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Cavemen Need Not Apply...

By Steve

"So easy, a caveman could do it..." Ok, so we don't hear much about Geico's caveman anymore. This ad spot featuring various revisions of the Neanderthal star made a big splash back in 2004 and was followed by 8 other versions of this catchy marketing spot. The pop culture ad series conveyed a simple message, "It's so easy, ANYONE can do it".

Let me examine that postulate regarding one of the most critical elements of church life—hospitality. It always seemed to me that after the church "volunteerism drive" ended, and all gift assessments (of various versions) were turned in, that those who didn't get snapped up by other high profile ministries (youth, children, men's, café, etc) were destined to be plugged in as "greeters" at the door. After all, Wal-Mart has taught us that this greeter job is "so easy, a caveman could do it". Seems simple enough, right? Just, "smile and wave, boys, smile and wave".

I would propose that we reexamine hospitality in the light of it being executed by trained, skilled and gifted people that know what is at stake in this ministry. That, instead of church hospitality being left to those who can just pull off a "smile and wave" we build a team of people who are articulate in communicating care, warmth, and heartfelt welcome to every person that attends our church. Here are 5 supporting points:

1. Like it or not, the decision to return after the first visit is formed well before the preaching ever happens. Scour all the best articles and blogs on the subject of why people do or don't come back after a visit to a church and you will see the recurring hospitality theme at the top of the list.

2. There are MANY ways to do greeting/hospitality poorly and just a FEW ways that convey an authentic, non-intrusive care for your guests that will make them want to return. lists 20 of the most common blunders:

  • No One Said Hello.
  • Bad breath.
  • 20 question doctrinal exam to make sure you are acceptable.
  • Survey family history and marital status and background check.
  • No follow-up contact.
  • Stale snacks / donuts / cookies.
  • Bad coffee.
  • Too friendly – smothering and not respecting boundaries.
  • Body odor.
  • No eye contact. Or eye contact and weak smile, but no hello.
  • Apathy in making a greeting. Whatever.
  • Limp handshake and a weak hello.
  • Too much enthusiasm.
  • "Is this your first time here?"
  • Hugs to strangers.
  • Swarming on visitors all at once, like flies on fresh meat.
  • Unclean bathrooms.
  • Unsafe Nursery.
  • Thinking hospitality is evangelism.
  • Rude staring at hairstyle, body piercings, or choice of clothes

3. The hospitality team should be staffed with a diversity (gender, race, age) of people who are first, gifted—and then trained and empowered to do their job with excellence. At Lake Williamson, Guest Services is our team of frontline professionals that have the most interaction with our guests. Beyond the basics of greeting/serving methods, they are empowered to survey everything from the parking lot to the pew for cleanliness, clarity, upkeep, and convenience. They keep all the supplies and equipment needed to spot clean and serve guests close at hand.

4. Information and directions should be rehearsed with the team until they can quickly and clearly communicate most of the possible questions and concerns a guest may have. Great, branded signage is essential to guest comfort and ease of "first time" stress. Your hospitality team should try to stay disengaged from any other distracting duties and conversations so they can be attentive to guest and member needs.

5. Train your hospitality staff with a "proscriptive" rather than a "prescriptive" approach. So, instead of giving them a list of things to be done or methods to be strictly followed, empower them to find their own creative ways of being warm, welcoming, and helpful. The theory behind this comes from God's approach to us—one example being the 10 commandments. The fantastically liberating message behind the 10 commandments is TRUST. God assumes our good intelligence and motive and essentially says, "Go out and enjoy life to its fullest. Take in all the joy, satisfaction, and purpose of the God-life, BUT just avoid these 10 things that will hurt you and others." This is SO empowering. In keeping with that idea, we train all of our staff in the "Five Nevers":

1. NEVER... allow guests to struggle, wander or be confused. Offer assistance!
2. NEVER... tell a guest "no", "I don't know" or "we can't". Say, "I will check.", "I will find out.", "We will try."
3. NEVER... complain to, or become defensive with a guest. Speak positively!
4. NEVER... make a guest wait. Help them now!
5. NEVER... be content with meeting the guest's expectations.  Exceed expectations!

Christian Retreats Network /

Based at Lake Williamson / PO Box 620 / Carlinville, IL 62626