Monday, May 28, 2012

The Hospitality Problem

The church where I currently serve is full of wonderful people, but there's no true hospitality system in place.  I'm a firm believer in systems ... With people involved that know how to fix things that are broken and aren't afraid to move toward new and necessary directions.

But like I said, I serve with a church full of wonderful people, we just need a system to help grow things.  About two months ago I wrote a plan to start from, knowing that we're starting from scratch.  I kind of went out on a limb here, as this is involvement of a different level from me.  What I wrote is nowhere near rocket science ... A church's hospitality should go without saying.  This is a working document for our church, but I'm throwing out to the universe to see what other churches are doing right now!

A Map to Hospitality
Hospitality is defined as ‘kindness in welcoming strangers or guests.’
At the Louisiana Conference’s ordination service in 2009, I heard LAUMC Bishop William Hutchinson say, “The true measure of any Christian should always be their hospitality.”  He said this in the context of a sermon on Paul’s imprisonment and offering of salvation to his jailers.  With that spirit in mind, and also being conscious of an idea of worship starting as soon as we set foot on campus, I offer a rough map of a Welcoming Ministry at FUMCD.  It involves three distinct groups, working hand in hand, to welcome both our guests and our members.  These three groups would include a PARKING LOT MINISTRY (under Outreach/Evangleism), a HOSPITALITY TEAM (a new ministry) and USHERS (under Worship Ministries).  I think it should go without saying, that there would need to be staff support of these ministries at both administrative and program levels.
Step 1 – Parking Lot Ministry
This, as it’s ‘outside’, would fall under our Outreach/Evangelism Team. 
I think we all know that we have a large, sprawling campus.  It’s difficult to navigate, and this is where a Parking Lot team would come into play.  We would have a group of people who are very visible outside on Sunday morning, ready to greet people as they pull up to our campus.  We would probably need some kind of reflective vest for these people (as many large churches are doing these days).  They would assist our guests in finding their way around our campus.  Obviously, they would need to know our campus layout like the back of their own hands, especially when it comes to areas of education and the nursery.  As an added benefit, it will also make our campus more secure on Sunday morning.
They would also encourage new guests to stop by the Narthex to meet the Hospitality Team.
Step 2 – The Hospitality Team
This group would constitute a new, stand alone ministry, or at least a rebooting of the ministry we currently have.  Somehow or another the team would need to be built of people who really embody and show the spirit of Christian hospitality in the best possible ways.
The Hospitality Team would cover the doors into the Narthex and greet new guests and members.  This Team would be ready with clear and correct information on the church’s ministries.  Of primary importance is greeting first time and continuing guests.  We rely too much on people signing in on the information sheets; this team will do their very best to get guest information before guests head into the sanctuary for worship.  While the team will be extremely active before and after worship, the team would also help guide guests to the appropriate Sunday school classes during the Sunday school hour.  They would not just tell people how to get there; they would take guests to the different places.  This is crucial.  They would also be ready with a packet of information and a little gift for first time guests.  They would also help disseminate information on first time guests to the various ministries they would be interested in (i.e. Children, Youth, Music …).
The Hospitality Team would hand off the guests to the Ushers.
Step 3 – The Ushers
This ministry team would fall under our Worship Ministries.
According to the first definition of the word usher on, and usher is a person who ‘escorts people to seats in a theatre or church’.  This isn’t really happening, but it could.  Our ushers have many responsibilities that would not change.  They hand out bulletins and take up the offering, as well as guiding congregants during special rituals like Holy Communion.  The only thing that really needs to change here is the spirit of the service.  Our ushers need to also be serving as greeters, and while they need to greet every congregant, special attention needs to be given to those who are new among us.  If we have a new guest the Usher Team will also be responsible for guiding that person or family into the pews, or ‘usher’ them in.  Thankfully, we already have wonderful people who have been called to our ushering ministry; they just need guidance in their role in our hospitality vision.

If we set a vision, and put these three teams to work together, it can dramatically change how we minister to guests and also those already in full membership to our church family.  A good smile can start off anyone’s day on the right note.

The most important part of the system for me is that it requires a lot of people to work together.  It's staff supported and resourced, but not specifically staff-run.

So ... What is your church doing to catch guests?