Changing a culture ain’t for the faint-hearted.
If you are new to your guest services role – or if you’re trying to introduce a hospitable culture in your church – it is going to take a steady hand and a strong back. Moving a group of people from a “We’ve never done it this way before” mentality has never been easy, and it won’t be a downhill roll into a field of cotton candy flowers on this trip, either.
If you’re struggling with bringing people on board – whether it’s your church members, your volunteers, your lay leaders, or even your church staff – there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Remember that most people aren’t being intentionally obstinate. Some will be. That’s the cold hard truth. But most people aren’t as obstinate as they are oblivious. They don’t understand why a revitalized culture is necessary. We do ourselves no favors when we start with the assumption that other people are inherently against us. Treat the “they” more like a “we” and you might see culture change a little quicker. Be a cheerleader, not a chump.
2. Read a book together. You can talk about what you’ve read, but if you’re like me, your recap of a book will never be as compelling as the actual book. Buy a few copies for your staff or volunteers and gather for some mutual learning. I recommend books like First Impressions, How to Wow Your Church Guests, Be Our Guest, or The Starbucks Experience. (See my full recommended reading list, or order discounted bulk copies of my Plumb Lines booklet.)
3. Gather around common language. I’ll admit that I was the staff jerk when our guest services culture was beginning to change. In staff meetings someone might ask, “How many visitors did we have last weekend?” My all-too-common reply was, “Well, none, actually, but we had a lot of guests!” Jerk move, perhaps. But today, “guest” is the common vernacular, and we have outlawed the V-word.
4. Repeat the vision. Go back to your why as much as you need to. (And you need to far more often than you might suspect.) Every time you begin to get pushback on culture change, lovingly, kindly, graciously remind your team why you’re doing this.
5. Celebrate small victories. When a guest takes steps towards the gospel, remind your team that’s due in part to their service. When people are added to the volunteer base, celebrate the fact that more people are buying into the vision. Don’t give up easy chances for positive reinforcement.
6. Identify issues and share ideas. Become an expert not only of your current culture, but of the cultures of your surrounding teams. If it’s not in your jurisdictional leadership, you might not be able to directly change it, but you can influence it. Figure out what is broken, and share helpful ideas that are easy to implement. Not all of the ideas you generate will fly, but some will be appreciated and utilized.
7. Ask “How may I serve you?” A lot. Approach the cultural shift with a heart of service. After all, if this is all about you, it’s doomed to failure from the beginning. In conversations with other ministry leaders (kids, worship, small groups, etc.), let them know you’re in their corner. Offer to help train their teams. Do whatever it takes to spread the guest services DNA as far as you can, as fast as you can.
Have you navigated cultural change with your guest services mindset? Tell us how you banged the drum a little less in-your-face than this guy. Comment below.
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