Category Archives: Guest Perspective

4 Bracket-Busting Plays for Welcoming Guests this Easter

bracketbusters

It’s time for March Madness.

In the sporting world, March Madness is the NCAA Men’s Division One basketball tournament, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

In the church world, March Madness is Easter Sunday, and every service leading up to it, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

Many leaders will go all out to connect as many people to the Gospel of Christ on this largest guest attendance weekend of the year. Savvy church leaders are presently focusing their attention on the pathway and points of entry a guest will take to attend worship services this Easter. Spring is a natural and necessary time of year to take a look at your Guest Welcoming and Hospitality ministry, and like 64 basketball coaches right now, make adjustments to capitalize on one shining moment.

In the spirit of March Madness, here are four bracket-busting plays for welcoming Guests this Easter:

1. Tweak the Fundamentals

Nine out of ten guests this Easter will go to your website first. What will they see? More importantly what will they not see? Some estimate that last year the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population. If you are not already solid in the fundamentals with your website, then you are behind.

Some Easter-critical tweaks could be:

  • a clear and prominent “I’m New” button or page
  • Easter service times, and stylistic differences of services, if any
  • your address, directions, parking information and a map
  • a short description, with photo, or video clip of the worship experience
  • information on Children’s Ministry, including security/safety procedures

2. Remember, the Best Offense is a Good Defense 

Once a de-churched or unchurched Guest decides to attend this Easter, the enemy will use everything possible to distract and dissuade them from attending. This means that your Hospitality Team should be on point and playing defense once that family or individual reaches the campus. Two types of defense are:

Zone Defense  – Just like on the court, positioning people to cover a certain geographic area of your campus is key. This may even include having vest-wearing greeters at a key intersection or navigation point off campus, joyfully directing people toward life-change in Christ. One fundamental advantage of a Zone Defense in basketball is controlling the tempo of the game. Employing a Zone Defense in your parking lot, hallways and information tables is the best possible way to ensure the best possible the guest experience. An effective Zone Defense maps out the strategic points of connection in each area, and plants an informed, smiling face at each one.

Man-to-Man (M2M) Defense – There are times however, when a direct, one-to-one approach is necessary in the Hospitality Ministry. One huge area to play M2M is in the Children’s Ministry. This is a great opportunity to recruit additional volunteers to walk guest families to each child’s classroom, facilitating or explaining the security and sign-in procedure along the way. This simple action provides direct reassurance to each new parent that their child will be cared for, and could minimize a significant distraction to Gospel receptivity. Other M2M defensive areas could include altar calls, next step tables and guest receptions.

 3. First Make Four Passes, Then Take the Shot

What if every guest you have this Easter receives at least four genuine smiles, four warm handshakes or four verbal welcomes before they ever enter the worship environment? Everything that a new person experiences, good and bad will impact their receptivity to the message of Easter. From parking lot to pew, if your leaders are trained and positioned to deliver four smile-passes to everyone who enters, you can be sure that your worship experience and your message will find a wide-open heart, ready for the salvation-shot.

4. Crash The Boards

Specifically, on your knees. Instead of praying for a billion-dollar bracket, this could be a season of prayer and intercession on behalf of those who will attend this Easter. The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of those who will come, needing to be transformed by the Gospel. Lead your welcome team to pray regularly, for your guests this Easter, and every Sunday for that matter. Watch what happens as leaders catch the vision to welcome life change at a door, in a parking lot or beside an information table.

Each year, just 12 players get to cut down the tournament nets in victory. However, every leader in your church has an opportunity to celebrate the use of their gifts to see the lost be found this season.

There is no better time than now to get out on the court and press for the win.

This post first appeared on March 18, 2014 and has been updated.

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Filed under Campus Pastor, church growth, Church Life, church marketing, Guest Perspective, Multi Site Church, MultiSite Church, pastoral leadership

23 Ways Your Church Website May Be Driving Away First Time Guests

23WaysWebsite

Imagine if it was your first day on staff and you just discovered that your church’s front door was:

– hidden from view and hard to find

– still decorated from last Christmas

– covered in dirt and cobwebs

– cluttered with ministry flyers and notices.

