Guest Post: The “Lazy River Effect” on Your Church’s Engagement Pathway
Greg Curtis is the Central Director of Assimilation and Guest Services at Eastside Christian Church, a multi-site church based in Anaheim, California. I’ve counted Greg as a friend for years, and there is no one better when it comes to helping people take next steps in the local church. His Climbing The Assimilayas blog is a treasure trove of in-the-trenches experience and counsel.
Recently Greg has teamed up with Tommy Carreras to expand and re-release his video courses and cohort groups, and I want you to know about ’em. If you struggle with helping move people from Point A to Point B, Greg and Tommy and the resources they’ve created will help get you there.
Here’s more from Greg:
When I was a kid, those of us who did not have swimming pools got to experience backyard swimming with our friends through an inventive option: the “doughboy” above ground pool!
These pools basically required only two things: the kit and a hose. Once it was full, you could play, splash and swim.
As kids, our favorite thing to do in it was to walk as hard and as fast as we could on the outer perimeter of the pool. Round and round we went, moving the water together and creating a whirlpool effect that allowed us to fast float in a circle, staring and giggling at each other as we spun.
As guest service teams in churches, we can easily operate like giddy kids in a doughboy pool-spinning and enjoying each other, smiling at guests as we go round and round.
But here’s the problem: your guests are experiencing your church as a lazy river, not a doughboy pool.
Here’s what that means.
When you get in a lazy river and sit on your inter tube, your confidence comes from the fact that everyone is flowing in the same direction.
Everyone will eventually end up in the same pool without even trying. This happens because all the jets are pointing in the same direction!
But if all the jets are not pointed in the same direction, the person just stalls and starts slowly rotating in place (like a doughboy pool).
If people get stuck like that in a lazy river, it doesn’t take long before they grab their tube and get out altogether.
So what does that look like in a church setting like yours?
The Doughboy Effect at your church
🔄 No parking lot team
🔄 Greeters talking to each other
🔄 ushers talking only with people in their section about the latest>>>
🔄 announcements for everyone about everything>>>
🔄 a Welcome Center with printed info about everything>>>
🔄 no singular step of connection
This is when your guests, after a few short months, stop showing up.
Unconsciously, they simply take their inter tube, get out of your doughboy ,and go home — tired of spinning in circles or bouncing back and forth off the same walls.
God did not design our spiritual journeys to work this way.
Psalm 84:7 describes it this way: They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God…
That means God leads us from one soul-shaping experience to another until we encounter Him personally.
Which can be summed as…
The Lazy River Effect at your church
First, I put together a comprehensive 63-point checklist that will help you install the 4-part assimilation system that truly enables the Lazy River Effect. You can download that here to get started ASAP.
But here’s the big picture: I think of Guest Service Teams as the primary players in leading guests on two important journeys:
➊ The journey from the street to a seat.
This is from your parking lot to the auditorium.
This is where Parking Lot team lets greeters know that a guest with special needs is coming, or a family that needs to know where to check in their kids.
The greeters hand them to the ushers who lead them to their seat and introduce them to people around them who they may have something in common with.
From this seat, they can learn and hear the good news about the new things Jesus makes possible.
➋ The journey from the seat to a circle.
This is where a clear announcement to your welcome center (the “One Place” where they exchange their contact info for a welcome gift) is pivotal.
Guest Service Teams are informally asking guests leaving the service if they got their welcome gift and if not, they walk them over to the place they can get it.
And at this place, your team invites them to your “One Program” . This program is at tables (a circle) because even though people learn in rows, they connect in circles. The program’s primary goal should be to connect your guests to a small group and a volunteer team.
From strength to strength…
Since studies show that a guest at church decides whether they will return or not in the first 7 minutes after they arrive, time is of the essence.
The Lazy River effect must be in full operation, with all jets pointed in the same direction.
This can only happen if each team has their jets aimed in the same direction, ultimately pointing them toward a circle of connection in your church.
That means each team must know where they are pointing guests to next and what their ultimate destination is for them.
At my church our teams have become so good at this that they’ve walked guests straight into our Next Steps program (where they find a table of potential new friends for their journey) on their first Sunday!
Looking back, swirling around in my doughboy pool was fun. But I will never forget the first time I experienced a lazy river at a hotel.
There is no comparison to being caught up in something that is moving in a clear, preferable direction versus just spinning in a circle.
Your guests can have that too, if every team member’s jet is pointing the same direction.
Are you ready to build your Lazy River?
I hope so… because I think it’d be the most powerful thing you could do this year to reach more people and make more disciples.
If so, here are 2 potential next steps based on where you’re at right now:
➊ Download our 63-point checklist for a comprehensive view of the whole journey
It covers basically everything you’ll need (and then some) to implement your own One Place, One Program, Two Process, and Two Placements—and you’ll be automatically subscribed to a series of emails that will breakdown what it takes to start connecting 1 in 4 guests at your church. Download the Checklist →
➋ Start the CTA Video Course to speed up your progress with step-by-step guidance and in-depth teaching (and get 20% off with the code DANNYFRANKS).
You’ll get immediate access to 6 sessions of highly specific and paradigm-shifting video content, 20+ documents, templates, and resources that you can steal, 3-months free access to the Sherpa Coaching Community, and a free one-on-one coaching session for you (or your team). Check out the Video Course →
Now start a conversation with your team using the discussion questions below!
➊ Which is your guest experience most like: a doughboy pool or a lazy river? Why?
- What points in that experience are guest most vulnerable to disengagement and “spinning around”?
➋ Can you put in a short phrase or sentence what each teams “job” is in the lazy river at your church so that they end up in a circle and not just a seat?
➌ What questions could you equip your team members with that would cause their jets to be at full power and strategically aimed?
- What training will they need to make that happen?