Do You Have a Lobby Philosophy?
Ah, the church lobby.
For some, it is a gathering spot to catch up with friends before or after the service. For others, it is a repository of helpful information, with brochures and posters and announcements galore. For those arriving for the first time, it’s the literal entryway into your church, and your lobby’s simplicity or complexity sets the stage for how a first-timer gets connected.
Thinking through our lobby philosophy isn’t wasted time. It’s a gift that we give to our guests and members alike.
Here are seven questions to think about when thinking about our lobbies.
1. Who is in charge?
Someone has to be the chief decision maker in the lobby, or it’ll soon look like the wild, wild west. In our context, the lobby falls under the oversight of the Guest Services Team. We maintain the Next Steps area, speak into additional stations that pop up (more below), and are responsible for the general cleanliness / traffic flow / design.
2. How many stations will you have?
For most of us, function follows form. In other words, our lobby layout is our lobby layout. We have a certain number of square feet, a fixed amount of walls, and a specific footprint in which everything has to fit.
The response is often fill it up! Cram a welcome desk here, a kids check in station there, a ministry kiosk over there. I once worked with a church that had FIVE massive info centers crammed into a lobby that in no way fit five massive info centers. As a first-timer, I could kind of figure out what the purpose of two of them were, but had no idea what to make of the other three.
In my opinion, the more stations you have, the more confusing it is to a first-time guest. So be ruthless in simplifying, Don’t design for what appeases every ministry, design for what helps connect someone new.
3. How often – and how long – do pop-up stations appear?
“But wait,” ye protest. “Sometimes we need to highlight summer camp. Or women’s discipleship groups. Or the local outreach ministry.” I fully get that and support that. But you don’t need those stations every week. Adding a station occasionally isn’t a problem. Adding every station incessantly is.
Our rule of thumb is that pop-up stations can exist for no more than two weekends, and those weekend are always timed to the upcoming event. Any more than two weekends, and the pop-up becomes white noise.
4. What is the weekend service tie-in?
Closely related to #3: if a pop-up station exists, does the weekend service mention why it exists? When you have a lobby station with no corresponding stage time, it’s going to feel like a carnival barker begging for attention. So make an announcement to give the context: (“Summer camp registration kicks off today. Drop by the station in the lobby to grab a donut and sign up!”) Better yet, the pop-up should always feel like a natural next step or an application out of the message.
5. What quality standards are held?
Think about the disparity between most lobby fixtures (i.e., the Welcome Desk) and then what we do to those welcome desks afterward (hand-written signs affixed by Scotch tape, flyers for an event that happened six months ago). Or the disparity between fixtures and pop-ups.
We communicate a lot about the importance of a ministry or event by the way we display the information. Ministries shouldn’t be advertised the same way an eight-year-old would advertise a lemonade stand. So, a few principles (some might call them personal grievances):
- Hand-written signs are the bane of my existence.
- Too many signs are confusing and frustrating.
- Plastic folding tables with no table covers shouldn’t exist.
- If you’re going to put out a station, you’d better man the station.
6. What is on your don’t do list?
Are there ministries, events, or groups that you philosophically won’t allow to stake out in the lobby? Perhaps a more practical question: are there limits on the flyers, handouts, or posters that you’ll allow?
Too many times, a well-meaning volunteer will show up early, make a stack of low-quality copies, and sneak them onto the information desk before anyone can tackle them. Before we know it, we’re advertising an upcoming women’s Bible study, men’s bacon breakfast tailgate party, middle school fall retreat, pregnancy support center fundraiser, bring-your-bulletin-and-get-10%-off-at-the-Mexican-restaurant-across-the-street, Gospel-centered essential oils available (now on Jenni’s Esty page!)…you get the picture. (Also see point #4 on this post.)
7. What is the alternative?
Lest we become the church lobby version of a mall cop, snatching up contraband flyers and pointing out misspellings on a pop-up’s posterboard, we need to think as much about what people can do as what they can’t do. If they can’t have a station in the lobby, where can their ministry get promoted? If they can’t sell raffle tickets to fund the mission trip, how can they let people know about the opportunity to give?
Certainly we can agree that not every event gets equal time. But we need to consider creative ways to help ministries thrive, even if they can’t occupy prime real estate on the weekend.
So…what’s your lobby philosophy?
photo credit: Steve Muir