Your Church Needs More Weenies

Just to disarm you, I am not referring to wimpy people.  I am not suggesting that you have hot dog carts in the lobby (although it would be a neat twist on your pre and post service experience).  What we are talking about are icons.  Let me explain.

When Walt Disney was designing his world class theme parks, he used the analogy of how you can lead a dog to illustrate his concept of using attractional elements.  He said that you can get a dog to do what you want in one of 2 ways;  you can take a stick and beat the dog…or you can take that same stick, place a weenie on the end of it and lead the dog.  One requires brute force and is not pleasant for the recipient (or the enforcer) while the other creates a sense of anticipation of a treat…a reward…something special at the end of the journey.  Which would you prefer?

How many of you have been to a Disney theme park?  If you have, then you will be able to take this mental journey with me.  Close your eyes and image you have just arrived at the park.  You have paid the admission and walked through the turnstiles to be greeted by the train station which is encompassed by the most incredible array of landscaping and the image of Mickey Mouse…but you cannot see anything else except the entrances to either side of the depot. They draw you in with a giddiness childlike sense of anticipation. “What could be on the other side?” is a common thought that rushes through the minds of even the eldest of guests.

The vine covered train trestle creates a gateway that identifies the start of a truly magical journey.  With its magnetism you are sucked into the park and thrust into Town Square.  At first glance of your new surroundings, you are faced with so many choices.  The fire station with musicians…or maybe Goofy and Minnie to give hugs…or possible see Mickey Mouse himself at the theater.  Regardless of which venue, personality, or feature you gravitate to first…or second…or 10th, all roads in Town Square lead to one place…MAIN STREET USA.

As you round the corner from either side of Town Square, you are transformed into Marceline, Missouri, the home town of Walt Disney. You have stepped back in time to the early 1900’s…a time of simplicity and a era almost forgotten by many.  MAIN STREET is where turn-of-the-century architecture and transportation bring the small-town Middle America of the early 1900’s to life.  There are shops, a dentist office (listen for the drilling in the open window), Walt’s apartment and so much more. But if you stand anywhere on MAIN STREET and look in the direction of the park, what is the thing that will always catch your eye?

Cinderella’s Castle!!!!!

It is a “weenie”.  It leads all of the park guests in that direction. You do not need a tour guide (although they are available) to tell you where you are heading.  You do not need a big flashing neon say that says, “Go to the castle.”  It is iconic and it sucks you in.  It is almost like a force field that gets stronger and stronger the closer you get.  It is magical. It is intentional. It communicates a story.  It WORKS!

So…go ahead and open your eyes and let’s apply this to our churches.  Our campuses and facilities need weenies.  We need these elements that draw people in and shout a message…a story.  What if the entrance to your kids environments was designed in such a way that it would be so obvious to a guest that they would immediately venture to that area…without a sign or someone telling them where to go, the entrance would shout KIDS COME HERE.  Now, I am not suggesting you do not have signs or greeters.  What I am suggesting is that the experience for the guests will be enhanced by providing other visual clues to communicate the story.  It is not an either/or…but a both/and.

Make it attractional (what ever that means in your DNA and culture…don’t get hung up on the above example of Disney.  If you do, you will have missed the point).

Be creative.

Be intentional.

Provide the environment for life change to occur for your guests.  Disney is selling the “Happiest Place on Earth”…we are selling the greatest gift this world will ever know.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

Want to Catch More Fish – Put Bait on the Hook

If you were driving down a road in your town and saw this building, would you be intrigued?  Would you want to check it out? As you look at that picture, who do you think this building meant to attract? Who was the primary target to get sucked in by the design and amenities?

If you said MEN…then you would be correct. But not just any man, a mid “thirty something” man.  And why would a church focus on that age group and gender?  It is actually pretty simple for the leadership at Northside Christian (designed by Visioneering Studios).

They believe that if they can attract men in their mid thirties, they will likely bring their wife and 3 +/- children as well. In most cases, it is easier to engage the entire family if the husband/father is leading the charge and is compelled to attend. For most men, there is too much talk about love (especially loving another man…YUCK), surrender, “feelings”, and a whole host of other words and songs that are just not appealing.

So what did this church decide to do?  They were intentional about communicating a story and message to the target they wanted to attract.  They made the conscious decision to put “bait on the hook” as they fulfilled their calling to be fishers of men.  The attractional elements of the physical campus were intended to be appealing to those they were trying to reach…just like the worm, minnow or lure are on a fishing hook.  If you going fishing for bass, you would not leave the bait at home.  Yes, it is possible to catch a fish on a bare hook…but it is less likely , much harder and far less rewarding.  So why do we think it is wrong to put “bait” on the hook when we are fishing for souls? Given some recent responses to my other posts on “story”, I am sure some of  you are saying “But the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need…he will draw them in…why should we try to manipulate.” While I am in complete agreement that the Holy Spirit will move in a person’s heart to take action, God  also gave us eyes…ears…noses…and other sensory attributes that he uses to influence us.