Without hesitation, you would clean and repaint it immediately. You would then find a way to use people and signage, while leveraging every resource possible, to make the entrance beautiful, easy and obvious to find.

Your church website is more important than your front door. 

In fact, nine out of ten first time Guests visit online before visiting onsite, so your church website IS your front door. In 2015, the number of networked devices (phones, tablets, laptops) more than doubled the global population. Today, your church website is your digital front door for nearly everyone who will consider visiting your church, and then reconsider based upon what they find, or don’t find.

Here are 23 ways your website may be driving away first time Guests: 

  1. If it projects an “us vs.them” dynamic, using a term like Visitor instead of Guest.
  2. If it has your Christmas graphic on rotation… in February.
  3. When 80% of your web content is actually geared for members, making it little more than a very expensive calendar for a select group of people.
  4. If there are too many written words and the menu navigation becomes complex and confusing.
  5. When there are too many ministries and activities… because we all know today’s average family sits around looking to be busier.
  6. If your stock photography of diverse people projects an image far from your congregational reality.
  7. When you do not have a picture of the church building or of the front door.
  8. If your photos and videos are poor quality and improperly sized.
  9. If you have not given the Guest a clear next step to take in visiting.
  10. When you are missing a clear and obvious welcome of Guests with a link to critical information on visiting.
  11. If your service times are anything less than large and obvious, because that is really the main thing a Guest is looking for.
  12. When you have different service styles but they are unexplained… remember, one Guest’s idea of traditional worship might be another’s idea of contemporary.
  13. When your worship services or small groups have cute and creative names that are ultimately meaningless outside of those circles.
  14. When the pastor’s welcome letter is more about a Reformational Theology than a Great Commission Cardiology.
  15. When the pastor’s welcome video is too long and too creepy, and therefore not too inviting.
  16. If your photos are of lobbies and hallways instead of worship gatherings and people groups.
  17. When you are assuming that free coffee (which doesn’t taste all that great) is still attractional to lost people.
  18. If you have forgotten that social media is a great connector, because you still have a church directory and yellow page ads… it’s called Facebook.
  19. When you have made an obvious choice toward a low-cost and generic “church website” over a useful and attractive “digital front door.”
  20. If your content requires updating from multiple people, which never actually happens.
  21. When you post links for giving money when you have not linked giving to a vision beyond money.
  22. If the primary URL is a tagline or slogan instead of your church name.
  23. If there is no responsiveness to mobile device viewing, because smart phones are the new desktop computer.

At Auxano, we love serving as strategic outsiders to help churches realize breakthrough effectiveness on their website, through the lens of vision clarity. No service style or theological treatise will impact a true First Time Guest more than a clear sense of “who we are” and “what we are called to do” will.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about our Vision and Communication services.

 

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Church Buildings Are Powerful Ways to Celebrate Vision Every Day

IMG_5958Every church will at some time engage in some form of construction, renovation or environmental transformation… well, every church at some time SHOULD, most will. Churches that do not regularly update environments will soon become more a museum of well-preserved ceremonial artifacts, rather than meeting house for active engagement of The Living God.

When the time comes to make the largest capital expenditure a church will ever make, and even possibly take on years of debt repayment, it is critical that the environments facilitate vision, rather than supplant the vision. Having a clear sense of missional success, through a concept like the “mission measures” found in the Vision Frame, becomes instrumental in creating more than four expensive walls and a roof.

The next church construction project can become a creation of compelling environments when intentional thought toward celebrating mission measures happens. In other words, the building itself can be a powerful way to reinforce what matters most at the church and celebrate vision every day. Side note: if what matters most is more and more people in the building, a church may be living in the “field of dreams” state, explained here.

Reminding the body of the church’s missional call through creation of compelling environments takes much more intention than it does investment.

It’s often the low-cost, yet high impact building features that make the greatest impression. Before starting the next church building project, be it a full-on relocation or a new-paint renovation, stop and think through how the opportunity to celebrate mission measures could happen in this new environment.

