Hospitality – So important, why so rare?

My job allows me the opportunity to worship in a different church almost every week. Much of that time I am the guest speaker, but other times I’m just out visiting int he churches in our network. I find most of our churches to a fairly good job at worship (our tribe ranges from almost “high” church, to traditional, to blended, to contemporary and beyond).

However, the thing I find most surprising is the poor job a lot of churches do at welcoming guests. This is one of my “soapbox” issues. But the reason it is a hot topic for me is that it can be so damaging! People… if you don’t make me feel welcome, why would I ever come back?

I would categorize churches on the hospitality scale as follows:

Deer in the headlights – In some churches it is obvious that a guest is the last thing they expect to see on a Sunday morning. When we walk in, several people just stare at us. Finally some ole’ boy will come up in put a bulletin in our hands. It is no wonder these churches don’t have guests on a regular basis.

One big family – The people in these churches really love each other. They pride themselves in saying that they are the friendliest church in town. When you walk in, they are all busy talking with each other and catching up on the week’s events. They love each other so much, they don’t even notice a new person. They mean well, but they come off as the least friendly church in town.

Everyone knows the Playbook – Many churches just assume you already know where to find things and how they do things. They don’t use signs or greeters or any other means of helping first time guests figure out what is going on.

The Welcome Center Church – This one is a little better. They have established a “welcome center” where people are given the task of being nice to newcomers. I find a few problems with the Welcome Center Church. If you arrive before the center is “manned” on Sunday you are out of luck. (Hint, Guests often arrive early on their first visit.) Another problem with these churches is that the Welcome Center is sometimes hard to find. There are no signs or people outside directing guests to the right door. And another problem I sometimes find in these churches is that no one else greets you since there are people who have that “job”.

The Truly Welcoming Church – These churches always expect guests, and everyone in the church is focused on making guests feel at home. They often have Welcome Centers, but their people go way beyond. On Sunday morning they focus on people they don’t know, rather than using this time to catch up with their friends. They save the best parking spots for guests, and their greeters are stationed outside so you know exactly which door to use. They have people on the greeting team to walk you to where you need to go (children’s area, restroom, auditorium).

All of this seems so simple – why do so many churches miss it?



Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

In their book Exponential (p. 58-59) Dave and Jon Ferguson give this great list of 12 indicators that leadership is lacking in your life:

1. I wait for someone to tell me what to do rather than taking the initiative myself.

2. I spend too much time talking about how things should be different.

3. I blame the context, surroundings or other people for my current situation.

4. I am more concerned about being cool or accepted than doing the right thing.

5. I seek consensus rather than casting vision for a preferable future.

6. I am not taking any significant risks.

7. I accept the status quo as the way it’s always been and always will be.

8. I start protecting my reputation instead of opening myself up to opposition.

9. I procrastinate to avoid making a tough call.

10. I talk to others about the problem rather than taking it to the person responsible.

11. I don’t feel like my butt is on the line for anything significant.

12. I ask for way to many opinions before taking action.

So, how about you. Are any of these true for you?




Four Decisions part 3

This the third in a four part blog taken from an article by strategy guru Verne Harnish. My comments follow a brief description by Harnish:


Execution challenges surface when your increasing revenues are not generating increasing profits. I’ve seen many firms triple their revenue, because they have capitalized on a differential advantage, only to see their profitability drop because of the sloppiness of their execution.

The other indication of poor execution is pure hours spent delivering your products or services. When execution is haphazard, the organization has to rely on the “heroics” of their people putting in incredible hours to just keep the wheels from falling off the organization. By simply tightening up your execution habits, you can dramatically improve gross margins and profitability while reducing the time it takes for everyone to complete their work.

My Comments

Again, he is talking about business here, but I see critical applications for the church as well. The most obvious place of poor execution in the church is in our most visible expression – Sunday worship. It is amazing to me how many church worship services are just plain sloppy. It is as if no one put any thought at all into execution. I know this one will get me in trouble, but it is true.

I believe God calls for our best, and this includes the way we organize and execute corporate worship. Like Harnish mentions, we rely way too much on “the heroics of our people”. Pastors, how far in advance do you plan your services? Is this enough time for the rest of your team to plan their part? Do you expect the worship leader to pick the right music at the last minute? Do you expect the tech team to slap together some slides on Sunday morning? Do you find yourself saying, “Let’s just wing it” on a regular basis? Our God and our people deserve better than that.

Some will say, “Well, I rely on the Holy Spirit”. Don’t you think the Holy Spirit is capable of inspiring in advance? Don’t you think God knew on day one what he was going to do on day six of creation? Or do you think he said, “I’ll just wing it.” We absolutely need to leave space for spontaneity in our worship events. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan and execute well.

We should pay attention to our execution of every critical system in the church. How well do you execute the Connecting System in your church? This includes appropriate and timely follow up of guests, events to help orient new comers and new member processes. You need to be obsessive about the execution of these. In my last pastorate we spent more time in staff meeting each week on this one system than on everything else we did. It resulted in substantial church growth.

Think for a minute about those systems that are critical to your church? How much attention is paid to the regular execution of these systems.