You Need to Attract Visitors—but How Do You Get Them to Return?

If you want to be great at something, you need to learn from people who do great things (a hotel, in this case).

Attract Visitors

Quick, name the top five churches you know that do a great job with guest services. Not so easy? Now try this, name the top five companies or organizations you know that do a great job with guest services. A little easier huh?

Why is it that the one organization on the planet that should care the most about people, the church, seems to get a bad rap for the way it treats people?

The other day I had the opportunity to spend a half-day with the staff at Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) learning from the good folks over at Marriott about building a great guest service experience. If you want to be great at something you need to learn from people who do great things. Too bad there wasn’t church providing world-class service in this area we could learn from. Here’s a couple of take aways from our time together.

Nothing makes a guest feel more stupid than using internal language and jargon.

In other words stop using insider language. The most obvious way to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.” And it’s important because words build worlds. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches. Preaching as though everyone already knows Jesus and comes to the room with basic Bible knowledge, coming up with cool names and brands for ministries that mean nothing to people outside the church, and mentioning people from stage by name without explaining who they are just a couple of them. Two big principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you choose to use in your church are: clear always trumps cute or cool, and you’re always better off just calling things what they are. No one outside of your church understands what CR, Awana, FPU or Re-Engage means…sorry for the rant.

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G.U.E.S.T.
G.reet the Guest

Be well kept, make eye contact, wear a smile and have an open welcoming posture. A simple, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here with us today,” will do. Don’t ask how people are doing unless you have time to stop and hear how they’re actually doing. Don’t ask unless you actually care to know. And by all means make sure your guest services volunteers are not huddled around talking with each other, instead ensure that they’re prepared and attentive to guests.

U.se the Guest’s Name

When possible, use the guest’s name. It’s not as difficult as you may think to acquire a guest’s name at church. If they’re checking in their children for the first time, you’re obviously going to get their name. And you can always introduce yourself and ask their name…then use it. A name is the most important thing a person owns.

E.stablish the Guests Needs

Take time to understand what the guest needs. Are they looking around like they’ve never been there before? Are they looking for a restroom? Are they having a difficult time getting all of their kids into church? Don’t ask guests if they need help (men will always turn you down). Instead ask, “What can I help you find?” or “Let me help you.”

S.how Interest in the Guest

Think about how you can build a connection with a guest. Are they wearing sports paraphernalia? Is a child coming from a soccer game (wearing their uniform)? If it’s their first time attending, are they new to the area? Engage them in personal, yet unobtrusive, conversation.

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T.hank the Guest

When people leave after service simply be polite, and thank them for being with you that weekend. Instead of spamming people a simple thank you email and invitation to their next step if they’re ready to take it is kind. Drop them a personal handwritten note thanking them for attending.

Paul Alexander
Paul is a pastor, speaker, strategist, and ministry consultant at Tony Morgan Live. He has a passion for helping churches make vision real. For more than 11 years he has served on the senior leadership teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul serves as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.