Cherry Hills Church (Springfield, Illinois)
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.
Lee Willis is the Connections and Next Steps Pastor at Cherry Hills Church in Springfield, Illinois. Cherry Hills is a church of 1,300 who explains their DNA like this: “We pursue our vision, mission and values through the strategy of pursuing life together, inter-generationally, with Jesus, one another, and our community and world.”
What are the top three books you’ve read on the topic of guest services and/or volunteer culture?
What does your training process look like for your guest services volunteers?
Our training depends on what step you are on in our First Impression Pipeline. We have created an onboarding process for Team Members and a training process for future leaders. This year we added a First Impressions Leader to help me with responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is training current and emerging leaders. Both the onboarding and leadership training have a book to read, and we are working on videos and an official booklet that entails general First Impressions and then team-specific training.
How is your guest services team structured? Do you ever release guest services volunteers to lead in other ministries?
We have created a First Impression Pipeline to help people take next steps in serving and leading. The titles go in order: Team Member, Emerging Leader, Service or Sunday Leader, Team Leader, First Impressions Leader, Staff. Each leader level leads to the next. We ask any leader to walk through each level because the training at each level prepares them for the next level.
We do release team members or current leaders to other ministries. This is a dialogue we have throughout the year. At the Emerging Leader step (training them for leadership), we have the initial discussion of leading in First Impressions or somewhere else. Then, as they are in leadership, we keep the discussion of passion open. This allows them open and honest dialogue to say the role doesn’t feel like a fit anymore, or to point out an area where their leadership might be used in some other way. We are setting up our First Impressions Leadership to not only take over responsibilities from me based on gifting and leadership capacity, but we are training them up to be possible future staff, elders, or leadership in another ministry.
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?
As of now First Impressions is a silo ministry. I am working alongside the Children and Student Ministry Directors to help them with their First Impression teams. In our staff meetings, I show how First Impression is a part of everything we do and how we think. I have been sending weekly emails to our staff to help them see how and as we are re-branding our church, I am getting the opportunity to speak more into this as well. Our Executive Pastor is trying to break down silos with our staff, so we are having more meetings how to work with each other across campus, not just in our fields of oversight.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
I am really excited about the First Impressions Pipeline we have created. My heart in setting up this structure is not to just help people take next steps in serving and leadership, but also to have a system in place that all people are being discipled and cared for. It is easy to not think this way, but this might be the only group a person might be a part of and as our church grows, we want to value everyone and this system is allowing us to come alongside those in First Impressions better than we have yet.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your guest services team?
The biggest challenge would be trying to move the teams forward to where we want to go. I am the first person to ever have this position here, and have been in the role for 2.5 years now. Trying to convince Team Leaders, (who have been in their role for over 10 years) and many Team Members has been challenging because things are good, but not great. So, to show them how we can move from good to great, and make them aware of problem areas hasn’t been easy. I’m still building credibility and trust. I came as the Student Pastor and was in that role for 7.5 years.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
The biggest mistake was believing that everyone wanted me in this role, or would already give me credibility since I have been here for 7.5 years prior as the Student Pastor. My track record there led me to assume that trust would just roll over into this new role. I have had to slow down (and in some ways, back up and start at the beginning again) to help them see where we want to go and why we need to go there.
How do you define success on a weekend…either personally or professionally?
I define success as: every person feels welcomed and helped. Every person matters to God. Because of this, every person should matter to us. We should do the best we can to help every person feel welcomed and helped in the ways they need help. I don’t want us to miss an opportunity with anyone who comes on our property, because we don’t know where they are at in that moment with life. This is either a person coming for the first time or the hundredth time. I know that seems a big task, and though we miss the mark, I always want to ask the question, how do we keep improving if we can.
What is an idea you’d like to experiment with or implement over the next six months?
I would really like to reach out into the parking lot with our First Impressions teams. We are very “at the door, inside heavy” and I want to move us further out. People need help in the parking lot just as much as inside our building.
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