The Church at LifePark (Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina)
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.
Debbie Schibi is the Host Director at The Church at LifePark, a 1,300 person congregation in Mt. Pleasant, SC. In describing the church, Debbie says “Every person matters to God, and so they matter to us, too. At LifePark, it’s our desire to help people become fully devoted followers of Christ. Real life is messy and can be chaotic. We believe the Gospel changes everything and has the power to change lives. It’s the foundation of our church.”
Debbie has been a part of the church for two and a half years and leads their Host Ministry team on a weekly basis. You can contact her via email.
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 Host Ministry volunteers (initially and/or ongoing)?
The best way to engage and train our volunteers is getting to know them on a personal level. This is done during orientation when I meet with them to share testimonies, and discuss serving opportunities. After orientation, new volunteers are introduced to team captains for additional training. Most training is “on the job” with additional training throughout the year combined with team fellowship.
How is your Host Ministry team structured (org chart, leadership pipeline, etc.)? Do you ever release Guest Experience volunteers to lead in other ministries?
Church Administrator (staff)-Host Director (staff) Team Captains (volunteers). I believe it is healthy to move volunteers into various ministries to reduce burn out and eliminate status quo in their serving. A change can often spark renewed joy in serving. People are people and their desires and needs change over time. This doesn’t have to be difficult. As leaders we should recognize needed change and help volunteers transition into new serving 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?
We believe we are “married” together. Our roles may be different, but our mission is the same; to create an exceptional experience for our guests. One team builds upon another from the parking lot, greeters, children’s ministry, ushers and worship team. If we see a ministry area that needs to be strengthened we meet and work on it together.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
Orientation. It seems simple but it is highly effective in retaining volunteers. Host Ministry orientation is designed to be more than just informational, it is personal. The volunteers appreciate the added interest. You will loose your volunteers before they even start if they think they are just filling a need. They are not. They are team members helping fulfill the mission of the church. And because they are also our “guests” we invest in their lives by getting to know their stories. This is done best in orientation. Guests become volunteers which become friends. Doesn’t get any better than that.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your Host Ministry team?
We are preparing for a second building in the next 18 months. With two buildings we will need more volunteers. Strategic planning has been done to help transition volunteers into two spaces.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
Biggest mistake-thinking they don’t need “mission” reminders. I get the best feedback from my volunteers when I remind them of our mission with encouragement through emails or hand written cards. In the past, I have thought they “get it”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t lose sight of it.
How do you define success on a weekend…either personally or professionally?
Success is seeing joy filled, energetic volunteers engaging with guests. When volunteers love their church community it is noticeable and contagious. First time guests tell us they return because our people are friendly and happy. That’s a team win! We have been redeemed-we should be the happiest people in the world!
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