Our guest services teams get a lot of compliments on their organization and efficiency. Each week they show up to welcome our guests, and each week our guests take notice. Here are just a few of the comments the team has received lately:
- “I really enjoyed the friendliness of the [team] that greeted me when I walked in.”
- “Very friendly greeters and helpful getting us checked in and set up for our girls.”
- “There was a lot of very friendly people there to greet me and show me where to go.”
- “Signs directing me where to park. Easy walk into the building. First time guest tent easily accessed right outside the front and back doors. Welcoming team.”
Now, before you send me a get-well card because you’re afraid I’ll break my arm trying to pat ourselves on the back, let me share a few…ahem…other comments:
- “I guess I’d have liked more interaction with the regulars.”
- “No one knew me. [The] only people who said hi were staff and volunteer staff.”
- “No one really spoke to each other. They just came and went much like attending an event.”
- “Meeting some people and getting connected with people…would probably enhance my experience a lot.”
Here’s the thing: I’m proud of our guest services team’s passion and reputation. I want them to continue to hone their skills and refine their processes. But for all of the efficiency of our systematized welcome, I’m afraid it’s diluted when the organic welcome doesn’t match up. And as we know, it can be difficult to build a “whole-church” hospitable culture.
I believe there’s a way to create the best of both worlds. I think we can have the organization and efficiency of an officially-deputized greeting team, but also tether it to the real-live, living and breathing people that populate the pews.
The answer? Zone Greeters.
Here’s a quick definition of Zone Greeters: they’re “officially unofficial” people who own a section of the auditorium, helping guests build relationships with church members. Let’s break it down a little more:
- Zone Greeters work undercover. If I’m narrowing down the negative feedback above, it comes down to this: “Once I got past the gauntlet of volunteers in name tags, no one spoke to me.” A ZG’s goal is to use mechanical processes to build an organic culture. So yes, we’re cheating a little bit, but I like to see ZGs with no name tag so they break down the “us vs. them” mentality.
- Zone Greeters own their spot. Unless you have an unusually small auditorium, ZGs don’t need to be responsible for all of it. Think one section. Five pews. Whatever is manageable for them, that’s the area that they cover. One of the perks of this is that our church members are creatures of habit. Many of them sit in the same spot every week, so it’s easy to know who’s new.
- Zone Greeters serve as a connector. Their one goal is to help new people meet other people. And that’s a simple process: the ZG finds someone they don’t know. They introduce themselves and make small talk. And based on the conversation, they figure out who else is in the section that the newcomer needs to meet. (“You’re a freshman at State? Cool. Have you met Carly? She’s an RA there.”) ZGs don’t need to accumulate new friends as much as they need to hand off new friends.
- Zone Greeters act as a failsafe. Even if the guest didn’t stop by the tent…even if the guest didn’t fill out an info card…even if the guest dodged the dreaded “turn-and-greet” time or ignored encouragements from the stage…even if all of those on-ramps to relationships crash and burn, the ZG can be the one friend who reaches out, and the one friend who serves as a catalyst for the guest to stick.
- (Almost) anybody can be a Zone Greeter. Let’s get this straight: not everybody needs to have this job. Not everybody can handle the pressure of making small talk. But if you have a vol with a bright personality and an easy-going nature, this is the thing for them. Also, a ZG role can be fulfilled by an existing member of your guest services team who has already served one, now they’re attending one. Or by someone who can’t give up two time slots on the weekend, but is willing to give you one. Or by a staff member or an elder. Or by a small group leader. Or by someone who’s young or someone who’s old. Or by…you get the point. Because of the limited time span a ZG is serving, it means you have a lot of flexibility in who you ask.
- Somebody has to own the Zone (Greeters). (That was going to work out so well, rhyme-wise, before I had to add the last word.) ZGs should not be free-roaming, hope-they-show-up-this week entities. Even if they’re an undercover team, they should still be a part of the team. They should still be on deck and a part of the schedule, and they should still have a team lead who is caring for them and checking in with them regularly.
Do you utilize Zone Greeters, or something similar? Tell us how you’ve implemented them. Comment below.