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Guest Services – in the Church?

Results from a WFX 2011 guest services survey

In the fall of 2011, Worship Facilities Conference & Expo (WFX), presented by Church Production and Worship Facilities magazines, publicized a brief survey about guest services practices to its online audience. The survey was not intended to be a scientific survey, but instead sought information to indicate trends in guest services in churches. The 22 questions dealt in broad areas ranging from sanctuary size to number of worship services held weekly to the number of volunteers in guest services roles to training for guest services teams.

From the responses, a snapshot of guest services practices in churches is beginning to take shape. In the remainder of this article, WFM looks at summary findings, four key points, and an invitation to continue the conversation.

Selected Survey Stats

• Responses came from 33 states in the U.S. and nine countries around the world

• Church attendance ranged from 100 to 19,000

• The majority of churches responding offered multiple worship services

• The majority of churches responding had just one location

• About one third of respondents had auditoriums seating 300 or less; almost one half had auditorium seating for 300-800

• Guest service components include a wide range of services—from parking to greeting to ushers to information centers and more

• The size of Guest Services teams ranges from a few to hundreds

• Leadership of Guest Services teams is primarily voluntary

• 1-3 hours of initial training is provided to Guest Services teams by a large majority of respondents

• Almost half of the respondents offer no updated or ongoing refresher training

• A large majority of respondents have no formal statement of expectations for Guest Services teams

• Recruiting and retaining team members and developing leaders are the biggest needs of Guest Services teams

• Respondents had great success stories and encouragement for other Guest Services teams

A more detailed review of the survey responses began to show a pattern—there were four key findings that a majority of the respondents identified:

Guest Services Components

The survey identified the following eight areas of typical Guest Services teams: Prayer, Greeters, Ushers, VIP/First Time Guests, Resources, Next Steps, Set-up, and Parking. Additional responses included Kiosk check in, Hospitality time with Pastor, Gift for Guests, and Communion.

The largest areas of service were Greeters and Ushers—every respondent had some level of service in these areas. Prayer was another large component, reported by majority of respondents. Areas on the low side were VIP/First Time Guest and Parking.

Expectations/Covenant

Less than 20% of respondents indicated that their Guest Services teams had a formal statement of expectations or covenant agreement.

Greatest Need

As with any mainly volunteer ministry, a wide range of needs were identified by the respondents. After a closer review of individual responses, the following three areas began to emerge:

• Training of existing volunteers

• Recruitment of new volunteers

• Organization and leadership of the volunteer teams and process

Success Stories

Respondents were asked to list a brief success story of their Guest Services teams. The responses were categorized into four areas:

• Being known as a friendly church and/or providing a warm environment

• No success story (more below)

• Commitment of the Guest Services team members

• Follow-up by Guest Services team members

It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on all the findings, but a review of the four summary findings above provides a unique glimpse into what Guest Services teams are doing—and how they might be challenged to improve on their services. Here are a few that stand out:

• Guest Service teams are a very visible and important part of the experience on church campuses—no matter the size. From the street to the seat, a Guest Services team has an opportunity to provide a ministry to Guests and members so that they enter into worship ready to worship. A church can adjust the services it provides to the scale of the church, but staff should make sure that Guests and members have no doubt they are welcome.

• Guest Services teams—like all volunteer teams at a church—need a vision to serve, a target to aim at, and a guide to serve by. A statement or expectations or covenant of service, common to all volunteer teams in a church but tailored to the specifics of Guest Services teams, may be the best way to help them minister to the people they encounter every weekend.

• Not surprisingly, Guest Services teams want to know what they are supposed to be doing, as well as given the tools and training to carry out their jobs. It’s critically important that Guest Services teams, and all volunteer teams at a church, be a part of solid training at the initial training and ongoing continuing education along the way.

• Serving should mean celebrating—individuals serving on a Guest Services team provide the front line, first contact experience with Guests and members. They should be delivering and receiving powerful opportunities to pour into people’s lives. When the second largest category of responses to the survey’s “Success Story” question is “None,” what needs to change?

[Editor’s note: Watch for an End Notes contribution on improving Guest Services from contributor Bob Adams in the May/June 2012 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine.]

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Bob Adams, Lead Church Development Consultant, JH Batten, Charlotte, NC

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Churches can learn a thing or two from Disney, Apple and other companies that excel at guest services, church guest services experts report. What is familiar and comfortable to one churchgoer may be confusing and uncomfortable to another guest attending a facility. Signage and smiling faces can help people navigate with confidence. Shown here, the information desk at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Ariz. (Image courtesy of John Bell, Redemption Church, Gilbert, Ariz.)