A few minutes invested toward celebrating what matters most, through a compelling built environment, will have more consistent and lasting impact on the average church member than the next 10 years of “vision sermons” ever will.

 

Here is a case study of how a church with well defined missional marks; answering the leadership question, ‘WHEN are we successful at our mission?’ might create intentional moments within the experience of their building.

Church Context: Established Downtown “First Church” Relocating

Developed Mission: Leading people beyond “just good enough” to experience LIFE in Christ.

Developed Mission Measures: A LIFE beyond just good enough is marked by:

 Loving God & Others 

asking: Is my worship all-in? Is my caring all-out?

 Investing in the Kingdom

asking: What is my spiritual ROI yielding? Where is my global POV leading?

 Faithfully Sharing

asking: Whose threshold do I need to cross? Who needs to hear my story?

 Engaging in Service

asking: Does my calling change my living? Does my living change my giving?

10 ways that compelling environments can celebrate LIFE:

  1. Create a video-driven story center in the Lobby to see and hear of people experiencing LIFE In Christ, celebrate baptism and transformation, show camp, outreach and mission experiences on a loop.
  2. Develop flexible spaces of multiple uses day-to-day, not just week-to-week.
  3. Use sustainable materials that reflect stewardship of natural and financial resources
  4. Remind congregation of a global POV through an interactive, and staffed, Missions Center in the lobby celebrating impact and engaging support.
  5. Create high impact, visually compelling and safe Family Ministry environments to reach younger generation. Move the playground to the front entrance rather than a back or side to create interaction before and after services and invite the community on campus during the week.
  6. Allow the more task-oriented members to exercise their gifting for event or environment setup and maintaining of the campus through non-permanent seating and flex-space.
  7. Incorporate a physical, obvious and illustrative “threshold” to model crossing. Express threshold idea by using contrasting materials, creating a physical portal that all pass through, or including a substantive element to “cross over” representing this first step in faithfully sharing.
  8. Create intentional vistas to the community with well placed windows and narrative graphics, as a reminder of where Faithfully Sharing primarily happens
  9. Remind everyone of the community ties to the land and serve with community gardens and inviting campus features. Walking paths, sports fields, exercise stations and comfortable places to gather draw community interest beyond worship hours on Sunday morning
  10. Establish a center of family life in the community by filling gaps in sport, theater and meeting space. Survey the community and build flexible spaces, indoors and out, that are usable for school performances, local arts groups or civic organizations.

 

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Your Church Volunteer Problem and “The Minus Twelve Men”

 

DashTempAs I pulled into the parking lot, the temperature on my dashboard read negative twelve degrees

And there he was… standing there waving.

I couldn’t see his face, it was obscured by a heavy duty ski mask. But I could tell he was smiling. CrazyVolunteerAnd waving. And pointing me to another volunteer equally protecting every bit of bare skin from the unforgivably cold temperatures and minus thirty-something wind chills.

They were all out there. I found out later that every man on the team, had made it a point to serve this morning. The coldest morning any had seen in a long time.

Later, in the church lobby, they were resupplying hand and shoe warmers, to again face deathly cold. Just to park cars. 

So I asked them how, and why, and what.

How, today of all days, could they stand outside and wave?

Why would they literally risk life and pinkie toe to make sure cars get parked?

What could possibly motivate this level of servitude?

They just smiled. And to a man said: “It’s my ministry. Parking cars is my calling around here.” 

ReloadingThese men reminded me…

Most churches do not actually have a volunteer problem.

They have a vision problem. 

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Welcoming Guests with Effective Church Website Practices

As a frequent traveler, nothing beats the feeling of being expected versus being accommodated. Creating break-thru clarity for church teams, as a navigator for Auxano, I have dozens of moments of engagement with hotel, rental car, airline and Starbucks employees every week. I love it when it feels like someone thought of me as their guest by expectation, rather than just thinking of the revenue I represent in accommodation 

Recently I arrived in a new city on a cold, rainy January night. My rental car company chose to give me a car on the far side of the lot, and not under the closer, warmer and dryer canopy. I had just been randomly assigned a car in row 700, and no one had thought about my experience in getting to it. Or so I was told. 

