ChangePoint Church (Anchorage, Alaska)
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.
Michael Warren is the Community Life Pastor at ChangePoint Church in Anchorage, Alaska. ChangePoint has three campuses in the greater Anchorage area, and their Kotzebue campus reaches Northwest Alaska’s rural communities via online services. They are the largest evangelical church in the circumpolar North. Pre-covid, ChangePoint saw 1500 to 2500 in attendance each weekend.
Michael’s ChangePoint story is fascinating. He showed up as a first-time guest in April 2002. He came to faith at ChangePoint, met his wife there, and is raising four kids there. For many years he was a “super volunteer,” then ordained as a pastor and came on staff in 2012. He started in children’s ministry and then migrated to Community Life Pastor. In that role, he oversees connections, discipleship, and pastoral care. Get in touch with Michael.
What are the top three books you’ve read on the topic of guest services and/or volunteer culture?
Since my background is primarily discipleship, I view all of our volunteer ministries through that lens. The most formative books have been The Anatomy of a Disciple (Rick Taylor), 28:19 (Rob Fischer), and A Jesus-Shaped Life (Rob Rognlien).
How is your team structured?
We are currently in the process of bringing together four separate teams: greeters, ushers, security, and welcome center. As we go into the fall, unification of these teams is key. We’ll join under one rally point, one schedule, etc. We haven’t landed on what the new name of that team will be just yet.
What does your training process look like for your volunteers?
We lean heavily on volunteer Team Leads to train their teams on systems, processes, and the mechanics of the job. Team Leads also invest in their people through care and discipleship. In a way, they serve as an extension of our staff.
On the staff side, we offer monthly Leadership Summits, which help people view their lives beyond just volunteering on the weekends.
Talk about your assimilation process. What specific steps do you have to move someone from first-time guest to follower of Jesus?
Our church’s rallying cry is “Life in Christ for every Alaskan and the world beyond.” From a guest’s earliest moments at ChangePoint, we put feet to that saying by helping them cultivate three relationships: a relationship with God, a relationship with like-minded community (fellow believers), and a relationship with the world.
Since we have people coming to us from all kinds of backgrounds, uniting them on vision and mission is key. We invite them into a smaller community and help them reflect Christ to people who don’t know what “reflect Christ” means.
How does your hospitality process look different from other churches?
In our part of the country, we have to be careful not to overdo it. People in Alaska have a severe aversion to anything that smacks of inauthenticity. For example, we don’t have a team in the parking lot, because that feels “produced” to a lot of guests who show up.
On our team, we emphasize sincerity, consistency, and a willingness to linger. If a team member senses that something is off with a guest, they are encouraged to leave their post and start a conversation with that person.
What is one of your best practices / ministry hacks that you’re especially happy with?
Our consistent emphasis of people over programs. We want to cultivate depth, know people, and help people be known.
What is a challenge you’re currently facing on your guest services team?
People’s schedules. We have a lot of pilots, a lot of military families, and a lot of people who travel away from here to the lower 48. During covid, we (along with many other churches) have made it really easy to “check in” from far away. It’s hard for us to organize a volunteer team when people’s lives are full.
What has been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in leading your team and/or implementing a guest services culture?
Underestimating people’s capacity. I often say “no” for people without giving them a chance to buy into the mission. I find that when I lay the question out there and let God do the work in the life of that person, what I receive is far greater than what I expected.
How do you define success…either personally or professionally?
A year from now, if I see lots and lots of people plugged into ministry, that’s a success. It’ll be messy for sure…i.e., not everyone will be serving in the right place and there may be chaos…but that’s success.
What is an idea you’re experimenting with over the next six months?
As I mentioned earlier, we’re merging four distinct teams together. The linchpin of that will be a new Welcome Center, a space we recently built out for people who just want to talk, to linger, and to discuss whatever they want to discuss.
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