5 Things I’ve Learned (Again) From Jumping Back in the Saddle
At the time of this writing, I’m a little over a month into a new (temporary) gig as a Guest Services Director (GSD) at our newest campus. We’re still trying to hire an actual GSD, but until that person arrives, I’m the guy.
It’s been a dozen years or so since I have directly led a Guest Services team at a campus level (that made me feel super-old just writing that). Back in 2011 we moved to a central staffing model, which means I lead the staff who lead those teams and their respective campuses. While I still get the privilege of working with volunteers in Cohorts and Collectives and larger events, leading volunteers week-to-week has made me realize – as that great theologian Toby Keith says – I ain’t as good as I once was.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reminded of my gratitude for our GSDs, the amount of work they put into back-of-house admin each week, the care they demonstrate for our volunteers, and the flexibility they have to possess when something goes haywire. I’ve told several of those staff members face-to-face that this makes me rethink how our systems eventually get to the front lines.
With all that said, being back in a campus leadership role – even if it’s temporary until I fire myself and hire someone who’s actually good – has been a re-learning curve. So whether you’re an old hat in your guest services role or a rookie, here are…
5 things I’ve learned (again) from jumping back in the saddle:
1. Details matter.
If Guest Services is about thinking through it before our guests think through it, then leading volunteers who serve our guests means that we have to think at an even higher level. I’ve re-learned the need to be crystal clear on our why and our what, and also the need to get out of the way and let them lead.
2. Communications matter.
Whether it’s a weekly email, a Sunday morning huddle, or a Saturday night text to team leaders, it’s a kindness to keep my vols up to speed on the new stuff that’s happening. And I’ve re-learned that not all vols read everything I write (gasp). So I have to bullet point the big stuff, patiently repeat and point to the answers, and remember that everyone has their own preferred communication gateway.
3. Team structure matters.
One big mistake I made was not establishing a full slate of service leaders and team leaders early. I intentionally didn’t do that because I wanted to let the incoming GSD choose his or her own, but I think my lack of leadership here has created some hurdles that they now have to jump. The teams that have leaders seem to be functioning more cohesively than those who don’t. I’ve re-learned that it’s impossible for me to effectively lead 100+ on a volunteer roster when I don’t have an appropriate span of care.
4. Presence matters.
I’ve re-learned the beauty of just walking around and talking to volunteers. Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten to hear some incredible stories, gotten to know some incredible people, and have seen some fantastic volunteers transition into roles that match their passion and skill set.
I don’t get to have that kind of presence if I’m running around with my hair on fire (which is why #3 matters). I definitely didn’t have that kind of presence the first couple of weeks after launch. But now that we’ve gotten into a rhythm, the discipline of “management by walking around” has been a fun one to re-learn.
5. Mobile campus volunteers will have special crowns in heaven.
(I acknowledge that I just torched the “matters” theme I had going there, but let’s just power through.)
Every church has a group of “unseen,” but mobile campuses have them in spades. I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the dedication of men and women and children (shout out to Set Up Team rock stars Olivia and Delaney) who show up at 6 a.m. or don’t leave until an hour after everyone else has already taken their seat at Panera. They forsake sleep, endure rain, sacrifice hangout time, bloody their knuckles on road cases, navigate trailers stuck in the mud, and they do it all so that a high school can be transformed into a church building or that a congregation can leave a high school better than they found it.
They don’t do it for the applause (which is great, because most attendees never even think about how all that gets done or who does it), they do it because they believe in doing whatever it takes to reach all people.