Published: 4 weeks ago

Visible vs. Invisible

In guest services, there is a fine line between being visible and staying invisible. As a guest services volunteer, it’s not always easy to know how to strike that balance. But as a guest, whenever that balance gets a little off-balance, it can be painfully obvious.

Let me use an outside-the-church example. Think of a sit-down restaurant, the kind where you don’t order by number and don’t have to unwrap your food. At such a restaurant, you are likely going to have a server who shows you to your table, takes your order, brings out your food, keeps your beverage topped off, and presents you with a check at the end. You want that server to be visible: if your tea glass is nearing empty or your need to pay for your meal and get to the movie, you want them where you can see them when you need them.

On the other hand, you don’t want the server to be your BFF. You don’t want him to pull up a chair and join you and your date at the table, recapping his week and telling you how tired his feet are. You don’t want him to hover five feet away from your table, asking “Can I get you anything else?” with every third bite of food that you take. You want him to remain invisible.

Now, let’s move that back inside the walls of the church, and use a seating team for example. I get that not all churches need a seating team. You may have a 500 seat auditorium and an average attendance of 200. In that case, your team – if you choose to have one – is more relational and less logistical. But let’s say that you have a 500 seat auditorium and an average attendance of 450. That’s when the relational / logistical spectrum flips, and you have to pay attention to visibility vs. invisibility. Here are a few examples of each:

Your team should be visible…

…when a guest first walks into the auditorium. Don’t put the first seater they see 25 feet inside a darkened auditorium. Move them closer to the door (closer. Even closer.) so the light from the lobby or airlock highlights them to the incoming guest.

…when direction is needed. If you’re expecting 450 in an auditorium of 500, you are going to have to give clear instructions: scoot in. Move forward. Pass the bucket. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen plenty of teams try to remain incognito when they need to be…uh…cognito? Anyway. Now’s not the time to hide.

…when people show up late. If someone enters the auditorium 20 minutes after the service begins, don’t leave them to fend for themselves. A seating team member should always be posted at the back doors to intercept a late arrival and show them to an open seat (not on the front row, please).

…when assistance is required. Stuff happens in a worship service. Toddlers drop toys that roll into the aisle. Extra handouts are needed. Medical emergencies pop up. That’s your time to shine as a seating team member.

Your team should be invisible…

…when the worship service calls for it. I get that all of a worship service is a worship service. But your team can get away with more movement if everyone is on their feet singing, not so much movement if everyone is in a prayerful reflection and needing to focus on the stage speaker.

…once the sermon begins. This is a stronger recap of the previous point. Arrange your auditorium seating plan so that late arrivers can be seated in the back, and no seater has to walk the aisle or cross in front of people. 

…when performing necessary duties. We take a head count of our services, and usually have to do so once everyone is seated and the sermon has started. The goal is to count as much as possible from the back and sides of the auditorium to keep distraction to a minimum.

…when re-setting the auditorium afterward. You may have a quick turnaround between service times, and you may need to straighten chairs and pick up trash. But do it in a way that’s not obnoxious to those who are hanging around afterwards to chat or pray for one another.

 

There’s a line of demarcation between the visible and invisible realms. That line may move from week to week and service to service and situation to situation. But it’s up to you to figure out where it is, and how to decide when to be seen and when to be unseen.

 

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