Soon after, I observed a Sunday morning parking lot, as an obvious first-timer circled the guest parking area in the rain (past the member and staff cars who had parked there to be close) finally dropping his young family off at a door, just before the service start time. I wondered if the rain-soaked Dad felt expected or simply accommodated as he ran through the puddles to catch up with his family.

January Sundays through Easter may be the most likely season of guest engagement your church will enjoy. Many pastors and church leaders use this time to assess their presence in the community by evaluating their visual vision elements (like signage and bulletins) and even considering a major web overhaul for the year.

Today, just about every guest visits your church online before they visit onsite. 

A guest will view your digital front door before they walk through your physical front door. Your church website is the first, and most important place to create the feeling that a guest is expected at your church, rather than just able to be accommodated.

Here are 10 Guest Welcome Practices of Effective Church Websites:

A Logical Web Address – try to get as close to your actual church name using .com or .org, or both if possible. Do your best to avoid tagline-driven web addresses like “thecaringplace.com” or “growdeepwithus.org.” Don’t forget to use your new domain for connected guest information email addresses like info@yourchurch or pastor@yourchurch.

A Prominent “I’m New” Section – this is all about putting the cookies on the bottom shelf. Nine out of ten first-time guests will visit your website before your worship. This means that up to 80% of your website users are looking for service times and locations, and very little else. Your biggest button, banner or visual element should be geared toward newbies.

Obvious Church Information – keep your church address, phone number and service times highly visible, even if you have an I’m New section. In mobile format, move this information to the top as “clickable” information.

A Usable Maps Link – most maps providers allow for you to embed a link that facilitates creation of point to point directions for your first time guest. It is always a good idea to make sure your church location is accurate in Google.

Landmark Driving Directions – in addition to a maps link, harder-to-find churches should supplement with verbal turn-by-turn directions noting landmarks like exit numbers, community structures or natural features. Including a photo of the front of the church, or church sign, as viewed from the road also builds confidence that a guest could find you easily.

Actual Worship Imagery – set worship style and dress expectations by using engaging, HIGH QUALITY photography from an actual worship service. Pay a professional if you have to. Remember, no pictures on your website are better than bad or amateur pictures on your website.

Practical Children’s Information – your website is a natural place to build confidence in parents that your church or campus is a caring, secure and instructive environment for their children. Note security procedures and give an estimate of how much drop-off time to plan into their first visit. Note any special parking or family entrance locations.

Complete Worship Descriptions – avoid insider-only and cute names for worship services of different styles, this only widens the first-visit gap for an outsider. Be sure to describe what you mean by contemporary, modern or traditional. One great way to mine for the right language is to ask a guest or recent attender to describe your worship in their own words.

An Engaging Pastoral Welcome – demonstrating expectation is as simple as a written welcome note, thanking guests for visiting your online front door. You might even consider a professionally-produced video with imagery of worship, children’s environments and personal testimony. Anchor all of this content with Vision-Frame language and point to key next steps.

Active Social-Media Venues – leverage the interactions around your worship content and member engagement to draw potential guests to community. Feature pastors “in real life” and foster a sense of belonging. Consider relocating announcements and calendars from your church homepage to a Facebook organization page that is more likely to get updated and shared by your body. Instagram and Twitter may also serve to bring immediate attention, interaction and feedback to services or events.

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Top 7 Launch Clarity Posts of 2014

calimageAs 2014 comes to a close, I wanted to take an introspective look at the top posts from the Launch Clarity blog this year, and share a bit of unfiltered insight on why I wrote each one. As another year dawns, I am thankful that the Lord has allowed me to pursue my passion for serving His Bride, leverage the CreativEthos that He has implanted in my DNA, and inspire leaders across the spectrum of church-life toward break-thru clarity.

Have a Happy New year… I am looking forward to connecting with you in 2015.

