Grace Community Church (North Liberty, Iowa)
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.
Eva Anderson is the Connections Director at Grace Community Church in North Liberty, Iowa, a church with 1,200 people worshipping in two locations. In addition, Grace has three Network Churches scattered across Iowa. Eva describes Grace as “a non-denominational church that welcomes everyone with open arms and preaches the gospel.”
Eva has been at Grace for 17 years – the last ten of those on staff. Get in touch with her via email.
What are the top three books you’ve read on the topic of guest services and/or volunteer culture?
How is your Guest Services team structured? Do you ever release guest services volunteers to lead in other ministries?
At Grace we have multiple smaller teams that make up our overall Guest Services Team. Those include Info Desk, Child Check-in, Door Greeters, and Ushers. A few other teams that work closely with us are Coffee, Parking, and Security, though currently those teams fall under the leadership of the Director of Facilities. We have a great partnership and the same vision to see every guest welcomed and cared for to prepare them for the morning service.
We are happy to release guest service volunteers into other areas of ministry. We see folks move from greeting at the door to serving in security or ministering to kids in our children’s ministry.
Talk about your assimilation process. What specific steps do you have to move someone from first-time guest to follower of Jesus?
Our process or pathway for having someone move from a first time guest to a follower of Jesus has ebbed and flowed over the years. We use a connect card to capture their information and hopefully engage with them one-on-one. We invite them to attend our “newcomers event” which at times has looked like a lunch, but more recently we’ve moved to it being a one-hour event that takes place during one of the services. This way we have children’s ministry in place for families as well as being able to offer it more regularly. At this event we hope to share God’s story, share about our church’s story and begin to learn their story so we can help them take their next step. That next step may be to learn about baptism, join a small group or find a place to serve within the body.
Is guest services a “silo ministry” in your church? In other words, does your discipleship team, kids team, worship team, mission team, etc. view it as an essential part of “their” mission?
Currently I would say we are more of a “silo ministry,” but we see the culture shifting. This summer we’ve invited our Guest Services Teams along with the rest of the church staff to read through People are The Mission. We’ve already seen some great conversations happening among and across ministry areas. Our hope is to see a whole church guest awareness culture cultivated so that no matter what area of ministry someone engages in, they will experience excellent guest service and be drawn into learning and growing to be more like Jesus.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
With the ever changing schedules and busy lives of our volunteer teams, inevitably block-out dates and schedule changes have to happen. We encourage our teams to find their own substitutes whenever possible. We started using a private Facebook group for the team, but not everyone is on Facebook. We have recently started using GroupMe with a few of our teams to make finding a sub and swapping off schedules easier. GroupMe is a great tool for group text messaging. It seems to work well with all phone types and while not everyone is on Facebook, you’re hard-pressed to find someone without a mobile phone.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
I wonder if we’ve set the bar too low, or if our ask has been too small. When the church was smaller it was reasonable to have folks serve once a month for one service a month. As the church has grown and we’re now scheduling for three services in a morning with 60+ positions each morning, there are a lot of people to juggle and positions to lead. We’ve recently challenged our teams to “serve one, attend one”. We had a few people step up to the larger commitment of serving every week. That has been a huge blessing and now as we add to our team, we are asking folks to consider serving every week.
How do you define success on a weekend…either personally or professionally?
For me personally, success on a weekend includes spending quality time with our Guest Services volunteers and connecting with new folks. God has wired me personally for connection and I absolutely love meeting new people and helping them make further connections into the body. A successful weekend for me would begin with team prayer time, fully staffed Guest Services team (every position filled) friendly faces greeting regulars and new timers, time in the worship service myself (this can be challenging for people in full-time ministry), and seeing our volunteers shine and really have passion for their ministry.
I’m reminded of a key volunteer who was serving at the Info Desk. He was so excited about an encounter he had with a new guest. She was looking for an opportunity to connect with a small group. He directed her to an upcoming Pilot Groups class and got her registered. He said something similar to, “That was my finest moment as a volunteer.” You could tell that he knew he was being used for God’s purposes and that he was part of God’s story. This was an awesome day for sure!
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