Center Church (Charlottesville, Virginia)
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.
Russell Griffith is the First Impressions Lead at Center Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Center Church is university-engaging church – they’re located just off of University of Virginia’s campus – but they’re also committed to building “all-of-life” disciples in every pocket of Charlottesville. They currently see 140 in attendance each weekend.
Russell, his wife Lauren, and their kids have been a part of Center Church since its inception in 2018. (In full disclosure, Center Church is a part of Summit Collaborative, and Russell was a part of our staff team here before being sent out.) Get in touch with Russell via email.
How is your First Impressions team structured? Do you ever release First Impressions volunteers to lead in other ministries?
Currently we only have one service every Sunday, so we rotate our serving teams between the kids ministry and First Impressions. Each church member is on a serving team, and in a typical month you will serve in First Impressions one weekend, serve in kids one weekend, and then have two weekends when you are not officially serving. This engages the entire church in service and does not place too great of a burden on just a few individuals, while also not asking certain people to consistently miss the entire service while serving in the kids ministry.
Is First Impressions 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?
Due to our rotating serving schedule, no ministry is a silo and everyone has experience and buy-in with the different ministries. This helps promote an attitude or focus on the mission of the whole church and not an overemphasis on just “your ministry.”
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
Our volunteers at the first time guest tent do a great job writing some notes on the first time guest card after it’s been filled out so that we know who is the best person to follow-up with the first time guest. This also helps the person conducting the follow-up conversation to have some context before they make the phone call, and start from a point of familiarity even if they haven’t met the guest personally.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your First Impressions team?
With our rotating serving schedule we have incredible buy-in to serving the church (which is fantastic), but less buy-in for serving in First Impressions specifically. The ownership for each individual is directed towards the church as a whole and less towards First Impressions. While I don’t want to change that at all, I also know that there are great ideas and thoughts on how we could do things better within our serving team. And we could benefit if our volunteers served more than once a month and felt more ownership towards First Impressions. The teams are great at following through with what is asked of them, but I don’t think we are fully benefiting and utilizing some of their talents and skills.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
With about 40 adults moving to Charlottesville in 2018 to be a part of planting Center Church, the culture of serving and reaching out to others was strong from the very beginning. While this has been helpful in setting the culture and rubbing off on new members, we have not done a good job at formally or structurally passing this on to new members. Culture is absolutely something that is best “caught, not taught,” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for the teaching or training aspect. We are working on implementing this formal training part now, but it was one of the things we overlooked as the initial teams did such a great job hitting the ground running.