– Bryan

 

1. Official 2014 Church Vision Statement Generator

http://wp.me/pvOIO-bj

Why I wrote this: Was skimming Facebook and seeing all of the “name” generator posts, while at the same time thinking about all of the Pastors preparing for their New Year’s “first sermons” by looking around at what others said last year. Most church Vision Statements have about as much impact on church life, or as much relevance, as one generated this randomly. As a side note… much of this was written in the shower, yelling ideas over the curtain at my wife, who is infinitely more funny than I am.

2. Which Celebrity Pastor Are You? 

http://wp.me/pvOIO-bW

Why I wrote this: The “safe” response is that I was snowed-in, bored, and on Facebook again. The real response is that I was trying to capture the magic of the Church Vision Statement Generator again… which was a very high bar to set on Day 1 of 2014. Needless to say, I think I was just trying too hard.

3. Values of V-Necks? 3 Ways to Hire for a Cultural Fit

http://wp.me/pvOIO-bT

Why I wrote this: Every week I see church leaders that know a good hire when they see one, but often cannot systematize or share what a good hire looks like… making them hard to actually see. This post was simply a way to apply one side of Auxano’s Vision Frame, in a very practical way, to an ongoing need in every local church. Also, I like picking on worship ministers… try and lead one, and you will see why.

4. Why Most Church Vision is About as Good as Church Coffee

http://wp.me/pvOIO-cd

Why I wrote this: Two of my passions colliding… that is the best way to explain this post. I love coffee and seeing church leaders “get it” when it comes to vision. The opportunity to communicate that coffee and vision both take time and effort, if they are to be worth anything, was too good to pass up.

5. Four Guest Experience Practices for March Madness

http://wp.me/pvOIO-cl

Why I wrote this: Even a church in steep decline has Guests visit…  yet most churches, even healthy ones, are rarely aware of what their Guests actually experience on any given Sunday. But everyone is Guest-ready at Easter, or should be.

6. We Can Do Better: 5 Church Signs to Makeover

http://wp.me/pvOIO-cF

Why I wrote this: Honestly, because Auxano’s founder, Will Mancini, wrote a similar post that struck me as an opportunity to have some fun with church signs. Will’s post was helpful, I was just shooting for humorous.

7. How to Fail at Direct Mail: Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Postcards

http://wp.me/pvOIO-du

Why I wrote this: Frankly, I am a little ashamed of my tone in this post, I don’t like coming off as an angry elf or church-troll. Yet, the absurdity of this direct mail piece, from a large church that should have the resources to do better, inspired my ire. Probably because I imagined my unchurched neighbors around the cul-de-sac just scratching their heads and writing off another opportunity to connect with the Gospel. Like I said, only a little ashamed at the tone.

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How to Fail at Direct Mail: Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Postcards

directmailfail2Last week, I opened our mailbox to find one of the worst church direct mail postcards that I have ever sent or received. First, you need to know that I have been a part of sending some real doozies, like an “F-Word” (forgiveness) pun on an Easter invite one year… not my idea, but I was definitely a willing participant. On some level, at least there was a point – horrible and offensive as it was.

My recent mailbox find is a direct mail piece following all of the current church-mailer trends, in that it is oversized, has a picture of the pastor and includes a group of smiling multicultural people. However, the messaging is a wreck, confusing and downright crazy-talk. This mailer was either designed by 4 different people who never bothered to coordinate their contribution, or one person with 4 different design personalities that stopped taking their meds. What’s worse is that it is from a large and influential church in the area, who would I assume possesses the means to do so much better.

When it comes to direct mail, statistics show the average piece will get three seconds of attention.

Three.

If you are considering a direct mail piece this Fall or Christmas, here are seven ways you too can send an ineffective direct mail postcard:

1. Don’t Have a Point – Ramble and demonstrate how out of touch with the reality of everyday life outside of your church walls you really are. Use meaningless quotes and vaguely imply that something is happening that they should be aware of. Lots of people are not busy and looking to spend time trying to figure out your church, so they will naturally be drawn to the possibility of a confusing and rambling worship experience.

