Who Should Own the Guest Services Team?
The more church leaders I speak with, the more I realize that we have a lot of different models of how a guest services ministry is run at a church level. Here are the most-often-used approaches that I’ve seen, progressing from least-defined to most-defined:
The smaller the church, the more often I see this approach. A few volunteers take it upon themselves to organize an usher or greeter team. The pro in this? There is usually shared ownership so that no one person is carrying the weight of the team. The con? There can be competing visions for what constitutes a hospitable environment. There can also be a lack of clarity on who is the decision maker when things go south, because as the old adage goes, everyone’s job is no one’s job.
The team is led by one individual (or maybe just two or three people) who have taken on the task of recruiting, training, and scheduling other volunteers. Typically, this person is rabidly passionate about their role. However, that can translate into good passion (they’re a cheerleader for everyone around them) or bad passion (they rule with an iron fist, leaving no room for other leadership to rise up). Pro: the leader has discovered and is using their gift. Con: it can become a silo area with no staff oversight or accountability.
“Other duties as assigned.”
A staff member has been given the task of leading the team, but often it’s one of multiple hats they wear. Pro: this forces them to raise up volunteer leaders. The cons? There are a few: sometimes “other duties as assigned” means a staff member has other things they love doing more, so guest services gets the shaft. Sometimes the “other duties” aren’t congruent with the competing role. I’ve seen worship leader / guest services leader combos, which means that for a majority of the service, the worship leader isn’t seeing the outside-the-auditorium environment. On the flip side, I know of one multi-site church who have given their campus pastors the primary task of leading the guest services team. In that model, guess which weekend ministry carries a lot of weight, has a lot of volunteers, and gets a lot of stage time?
When a staff member’s primary duties center around guest services, I’d consider them a specialist. This is typically only possible in larger churches. The positive side of this model is that the guest services team gets the full attention, backing, and usually the budget that they need. The con is that the staff member can eventually get bored executing the same playbook week after week.
Campus staff leadership
For multi-site churches, this is where campus autonomy comes into play. Each campus has their own way of doing guest services. They develop the plan, the training, and the systems. The drawback to this model is that different campuses can place radically different values on the guest services culture. In addition, leaders can be duplicating efforts and reinventing the wheel at each location.
Central staff leadership
Again, this one is just for multi-site churches. And while this is our model, I acknowledge that it may not be the best model. Your mileage may vary. In this approach, there is typically one standard for volunteer recruitment and training. The guest services process looks similar at all locations. If there’s a con – and I speak as that guy – it can be hard for a central leader to really know what’s working on the front lines, really give away decisions to campus leaders, and really be willing to give up control for the sake of campus autonomy. (Was I too transparent there? No? Great.)
The point of this post is not to tell you which way is the best way. Your context, leadership structure, and church size may all dictate the road to go down.
No, the point is that you should know your model. Whether you follow one of these six strategies, some mashup of them, or you’ve charted an entirely different path, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Compensate for the flaws by sharpening your trouble areas. Know that – when it comes to guest services – someone has to own it and someone has to be on it. Don’t let the lack of a clearly-defined model have a negative impact on your guests.