, leading up to Easter Sunday, followed 2 weeks later by Mother's Day - which just happen to be 2 of the 3 largest attended church services in America's typical church.

I hope the posts this week will serve as an appetizer for you to dive into the main course - found in some of the following resources:

This week I've drawn heavily on the single best resource for Guest Services available today: the book "First Impressions" by Mark Waltz, Connections Pastor at Granger Community Church near South Bend, IN, and campus pastor of their Elkhart campus. If you want to know about Guest Services, get a copy of this book today!

I've also utilized "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless" by Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales and customer service expert. His primary market is the business world, but I've found dozens of applications to ChurchWorld in his writings.

What's Ahead:

Saturday - Who is your competiton?
Sunday - Turn the Ordinary into EXTRAORDINARY!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making a WOW! First Impression

Several years ago I experienced a WOW! First Impression while eating out. It came from great guest experiences over consecutive days from two establishments at opposite ends of the dining spectrum: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. In both instances, the staff went beyond the expectations to deliver exemplary service. You expect it at one, but are surprised at the other, right? Why should price be any indicator of the level of service delivered?

What about a place with no "price" at all - the church?

When was the last time you had a WOW! experience - at church or anywhere else?
  • WOW! is great service
  • WOW! separates the EXTRAordinary from the ordinary
  • WOW! separates the sincere from the insincere
  • WOW! separates the yes's from the no's
  • WOW! is doing what others can't (or won't)
  • WOW! is what you do for others in an exceptional way
  • WOW! is communicating you care
  • WOW! is creating a memorable experience
Remember some WOW! moments
Recall a couple of times you've been wowed. Who blew you away with excellent service? Who surprised you with remarkably good quality? Who impressed you with a product's value? What did the people involved in these experiences do? How did the actions and behavior affect you?

Did those experiences want to make you return to that place? My guess is a definite yes!

The same is true of guests in our churches. The churches delivering experiences which exceed guests' expectations are those to which people return, again and again, until they're no longer guests but full-fledged members of the church community.

Now that's a WOW!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Consumer in Your Mirror

Does the word "consumer" bother you when used in the context of ChurchWorld?

If you view a consumer strictly in the language of business, it can be offensive when used in the context of church. Who wants to be a part of consumer mentality where the object is to satisfy the wants (both stated and unstated) of individuals? Who wants to focus on telling people what they want to hear? Who really enjoys enabling a selfish, me-first attitude?

Not you, right?

Go look in the mirror.

Standing before you is a consumer - whether you like it or not. You are a consumer: you have daily or weekly food needs that are satisfied by the grocery store or a restaurant. You need clothing - provided by a variety of stores. You have cash coming in and going out, so you need the financial services of a bank. The house or apartment you live in requires maintenance and upkeep, so it's off to the local home improvement store. When you have leisure time, it's off to the movie theaters, or downloading the latest movie, or maybe taking in a concert. For birthdays and certain holidays, there are gifts to buy for your loved ones. Parents with kids in school have multiple occasions to buy this book or that resource in order to meet the requirements. And on and on and on...

The fact is, we consume. (too much, but that's another story altogether)

Guess what? The people coming to your church - for the first time or the fifteenth time - are consumers too.

Ignore that fact, and your guests will come once - and never return.

Recognize that fact, take appropriate actions, and you will soon have guests who become regular attenders who become involved members.

Are you ready for the journey to WOW?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You've Planned the Music and Sermon Well...

...but will your guests even notice?

The Power of a First Impression

Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive First Impression. In the first seven minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back.

That's before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.

Nelson Searcy, pastor of Journey Church in New York City, wrote the above words in his book "Fusion." They're a timely reminder that we only get to make a first impression once.

Obviously, the First Impression isn't a logical decision based on theological integrity or staff character or doctrinal character. The power of a First Impression comes from a more rudimentary level - our subconscious.

What is the subconscious finding at your place?

Monday, March 14, 2011

40 - 2 - 3

40 days from tomorrow (March 15) it will be Easter Sunday...
After Easter, there are 2 weeks until Mother's Day...
It's 3 weeks from Mother's Day till the beginning of summer...

So what?

Here's what...

I'm a HUGE advocate of Guest Services in the church. What we do to prepare for guests is so important in how guests perceive the church - and whether they will return or not.

Tomorrow I'm kicking off a 40 day series of posts on how churches can make smart decisions on preparing for, and following up on, guests who are at their churches for Easter and Mother's Day.

