SouthPointe Christian Church (Warwick, Rhode Island)
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.
Jamie Lankford is the Hospitality Team Leader at SouthPointe Christian Church in Warwick, Rhode Island, a church of 300 (pre-covid) that exists “so everyone can experience God’s unconditional love.”
Jamie has been serving at SouthPointe since August 2015. If you’d like to reach out to him, get in touch via email.
What are the top books you’ve read on the topic of guest services and/or volunteer culture?
What does your training process look like for your Hospitality Team volunteers?
We have a hospitality team handbook that serves as the entry point training for anyone on our team. All leaders go through additional training, which starts with two sessions of what we call Gospel training.
As part of our pipeline, each leadership position has a job description which includes some initial competencies we look for in leaders, plus some additional competencies we like to develop in our leaders, depending on their role. We have training modules to help equip our leaders.
We place a high value on knowing and remembering people’s names.
How is your Hospitality Team structured?
We have five teams: Parking Lot Hosts, Door Greeters, Lobby Hosts, Cafe, and Connection Pointe Hosts. We have a leader who oversees the parking lot, door greeters and lobby hosts, a leader who oversees the Cafe, and a leader who oversees the Connection Pointe hosts.
Talk about your assimilation process. What specific steps do you have to move someone from first-time guest to follower of Jesus?
We start with the “frontline” greeters – each is trained to help those newest to know where to go (everyone is trained to walk with people rather than point).
We try to encourage people to fill out a Connect Card and take it to Connection Pointe where our hosts can help people with next steps.
“New Here” is offered right after each service once a month (pre-covid, it was every other week), and it is in a living room of a house next to campus. It’s a low-key and informal event where we share briefly about who SouthPointe is and then people can ask us any question they have. On average, this lasts 20 minutes or so on average. We encourage people to get connected to a group.
For some, Starting Point (North Point’s curriculum) is the next step and we offer this four times a year.
We do Rooted Groups for people’s first connection to groups and as a way of launching new groups. We also do Celebrate Recovery as another group option for people. We design our groups as a place for deep relationships, and discipleship happens through our groups.
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?
No, we continually beat the drum that hospitality is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who serves (even if they aren’t serving a particular week) is to make sure everyone knows they are welcome. It’s one of the things SouthPointe is known for…how welcoming and friendly people are. Authenticity is HUGE here: people in New England have a highly developed BS meter, and they can sense fake a mile away. For those who are “from here” that is easy to develop / encourage; for those who come from different parts of the country, it takes a little time to help them develop that.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
We don’t have any hacks or tricks…we just encourage people to be real and to love people authentically. Hospitality has to start in the Gospel: realizing what Jesus has done for us, loving us when we were unlovable, and while we were still his enemies, dying for us. Because we are so greatly loved, it is from this love we are able to love and welcome others.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your Hospitality Team?
Volunteers. We are still under some significant restrictions due to our dense population, and most people have not yet felt comfortable returning to in-person services.
Adapting to the online community. A huge weakness right now is we are still mostly oriented to in-person. We do have online service hosts, but we have a bunch of training still to do to help them guide people toward Jesus
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
Early on, I did not do a good job of thanking and encouraging our team in general. I made a lot of assumptions that serving in and of itself was encouraging. Along with that, not keeping the Gospel front and center as the why of what we do.
How do you define success on a weekend…either personally or professionally?
When I see someone new have multiple connections with people, especially those who are serving as part of the Hospitality Team. We want a church-wide culture of hospitality. And, when I see someone return and those on our team remember their name.
What is an idea you’d like to experiment with or implement over the next six months?
Developing a better online system of hospitality.
Disclaimer: FTC watchdogs want me to tell you that if you order a resource from a link on this page, I may receive a small affiliate commission from Amazon. If that bugs you, feel free to bypass my link and buy from a vendor of your choice. But still: buy it. I only promote items that have benefitted me and that I believe will benefit you.