Connecting Online: a Pandemic Guide to Guest Services
Before you read the following post, take note that the original publication date was April 1.
April Fools Day.
Thank you. And carry on.
We are living in unprecedented times. Charting unnavigated and unprecedented waters. Discovering our unprecedented new normal. We may be under quarantine ourselves, but we never want to quarantine the gospel. [insert other tried-and-tired-of-hearing-them unprecedented catch phrases here]
As our unprecedented global slowdown continues and unprecedented online worship services carry on unprecedentedly, all of us in the world of guest services are building this plane as we fly through the air, desperately trying to invent creative solutions to care for those who are joining us virtually. Our team has been hard at work for the last few weeks trying to discover practical solutions. Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I think we’ve nailed it.
Today, I am excited to unveil the Summit’s new plan to discover, bless, and connect our guests who stream an online service.
Never has attendance as an anon been so available. Guests can log in late and log out early. They can invent creative user names (@PraiseHandsForJC, @1611KJVForLyfe, @WrstXian2019) that mask their true identity. We can attempt to make conversation in the chat feature, but they can leave us on read and never reply. We can be benched, blocked, cloaked, and ghosted before we know what hit us.
Our solution has been the development of a new tool that we call Church Online Visitor Identification Database. Using groundbreaking algorithms, the identification systems allows us to ping the IP address of the guest’s iDevice and determine if they are joining us for the first time, joining from in town or out of town, if they are a user of faith-based or agnostic apps, what 10% of their income may look like, etc. This is a practical way to be a virtual big brother (or sister) as we mine different ways to serve them. A notification will pop up on their phone, laptop, or smart TV, inviting them to take a next step in order to receive a free gift.
As challenging as it was to develop the Church Online Visitor Identification Database – 19 iterations! – figuring out how we “gift” our guests was even more frustrating. We’ve become known for our simple First-Time Guest Bag and included cup, and we didn’t want to simply toss that brand recognition out the window. We also recognized that in this time of rampant isolation and grocery hoarding, people didn’t need one more huge item (hello, Costco 96-pack of toilet paper!) cluttering up their space.
That’s why we came up with Quaranteenies™.
Perhaps you’ve taken notice of how suburban women are drawn to succulents…those inexplicably tiny plants that serve no redemptive purpose. Quaranteenies™ are a chip (and jojo!) off the old block…shrinking things that you didn’t know needed to be shrunk.
We worked with our vendors in a frantic effort to develop our exact bag, informational brochures, and gift, but on a smaller scale. This both reduced shipping costs (since all of our gifts have to be mailed*) and increased the novelty factor. Imagine the joy on a first-time guest’s face when they open their very smöl package to discover a teeny version of a gift. The bag? Teeny. Brochures? Teeny. Cup? I would say it’s the size of a shot glass, but since we’re Baptist it’s most definitely comparable to a communion cup.
We know that in this stressful time, you’re rightfully worried about potentially contaminated objects entering your home. We anticipated that, and here’s what we’ve done: each Quaranteenie™ has been carefully sanitized and packed by sequestered single male seminary students. You can be confident that they haven’t had meaningful human contact in weeks. And Quaranteenies™ are not only hermetically sealed, they’re hermeneutically sealed, so you can be confident that cleanliness really is next to godliness. They are contagion-free, inside and out. You’ll find no fulfillment of Matthew 23:25 here.
They’re adorable. And the feedback from our guests has been great: “It’s almost like I don’t know how to use this!” said one. “You shouldn’t have. You really really shouldn’t have.” said another. “This is a choking hazard for young children!” said yet another, but what we think they meant was, “This is a priceless treasure that I don’t want my kids to misplace.”
(*Drone delivery available within a 20 mile radius of our central office.)
Thankfully, the silver lining to this social distancing cloud has been in the works for years. Again – not to be too self-congratulatory – but this is a situation where we were not only on the cutting edge, we invented the cutting edge. We know how important it is not just for a guest to find a church and feel welcomed by a church, but to feel like that church is a family. We want them to discover ways to take a step of obedience and join a small group.
For some, the step of obedience may be the act of baptism.
“Here is water,” said the eunuch. “What keeps me from getting baptized?”
“Um…how about a highly-contagious virus?”
Baptisms are impossible, you say? Not at all. We are simply dusting off a plan that we introduced a decade ago and bringing back BaptismXpress@Home. With a pre-recorded baptism introduction by their choice of campus pastor avatar, they can be baptized in the comfort of their own bathroom.
For small groups, we are temporarily replacing GroupLink with GroupHyperlink®, the choose-your-own, choose-it-immediately discipleship environment. Again, we’ve had the privilege to lead the way on this. Our SocialMEdia™ Small Groups – introduced in 2014 – are the perfect solution for couch-based spiritual growth. Six years ago, people scoffed when we rolled out “online small groups for a better you,” but in this age of Zoom calls and Google Hangouts, who’s laughing now?
Friends, the time has never been better for us to care for our guests, and we want to help you do just that. To find out more about any of the cutting-edge technology mentioned above, visit our resource page.
If you’re up for more foolishness, here’s a look at April Fools Days of yore…
- 2019 – Book #2 is Coming Soon!
- 2018 – First Time Guest Easter Baskets
- 2017 – Blessed Are the Hands: My Next Chapter of Ministry
- 2016 – The Secret Shopper Service Begins!
- 2015 – Announcing the Summit’s “Fundamentalist-in-Residence” Program
- 2014 – Introducing socialMEdia™ Small Groups
- 2013 – First Time Guest Giveaways
- 2012 – New Day, New Parking Rules
- 2011 – The New Venue’s Value
- 2010 – Baptism Xpress This Weekend!
- 2009 – Gospel-Centered Coffee