If you want to go more in depth on any of these topics, give me a call or send an email.

You have a tremendous opportunity coming up...

Don't waste it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Genius of the "AND" in Real Life

In the fall of 2005, I attended the Coast to Coast Multi-Site Conference at Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL. While there I talked with some of the staff members, who shared with me a practical application of "The Genius of the AND."

The following illustrates how Dave Ferguson, lead pastor of CCC, views the concept of multi-site: by comparing them to what goes on in the banking, health care, higher education - and church settings.

Our institutions are growing larger and smaller simultaneously, blending the strength that size offers with the comfort and convenience of smaller, closer venues. This is one example of what Jim Collins in “Built to Last” called "the genius of the AND," the paradoxical view that allows you to pursue both A and B simultaneously.

While developing our multi-site church, we discovered these advantages that all demonstrate the genius of the AND:

Brand new AND trusted brand
We've found a similar dynamic with the multi-site church. It has the upside of what used to be denominational loyalty, which was prominent in yesteryear but now is found in congregational loyalty. The particular congregation is the trusted brand, and the opening of a new site makes it brand new.

Staff with generalists AND specialists
The multi-site church allows you to start a new location with the existing staff in place. Instead of hiring more generalists, you add specialists such as technical arts, administrator, or director of creative arts for children.

Less cost AND greater impact
Financially, a new campus is tremendously cost effective. When we started our north campus (our first) we spent lots of money on staff, equipment, and marketing. When we started our south campus (our second site), we spent less money, added specialists to our existing staff team, and a similar marketing blitz. We had 565 at the first service, but more importantly, after three months we were averaging 360 at our south campus, again 80 percent unchurched. Doing the math, that's 39 percent retention at our first location, and 64 percent retention at our second location. Our second campus cost less money to start, reached more people, and resulted in a greater retention.

New church vibe AND big church punch
Lyle Schaller told us, "The most important thing you offer to this new work is your large church culture." At first I wasn't sure what he was talking about. He meant expectations and excellence. We were able to launch the second site with the same level of excellence that it took us eight years to achieve at our north campus.

Move there AND stay here
Growing churches and real estate have this in common: "location, location, location." Many existing churches, particularly older churches, are located in communities with little growth. These churches look across town where new development is happening and they see the potential. Perhaps many of their members are moving there. After looking at their options, instead abandoning their existing site to move to the booming west side, they can choose to "move there and stay here." That keeps a campus in the downtown neighborhood with an intentional outreach to the community, and allows the launch of a campus in one of the faster growing areas.

More need AND more support
As we think about a new site, we lay out a matrix of about 100 blanks, representing the positions we need to fill in order for us to launch. The increased opportunities create a vacuum that challenges more people to step in to serve in voluntary leadership roles in all areas, such as children's, hospitality, and small groups.

More outreach AND more maturity
While people will drive long distances to join the weekly celebration service at a large church, if they live more than 20 minutes away, their ability to serve and to invite friends is diminished. A multi-site campus allows them to participate in volunteer teams as well as small groups.The multi-site church reaches out to make both more Christians and more mature Christians.

That's the Genius of the "AND" in real life.

How are you going to put it into practice at your organization?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Embrace the Genius...

of the "AND"

Instead of being oppressed by the "Tyranny of the OR," highly visionary leaders - and the organizations they lead - liberate themselves with the "Genius of the AND" - the ability to embrace both extremes or dimensions at the same time.

Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.

Jim Collins first introduced this line of thinking in "Built to Last" in 1994. Intended primarily for the business audience, it wasn't long till perceptive church leaders picked up the idea and ran with it.

For example, here are a few ways it might play out in ChurchWorld:

On the one hand                                 Yet on the other hand
a fixed core ideology          AND        vigorous change 
conserve the core              AND         bold, risky moves
clear vision and direction    AND        experimentation 
leaders steeped in the core AND        leaders who induce change
ideological control              AND        operational autonomy
close-knit culture               AND        ability to change and adapt
long-term goals                 AND        short-term performance

This is not just a balancing act. "Balance" implies going to the midpoint, fifty-fifty, half and half. Visionary leaders lead organizations that seek to have a fixed core ideology and take vigorous change to the extreme.

There's no gray, cloudy, shapeless mass in these organizations. It's a bold attempt to be both "this" AND "that" - at the same time, all the time.

