This past week I was honored to lead several workshops at the Texas Ministry Conference in Houston. This is THE BEST one-day conference I have ever been a part. This is my 4th year being a part of the conference and once again, Patti Mallot and her team knocked it out of the park. WAY TO GO!
This year I was asked to lead a workshop on the topic of the difference between guests and visitors. I have written and spoken about this before in generalities, but have not focused my attention on it in great detail. This gave me the opportunity to really solidify my thoughts…so I want to share them with you.
Let me start by asking you a question. When you hear the words Visitor and Guest, do you consider them synonymous? Do you think we are splitting hairs by looking for a distinction between the 2 terms? I was very pleased to have responses from the attendees, with most if not all saying that “guest” was more:
> Intentional (love that one for sure!!!)
Think about it in these common phrases. Which ones feel right and which ones don’t fit:
Guest of honor vs Visitor of honor
Guest blog vs. Visitor blog
Guest bedroom vs. Visitor bedroom
Guest bathroom vs. Visitor bathroom
Guest speaker vs. Visitor speaker
Guest Appearance vs. Visitor Appearance
Here is another thought…in many sports, you will have the HOME team and the VISITORS. In this case, the visitor is actually your adversary. OUCH…not sure we want to consider those coming to our church for the first time as the adversary.
Below are “definitions” that I borrowed from some else…that I cannot recall, just don’t want you to think I was smart enough to come up with these on my own:
“Visitor” – is typically somebody who comes and goes without much preparation on our part or much thought afterward.
“Guest” – is typically a person who is cared for and has been intentionally prepared to attend. Most of the time, a guest is somebody who is a participant…a person looking for a specific experience.
For me it is pretty clear that if you are a church, you really are looking to have guests and not just visitors. We want people to feel a part…to feel welcomed…to feel as if we were expecting them to come and that we cared enough to prepare for them…and to follow up with them after.
To our guests…especially those that may not be believers or be far from God…these intentional shifts can make the world of difference. For the most part, we can make this adjustment to our “language” with little or no cost. Imagine that…a transformational change for little or no cost?!?!
Here are some practical ideas to help you implement this:
- Parking lot should have GUEST parking signs and not visitor
- Announcements…written or spoken…should address GUESTS
- Have a GUEST welcome area
- Possible have a GUEST reception area
- Avoid anything that references “members only”…this is polarizing
- Train your teams to identify and greet guests. Be creative, but not overbearing.
- Prepare your facility for a great guest experience…not just the “special” things (aspects I consider “Second Mile” hospitality) like a free gift card or t-shirt or free coffee or mints in the restroom. But also what I call the “First Mile” standards like:
- Adequate paper products in the restrooms. Is it more important to your guests to have mints or toilet paper? This is no joke. The lack of one will make a big impression!
- Clean facilities. This tells a lot to a guest as to what you value…and if you don’t value your facility when expecting guests, how can you expect them to think you will value them? This includes odors.
- Trash receptacles emptied regularly. Aromatic hand soap is cool in a restroom…I like it. But not if the trash cans are overflowing with waste.
- Things work. This is everything from the toilets, to sinks, to lights, to HVAC, to sound system, to TV monitors, to ________ (you fill in the blank).
These simple…but intentional adjustments…can transform your guest’s experience. If we believe that our “church” is actually not for those regularly attending but rather for those not here yet, then why would we not take steps to make this the best experience ever?