2. Use the Shotgun Approach – Communicate as much as you can to as wide an audience as you can. If you are launching a series on the Family, make sure you speak to and include content for everyone. Relegate your children’s ministry presence to a tiny corner and use the words “great” and “fun” a bunch. Singles and couples without kids have no need to know how to be a better parent, and for sure an older, empty nest generation doesn’t want to have influence and share their wisdom, so try your best to have something for everyone and to not alienate anyone.

3. Employ the “Bait and Switch” – Make sure your stock photography is purely aspirational. You will want anyone visiting to feel immediately uncomfortable and be easily recognizable. When they walk in the door, it is best if they become racial diversity that you pictured, or the casually dressed worshipper that they saw on your mailer. Because if you truly want your culture to change, it is always easier to blame it on the new people showing up than to lead and cast vision in the congregation. Also, when guests are easier to spot, that awkwardly over-friendly greeter won’t bother your regulars.

4. Use Insider Language – People outside the church loved to be validated in their “we don’t belong here” thinking. Use as many obscure or made-up words as you can to either illustrate how much smarter your church is or how quirky and cool your church is. The best is to combine two words that might mean something like “God calendar” or “faith-energy.”  Typically, we are drawn to the unfamiliar and weird as humans, especially if we have a significant social or spiritual need.

5. Try Too Hard – Everybody loves to see a worn-out cultural phenomenon imitated by the church, especially if it is a few years behind the original. That means your Duck Dynasty teaching series this Fall is right on time! Anything #hashtag, selfie or instagram driven might just now be cresting in Christian culture, and presumably aging like fine wine in your community. No matter what, it is always best to act as cool, awesome and relevant as possible. So if you’re stuck, plan to go to the next hip Christian conference this year to see what you are missing.

6. Talk at the Community – Much like insider language, people really want to feel alienated and even bullied into a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is always best to assume that they don’t know anything, and you know everything. It is a good practice to check the Tea Party or Blaze posts on your Facebook feed to see how a good, pointedly pushy headline should read. Everyone will be SUPER excited to hear what the topic of your next message series is going to be, once they figure out what “message series” might actually mean.

7. Don’t Include a Map – If they want it bad enough, they can find you. Plus everyone in the community must know who you are, especially if you are consistent with “dusty Bibles lead to dirty hearts” pun-ny evangelistic techniques on the church sign.

All snarkiness aside, well crafted and thoughtful mailers can be an effective tool in reaching people and can receive more than the typical 3 seconds of attention. Here are three, more helpful, practices for an effective community mailer:

1. Invest beyond Printing and Postage. Time spent in defining the audience and design excellence is as valuable to the staying power of your direct mail piece as the printing and postage is to the arriving power. Don’t pander for lowest common denominator buzz, like “F-word” shock attention, but create a central message that has meaning to the actual person you are trying to reach. Then support that message with great design and a coherent brand connected to your actual personality and presence as a church.

2. Keep it Clean and Clear. In the design-investment phase of your next direct mail piece, answer 4 questions of clarity: who, what, when and why.
     Who are we targeting with this mailer and what matters most to that group? 
     What are we asking or inviting them to do, and does it make sense in the real world? 
     When do we want them to do it, and have we moved beyond just broadcasting general awareness and hopeful information with a time sensitive approach?
     Why should it matter to them, or why should they care about what we are saying or offering? 
If your next idea for a mailer cannot easily reflect this level of simplicity, and OBVIOUSLY answer these questions, go back to the drawing board or use your advertising dollars in a more effective way.

3. Define the Next Step. Nine out of ten first time guests will visit your church’s website before they set foot on your church’s property. Even more important than a map or list of service times, then, is a clear and compelling invitation to experience your online presence. Adding value to this invitation through current, community-directed content, a fresh welcome video or advertised event registration increases the likelihood that a recipient would do more than give your mailer a glance on the way to the wastebasket. Also, remember to check the age of your web content before the direct mail piece is sent. Nothing is worse the rotating Christmas Eve banners being seen in mid-January.

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