Each month, we revisit a series of posts called Guest Services Road Trip. We’ll travel the country from the comforts of our couches, interviewing leaders who are in the trenches of ministry. Do you have an idea for GSRT destination? Have a leader I need to talk to? Want the inside scoop on churches that seem to be doing this hospitality thing really well? Let’s talk.
MP Leek is the Connections Pastor at Passion Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. MP describes Passion as “an authentic, warm, messy, passionate family where everyone is welcome and nobody is perfect. This means we give each other a ton of grace and together will stop at nothing (short of sin) to get the Gospel out.”
MP has been a part of Passion since their launch in 2016 and lends staff leadership to their Guest Experience team on a weekly basis. You can catch up with him on Twitter.
What are the top three books you’ve read on the topic of guest services and/or volunteerism?
What does your training process look like for your Guest Experience volunteers (initially and/or ongoing)?
One of the best parts of being a young church is that we can experiment with things and get little to no pushback because we don’t have traditions in place yet. There is no “but this is how we’ve always done it.” So we are still finding our rhythms that work best for our Passion Family. (This may be a fancy way of saying we really don’t have a set in stone process) But, this year we have three GE training sessions and everyone must attend one. This is where we go over the “Why” of GE and some of our dos and don’ts. As Cockerell says in Creating Magic, “It’s not the magic that makes it work, it’s the way we work that makes it magic.” This idea translates into excellence in welcoming our guests which means returning guests. We have found that the more we can get our GE culture in front of our GE team, the better the responses are from our Guests.
How is your Guest Experience team structured (org chart, leadership pipeline, etc.)? Do you ever release Guest Experience volunteers to lead in other ministries?
We have an AMAZING couple (putting amazing in all caps doesn’t even do them justice) who serve as our Directors of GE. They are volunteers but handle all of the scheduling, appreciation, and logistics of GE. They have group leaders who run specific ministry groups (Ushers, Parking, Coffee, etc). The group leaders make sure that each group is ready to go for Sunday morning.
As a church plant you will take anyone who is available to volunteer. This means that for a long time we had people who served in many different roles as they were available for scheduling. As we have grown we are really trying to transition from availability to ability. We love seeing people get their own vision for using the gifts and abilities they have been given, and become specialist in their specific roles.
Is guest services a “silo ministry” in your church/ In other words, does your discipleship team, kids team, worship team, missions team, etc. view it as an essential part of their mission?
All of our teams view Guest Experience as part of their mission. Every team lives out our mantra that everyone is welcome, and it shows in the way they serve with eyes wide open always looking to go the extra step for our guests. We want to find people far from God and then love and lead them into fully engaged lives with Christ. It is really hard to do this if a guest is worried about the safety, cleanliness, and/or quality of our kids program. Our volunteer teams are becoming experts at removing distractions and obstacles to people hearing the Gospel.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
We have an area in our lobby called Guest Central. It is fairly new and is still developing but I have been really happy with it already. It is and will continue to grow into a “one stop shop” for our guests. You want to learn about volunteering, baptism, our beliefs, counseling, or joining a group? Go to Guest Central. It is a clear next step for every long time attender and first time guest. Making sure there is a clear next step is so important in the process of moving people from guest to fully engaged. I’m super excited to see this develop this year.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your Guest Experience team?
Challenges? What are those? Has any church no matter the age ever had enough GE team members? Besides the obvious answer of needing more volunteers, one challenge is transitioning people into the roles God has gifted them for and backfilling the hole that leaves in our team. We have the most amazing team and many of them have served for weekly since our launch. Sometimes they are serving in roles they volunteered for simply because there was a need, not because they felt especially called to welcome people, brew coffee, seat guests, etc. As we grow and see more people ready to fully engage I want my teams to feel free to transition into life-giving roles for them.
Another struggle is settling in a good place, but not excellent place. We constantly say, “excellence not perfection.” This means we can make mistakes but we want our guests to know they are important to us because we prepared for them, and are ready to serve them in excellence. The real danger here is getting in a “good” rhythm and then staying there. Pretty soon this will become a rut and then we get complacent and our guests will feel that. We want to constantly “peel the onion.” When we get one thing down we look at the next thing that needs improvement even if it is really good.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
Doing not developing, fighting fires instead of lighting them, or whatever clever saying fits. 1 Corinthians tells us that we are all a part of one body and that our body has very different parts, but that each part is needed. So often I would try to be all the parts, and what happens when the foot tries to be the eye, ear, and hand? You get a really weird looking body that doesn’t function at it’s best. One of my biggest mistakes was doing, doing, doing, instead of praying for and seeking out the people God had given us in our Passion family to complete our body. It is beautiful seeing how God has placed just the right people with us, and this is a picture I was missing for so long (and struggle with on a weekly basis).
How do you define success on a weekend…either personally or professionally?
A successful weekend at Passion has several elements. First, we have prepared for our guests. This means they have been prayed for even before they step on our property. We are two years old and there is a clear correlation between our prayer and preparation and our production (What pastor doesn’t love all the “P” words for our points?). What I mean is when we prepare small and pray small, we see small results. But the opposite has been true as well. Also, all of our pre-service teams (cleaning, coffee, parking, welcomers, ushers, and Guest Central crew) are in place and ready to go before the first guest arrives. This just shows them that we are expecting them and are willing to show up early and stand in the cold on their behalf. This preparedness flows into my success both professionally and personally as it frees me up to do the “One Thing” that God has specifically tasked and gifted me with, and that is to mix it up with guests, remember their names and the things I have prayed for them about throughout the week. To thank our volunteers and connect people who look to be kicking around the “outskirts” of our Passion Family. One final indicator of our success in GE is the decibel level in our lobby. That noise gives an atmosphere of excitement and it is something people want to be a part of.
What is an idea you’d like to experiment with or implement over the next six months?
Over the next six months we are looking forward to refining Guest Central and making it excellent. We really want to see it grow into a hive of movement and information. I’m really interested to see how technology can be integrated into this process in new and exciting ways.
Also, one of our feedback loops is broken. Our weekly hits and misses evaluation from our staff has become a little stale. It is hard to look at things with fresh eyes. The problem is that it is also hard to get feedback from first time guests consistently. So I am really looking forward to starting a “secret shopper” program to get genuine feedback on our entire process from parking lot entrance to parking lot exit from people who are ready to help us peel back another layer of Guest Experience.
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