Need a real-life example in ChurchWorld? Come back tomorrow and see how some of the early pioneers in today's multi-site movement used the genius of the "AND" to launch a movement.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reject the Tyranny...

... of the "OR"

Without a doubt one of the most influential business writers of the past 15 years has been Jim Collins. Some of the most respected leaders in ChurchWorld list his works as tremendously important in the foundation of critical elements of their development - both as individuals and of their ministries.

Level 5 Leadership - First Who, Then What - Hedgehog Concept - Culture of Discipline - The Flywheel - BHAG

If you recognize these phrases, then you are probably familiar with Collins' work. If you don't, I suggest you check out "Built to Last," "Good to Great," "How the Mighty Fall," and "Good to Great and the Social Sectors."

Of all his insightful work, my favorite is the brilliantly simple concept of dualism, referred to in the title. I'll introduce it today, and finish it tomorrow.

The Tyranny of the "OR"

It's easy to understand why leaders - or organizations - subscribe to the rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time. The "Tyranny of the OR" pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both. It makes such proclamations as:
  • You can have change OR stability
  • You can be conservative OR bold
  • You can have low cost OR high quality
  • You can have creative autonomy OR consistency and control
  • You can invest for the future OR do well in the short-term
  • You can make progress by methodical planning OR by opportunistic groping
  • You can be idealistic OR pragmatic

Is there a natural principle at work here like gravity? "That's the way things have always been"; That's the we we've always done it"; "It's always worked that way before, so why change it now?"

I think not.

There is a better way...

Monday, March 7, 2011


Usually the word elicits one of two responses: a glassy-eyed stare and memories of those required classes in school that were mind-numbing, or an excited look followed by the phrase "Did you know that..."

I, proudly, am guilty of the latter.

Not content to read and study "normal" history (both my undergraduate and graduate minors are in history), I default to the obscure and strange. Who else would read books on the history of salt - or the history of dust - or the history of cod. Yes, cod. The little fish, that when salted, kept it edible for long sea voyages, allowing the "discovery" of the Americas by Europeans, among other uses (that's a two-for-one use of history, in case you didn't notice).

Leaders need to understand history, too.

Not just the history of books, though that's a great start. Leaders in the local church need to know the history of the people and place they are serving.

Only by understanding the past can you ever hope to lead to the future. Will Mancini, author of "Church Unique" and founder of Auxano, calls that "vision equity." It's the stories and actions over the years that have led that church to the place it is today. It's the solid foundation that tomorrow is built on. To be ignorant of it or to ignore it is an invitation to mediocrity at best, or disaster at worst.

History is a rock. Not an anchor to the past, but a bridge to the future.

Are you a student of the history of the people and place you serve? If not, there's still time.

Class starts today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The World of Seven Billion

A few weeks ago I participated in an economic summit hosted by New Dominion Bank in Charlotte. During one of the presentations on the global economy, the presenter referenced the following video:


I was reminded of this video by the poster in the March issue of National Geographic. A previous post referenced the striking composite image on one side of the poster.

The reverse side of the poster takes a closer look - through statistics - of where and how our seven billion neighbors live. Through four broad ranges of income level, it graphically depicts 16 "measurements" of world population.

When the Earth's population hits seven billion later this year, the percentage of people with a decent standard of living will be higher than it has ever been before. While inequality still abounds, the gap between the world's poorest and richest is now filled by a broad middle-income group that scarcely existed on a global  scale 50 years ago. More children live to be adults, and fewer adults die of preventable disease.

A few of the more notable highlights:
  • Population - most future population growth will happen in the less developed countries, where birthrates remain highest
  • Life expectancy at birth - improved health care and nutrition have raised life expectancy from a global average of 52 years in 1960 to 69 years today
  • Deaths under age 5 - worldwide improvement continues in preventing deaths of children; since 1960 it has fallen by more than half
If you don't have access to National Geographic, head to the nearest library and take a look at it.

Your future depends on how you understand our global neighbors.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

7 Billion...

The number of text messages sent in the U.S. every 30 seconds...

The number of steps you would take when circling the earth 133 times...

The number of kilometers in Pluto's maximum distance from the sun...

More importantly,

the estimated population of the world this year.

National Geographic magazine - one of my favorites since childhood - has a fascinating poster insert in the March 2011 issue. Entitled "The Face of 7 Billion," it is a depiction of the "most typical human."

