Aug. 27, 2020 | by Bob Whitesel
I am a professional church shopper. That’s right, as part of my job coaching church leaders, I must analyze the fruit of their leadership. And toward that end, I conduct for every client at least three (and sometimes up to eight) secret church visits to analyze Sunday services.
During these visits I bring with me missional coaches in training. We enter the church at multiple entrances and pose as different types of visitors. Then together we write a report for the client on everything we experienced, from the parking lot, to the worship service until the time the visitors leave the church.
The early part of this experience is sometimes called “guest services” or “hospitality ministry.” And every church leader knows this is a critical area.
But here’s a shocker! Almost all church leaders think their church hospitality is much better than it actually is. In fact, I have found the greatest divergence between intention and reality is in the area of hospitality. Even churches that laud their hospitality are often hit-or-miss, if not slipshod, in the execution. I wish this were not the case. But more than any other recurring pattern that works against church health and growth, hospitality is usually the most disappointing for the visitors.
Therefore, I picked up with interest The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Church’s Guests to Return by Jason Young, director of guest experience at Northpoint Ministries (a megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia), and Jonathan Malm who coaches churches on guest services. Their book comes highly recommended, with an endorsement by Andy Stanley. And so, I looked forward to jumping into the topic.
The book is divided into 10 chapters. Each chapter deals with an important element of hospitality. I found the following chapters the most helpful.
Chapter 1 deals with the importance of showing love and acceptance to the guest, rather than just going through the motions of a program approach. The lesson here is to help people feel loved and accepted, rather than being pushed through an assimilation program. This was a good way to start the book, and very helpful.
Chapter 4 emphasized the importance of the guest services volunteers being “fully present” rather than distracted by the Sunday morning fellowship or services. This was helpful. Too often I’ve seen hospitality people overly enamored with their job or enthusiastically fellowshipping with other guest services people, so that they often ignore the visitor. This chapter discusses discipling the guest services volunteer in their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional maturity. The result is that they will serve more holistically and with maturity. This to me was the best chapter in the book.
The chapter on “Preparing for recovery” was a surprisingly helpful chapter. It reminds people that when executing programs things will go wrong. It encourages the guest services volunteer to prepare for mishaps. It reminds them of the importance of spiritual peace and overcoming problems, especially when the person wrestling with the problems may be the first person a seeker meets when they visit a church.
There were also a few chapters that had good potential, but for me missed the mark a bit.
Chapter 3 was titled, “Know the guest.” I thought this was going to be about knowing the needs of the guest. Instead it deals mainly with knowing the guests’ reactions and adjusting the program based on the reactions of the guests. Yet, research has shown that guests usually visit a church because of a spiritual/physical need or a question.
Dr. Flavil Yeakley, in his groundbreaking research at the University of Illinois, found that some of the major events that drive people to a church are: death in the family, marital/family problems or financial problems. Therefore, it may be more helpful to place the emphasis upon getting to know the needs of guests and being able to explain to them how Christ presents the answer. Thus, hospitality services should “know the guest” and their needs even more so than their reaction to a program.
The chapter “Think scene by scene” emphasizes that everything communicates. So this chapter focuses on perfecting the assimilation system through attention to detail. I’ve observed many churches try to perfect their assimilation process. However, without the budget of a megachurch, the small to large church often fails in perfecting its execution.
I had also hoped the chapter “Reach for significance” would deal with helping the guest discover their significant place in the body of Christ. Instead it dealt primarily with helping the guest services volunteer become significantly skilled at their duties.
Though a few chapters seemed overly focused on the volunteer instead of the guest, this book has many ideas that are relevant for any church that wishes to train its volunteers and help them connect with guests.
However, there is another book that might make a good companion to this one. It is written by the pastor of guest services at a sister church, The Summit Church. Danny Franks’ book is titled People are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel (Zondervan 2018). In this book, Franks emphasizes that guest services must have an overarching foundation and mission to understand the needs of those they’re reaching out to.
Putting guests’ needs first has become important to me in my understanding of hospitality ministry. This is because when I coach church leaders, I interview hospitality team members and I also interview newcomers. As I mentioned above, I often find the greatest dichotomy in their responses. The hospitality team usually feels that they are executing the program with excellence and effectiveness. But focus groups of recent guests usually feel that there is a lack of sympathy and connectedness with the needs of the visitor. However together, the two books cited make a comprehensive roadmap for any sized congregation to improve its hospitality ministries by balancing its ministry to its volunteers and to its mission field.
Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/book-review-the-come-back-effect-how-hospitality-can-compel-your-churchs-guests-to-return/