Got Hospitality???

No Grumpy Greeters!

I was working on a worship evaluation and thought that I’d share words and recommendations about a church’s welcome. If you’re going to be open and welcome to guests, you might want to consider the following.

Hospitality begins in the parking lot.

Well, it really begins when a guest goes to your website to find out where you are and what time your services are, but that’s a different post for a different time. If you have outdoor greeters, and parking lot greeters specifically, the congregation’s hospitality truly begins as a guest comes out of their vehicle. Indeed, with an effective parking lot greeting team, any lack of signage and parking issues actually become mute (during worship hours), since a guest couldn’t get lost because there would always be a greeter in sight. I can’t stress how important greeters actually are. Some other time I’ll share the story of Dean King at Decatur First Christian Church in Georgia, but let me say that one of the reasons I became a member of that church and the Disciples of Christ denomination is because of Dean’s welcome and greeting.

There are few more important jobs in a church than being a greeter, so why do we rotate greeters and use people who are, shall we say, less than gregarious? Whomever is your best welcomer should be permanently recruited and deployed as the church’s lead greeter. Frowns, scowls, or even inattentive folks need not apply. With that in mind, here are some recommendations I regularly make to churches I work with.

Recommendation 1: Raise up a team of parking lot greeters for all public services. There should be no less than two parking lot greeters, and three would increase the level of hospitality significantly. These greeters should be outfitted with walkie-talkies, safety vests, and either directional flashlights or white gloves (which looks really sharp). In addition, they should have access to large golf umbrellas for rainy day greeting. The Parking Lot Greeters should be individually stationed at the entrance to the church’s driveway as well as in the corpus of the parking area. Guests and members alike should be pointed to appropriate parking slots. In the spirit of hospitality, service, and sacrifice, able bodied members should park in the farthest reaches (least desirable) of the parking lots to ensure guests and differently-abled participants can park nearest the worship center. Membership has responsibilities, not privileges.

Parking Lot Greeters are charged with ushering vehicles to appropriate parking, greeting members and guests alike, and providing a helping hand to those who need it. The greeters should do more than just point out open parking spots, but should be gregariously engaged with arriving participants. For those who are well trained, the name of guests will be extracted in the greeting conversation … and relayed to the Information Booth team who can then greet the guests by name when they enter the building. Of course, the Parking Lot Greeters should escort participants to the entrance when it’s raining, with the infirm, or whenever guests need assistance in any other way. Parking Lot Greeters should remain at their posts until at least fifteen minutes into the worship service … and the greeter stationed in the main parking lot should take up a post either just outside of the worship center doors, or just inside the doors with their eye turned toward the parking lot in search of any latecomers who need to be greeted.

Recommendation 2: If  your congregation uses them, dispense with member name tags. First, they are not ecologically renewable and second, they may add to a guest’s discomfort as their paper badges set them off as an “outsider.” It is a better practice for everyone – members and guests alike to wear paper name tags (a renewable resource). To facilitate this each week, you could place at least three or more high-top tables in the patio area for greeters and name-tag artists to work. Greeters should greet every person and help them to the high tops to get their name tags. Members and guests alike should be introduced to the name tag artists who quickly write out a name tag. Everyone should have a name tag … if someone gets in without one, it should only be because they were not greeted. During inclement weather, the tables could be either moved under the overhang, inside the building, or perhaps patio screen “tents” could be erected to provide shelter.

Recommendation 3: Ushers should ush – they should do more than just hand out a bulletin with a smile (or a grunt). Imagine being a first time guest and being asked, “Do you have a seating preference?” (Yeah – in the back on the center aisle). Helping folks find seats, asking congregants to slide into the middle of the row to allow for space on the aisles, and so on are all ushers’ tasks. And hosts welcome – they ensure folks don’t fall through the cracks.

Recommendation 4: It seems that most greeters and ushers remain active at their posts only through the first five minutes or so of the worship services. However, first time and returning guests, as well as members, may arrive late … sometimes quite late. To provide excellent hospitality services, there should be at least one greeter in the narthex at all times during the worship service. This greeter could serve as an Information Center host as well.

Recommendation 5: Train a number of gregarious folks to be Worship Hosts. These hosts are strategically located in different zones within the sanctuary. Their job is to ensure first time and returning guests are greeted, questions answered, and generally made to feel welcome without overwhelming them. They should be “at their posts” before worship no later than ten minutes before the service begins. Much more could be said of all four of these greeting stations, but you get the gist. Greeters should greet and not get involved in distracting conversations, especially with members.

If you get these five recommendations implemented, it’s a good bet your guests will have at least know they were welcomed.

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