The poster is a work of art itself: the composite image is made of 7,000 photos of 28 year-old Han Chinese males, each representing a million people. 

According to statistics, the most typical human is a 28-year-old Han Chinese male. The world's largest age bracket is 28, the largest ethnic group is Han, and with 1.3 billion people, the most populous nation is China.

Other notable facts about the world's population:
  • 82% are literate
  • 51% live in urban environments
  • 40% work in services
  • 19% are Chinese
An interesting fact about the stats above - all will continue to increase, except the last - in a few years India will be the most populous nation on earth.

The world is getting bigger - and smaller - at the same time.

How does this impact you now?

How does this impact the next generation?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why the Language of Culture Matters

I really can't say it any better that James Emery White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church, says it:

The Words of the Year

Read it.

Ponder it.

Get out and listen to the language of the culture you are trying to reach and impact.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Altitude Effects Attitude

Take a drive through the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains, especially around Asheville, and you will see why the city adopted the above saying as their tagline.

Chamber of Commerce thinking aside, being aware of your altitude also helps when reviewing your priorities in order to get things done. In order to fully understand your priorities, you meed to know what your work is. Using an aerospace analogy by management consultant David Allen, the conversations you need to be having have a lot to do with altitude:

50,000 feet: Life - this is the "biggest picture" view you can have. Why does your organization exist? The primary purpose for anything provides a core definition of what its "work" really is. All goals, visions, objectives, projects, and actions both derive from this, and lead toward it.

40,000 feet: Three to Five Year Vision - projecting three to five years into the future generates thinking about big categories like organization strategies, trends, and transition circumstances. Decisions at this altitude could easily change what your work might look like on many levels.

30,000 feet: One to Two Year Goals - One to two year goals add a new dimension to defining your work. Meeting goals and objectives often require a shift in emphasis of your job focus.

20,000 feet: Areas of Responsibility - You create or accept most of your projects because of your responsibilities, which for most people can be defined in ten to fifteen categories. These are key areas in which you want to achieve results and maintain standards. Listing and reviewing these responsibilities gives a more comprehensive framework for evaluating your inventory of projects.

10,000 feet: Current Projects - Creating many of the actions that you currently have in front of you are the thirty to one hundred projects on your plate. These are relatively short term outcomes you want to achieve.

Runway: Current Actions - this is the accumulated list of all the actions you need to take - phone calls to make, emails to respond to, errands you need to run, and the agendas you want to communicate to your boss or team.

Though these altitude analogies are somewhat arbitrary, they provide a useful framework to remind you of the multi-layered nature of your "job" and the resulting commitments and tasks it demands.

Mastering the flow of work at all the "altitudes" you experience that work provides a "flight plan" that will help you accomplish a great deal and feel good in the process.

Fasten your seat belts and make sure your tray tables are in the upright and locked position -'s time for your framework for decision-making to take flight.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Presentation Generation

Garr Reynolds, author of the best-selling books "Presentation Zen" and "Presentation Zen Design" is a leading authority on presentation design and delivery.

His latest book - "The Naked Presenter" - focuses primarily on the presentation delivery process. With a foundation in the Japanese concepts of simplicity and naturalness, it will help you make natural connections with your audience and deliver powerful presentations that are effective and remembered.

Today I want to begin a periodic sampling of some of the key ideas in Reynolds books. I hope you find them intriguing enough to get a copy for your own use - after all, every leader is a presenter.

Presentation Generation
The ability to stand and deliver a powerful presentation that engages the whole minds of the audience has never been more important than today. The ability to speak passionately, clearly, and visually is more important than ever before - partly because of the fantastic reach that our talks have, largely thanks to the power of online video.

What you day and what you present visually today can now be captured easily and cheaply in video and webcast around the world for anyone to see. The potential of your speech or your presentation to change things - maybe even change the world - goes far beyond the words spoken. Words are important, but if it were just about words, you could create a detailed document, disseminate it, and that would be that.

Effective presentations allow you to amplify the meaning of your words.

What does this mean to you as a leader in your organization? How do you approach presentations - from one-on-one to a group of a few dozen or to a crowd of hundreds or thousands?

Bert Decker, author and speaking coach, says presentations need to move from information to influence, beginning at the intellectual and passive quadrant and moving to the active and emotional quadrant.

Seth Godin puts it this way: A presentation is a precious opportunity. It's a powerful speaker, an attentive audience, all in their seats, paying attention (at least at first).

Don't waste it.