Published: 6 years ago

Guesswork, part one: Killing Culture

Today we begin a new weekly series called Taking the Guesswork Out Of Guest Services. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader of a church with no guest services team, a lagging guest services team, or a firing-on-all-cylinders team, or anywhere in between, we’re going to talk about the factors that make your team great. Submit your questions for future weeks in the comments below.

Some ministries need a good mercy killing.

That’s harsh, but it’s true. Many of us have ministries in our churches that are extremely cutting edge…for 1962. We do things the way we do because it was good enough for grandpa, and doggone it, it’s good enough for us.

Now if you’re a regular reader of this blog, chances are I don’t have to convince you that an outdated guest services culture is bad. You’re painfully aware that what’s happening in your church just isn’t working. Maybe you have greeters who don’t actually greet…ushers who don’t actually ush…or a hospitality team that isn’t all that hospitable. Maybe they haven’t authentically greeted a newcomer in years. Maybe they’ve just been going through the motions for the last year or two or twenty. But the way they do what they do is so ingrained in them, it’s hard to convince them that there’s a better way.

But if your church is ever going to be effective, the ineffective culture has to be killed, starting today.

That takes courage. It takes a fresh set of eyes. And it takes a leader with a big vision and a deep passion to lead the charge.

So how do you kill culture so you can rebuild it? Here’s a start:

  1. Ask the “Why are we doing this?” question. A lot. “Why?” is a great litmus test for much of the “what?” that you’re doing. “Why don’t we plan the weekend with guests in mind?” “Why do we structure our team this way?” “Why don’t we have greeters in more strategic places?” “Why aren’t we training our team on a regular basis?”
  2. Assess the messages you’re sending to your community – both overt and covert. The overt messages are easy – what does your church communicate on a regular basis? Can people find you based on signage? Website? Other advertising? What about your church sign? For many of us, the church marquee is the death knell of your communication to your city. Get rid of it. Covert? That’s stuff like the cleanliness of your facility, accessibility to your guests, and reputation within the city.
  3. Confront the “We’re friendly” myth. There’s not a little old lady in a little country church anywhere in America who would admit that her church is unfriendly. “We just love each other!” she’ll tell you. But that’s the point: they love each other. Friendly does not equal intentional. I’m friendly to people I know. It takes intentionality to move your church to the next level of a guest-friendly culture.
  4. Take a hard look at what’s not working. This is where you have to put on your big boy pants. Got an usher who hasn’t smiled since Carter was president? Maybe he needs to be retrained, or maybe he needs to be replaced. Got a hospitality committee whose only purpose is to guard the holy of holies tea party supply closet? Dismantle ’em. Do what it takes to clear out what’s broken to pave the way for what will work.

What’s missing from this list? What would you add, and what have you experienced when it comes to killing culture? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Next week: starting fresh with an organic culture.


View all posts in this series:


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  1. Connie says:

    Danny, you crack me up EVERY day I take time to read your post. You are definitely an “atta boy” for Jesus and different from the world (good thing)! I am so humbled AND AW-struck to be a part of such gifted & talented & spirit-filled staff. You help make an awesome difference for our God. Be encouraged! 🙂

  2. Bob Adams says:

    When I encounter a change opportunity in churches I work with, the first resource I pull off the shelf is William Bridges’ “Managing Transitions.” Bridges sees change as situational – it happens without people transitioning. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological and occurs in a 3 stage process where people gradually accept the new situation and the change that comes with it. First, there are endings – when people have to let go of something. Second, there is the neutral zone – a time of anxiety, but also a time of great possibility. Finally, there is the new beginning – a recognition of and a new understanding of the new situation. Bridges uses the metaphor of the children of Israel leaving Egypt, in the wilderness, and entering the Promised Land throughout the book. Understanding the difference between change and transition is where I would start when considering a culture change.

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