For this church, they decided to use several types of bait…here are a few examples:

  1. The overall design is that of a lodge or “man cave”.  It is very masculine and appealing to a man. It makes me want to go hang out, how about you?
  2. The materials are “manly”.  From the stone, to the exposed wood grains, to the exposed metal, to the car license plates used to clad a section of the facility (above pic), the materials scream MAN!  Women are generally drawn in by color…but men are attracted to materials.
  3. They took the “bait on the hook” concept and developed a fishing hole in front of the building that is open to the public…that they actually stock with fish.  Again, the idea is that a mid-30 year old man with 3 kids would bring the kids to the fishing hole (i.e. a WELL…see this post for more on that concept) even if they have never gone to the “church”…or what we might refer to as the Temple experience.
  4. Amenities…besides the “fishing hole”, this church has been deliberate in the location of their exterior public spaces.  Even if you are not interested in fishing, but looking for a place to sit outside by a gentle waterfall to read…or you have those 3 young kids and need to get them out from under mom’s feet to blow off some pent up energy, this campus shouts…COME HERE.  The playground is open to the public and the outside sitting areas and tables are inviting to anybody just looking for a place to hang and do life with others. In addition, they were judiciously placed on the front side of the campus so they are visible to people passing by…more bait!

The kid’s space continues this theme and attractional relationship with their community. You can see why “Your Kids Won’t Want to Leave”, on the blog by Jody Forehand….which is another form of “bait”.

Are you ready to go fishing for your community?   Is your church more interested in “cleaning” fish or catching them?  If it is the later, make sure you have the right bait.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

What “Story” Does Your Church Facility Tell? Delta vs. Former USAir

I fly a lot.

Living in Charlotte, NC, I used to predominately fly USAir (now American) as Charlotte is their primary hub.  Most any where I want to go is a direct flight.  They have a significant number of flights every day to most of the destinations that I fly to. Most of the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is designed to cater to them and their clientele.

So, why do I almost exclusively fly Delta Airlines? Why would I subject myself to having to fly through another port (unless I am specifically flying to Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, NYC or Minneapolis)?

Let me share some of the reasons why I fly Delta and then we will look at how this applies to the story our church facilities tell:

  1. About 80% of my travel is paid for by the clients I serve as part of reimbursable expenses.  In light of that, I am constantly looking for the best value I can for our clients…helping them be good stewards.  Seeing I generally have to subject myself to a “two-legger” (meaning a connection flight to get to the destination), the flights are less expensive than the equivalent direct flight with USAir/American. Seeing that stewardship is important to me, it influences my buying and partnering decisions.
  2. With the exception of their small CRJ 100/200 planes, every flight has WiFi.  If you know me, you know I love my email and connectivity…so I do not mind sitting on a second flight if I can be productive.  Our family recently took a vacation that required a 3+ hour flight each direction.  We flew USAir/American as I had significant miles accumulated and we used them for the trip. We flew a standard 757 going and a transatlantic 757 on the return. NEITHER plan had internet service.  GRRRR!!!  While I was glad not to be “working”, I still wanted internet access for other things like social media, videos, cloud accounts, etc. My expectations were grossly unmet and I was frustrated and very disappointed.
  3. For the most part, the Delta fleet is newer and better maintained…or at least they appear to be for the areas of the planes I see (i.e. the cabins, seats, flooring, etc.). The flights I mentioned above were older planes…old decor…straight out of the 1970’s: frayed seat upholstery, worn our carpet, 0ld seat controls, retrofitted video monitors, and in-flight entertainment systems that did not work or were not activated. The condition of the planes I submit my physical life and safety are important to me. If they are not taking care of the areas where paying customers sit for hours, what else are they not maintaining?  HMMMMM.
  4. On the flights our family recently took,  we received a single beverage in coach…and no snack…on a 3+ hour flight.  REALLY!!! The stinginess or generosity experienced influenced me in a significant way.
  5. Flying can be stressful…especially for the infrequent flyer…like my wife and kids…and the majority of the people on a vacation destination flight.  So the attitudes, outgoing personalities, approachability, and over all demeanor of the crew, gate agents, and flight attendants is critical.  Again, poor marks for our recent experience…and Lisa and I were sitting in first class on the way home. Still, it was below average customer service compared to what I expected and what I am used to experiencing. It was clear that the first class flight attendant was not invested in her role on this flight. Personal interactions are a direct reflection on the culture, DNA, and attitudes of an organization, and this spoke volumes to me.

I could share more about the airline industry pros and cons, but that is not really my point.  The point is, that the experiences people have as a guest at your church (or any organization) will impact them and can play a significant role in determining if they return (become a patron, enthusiastic customer, and ultimately a raving fan) as they find their way on their spiritual journey.

We have talked about how First Impressions are so critical…and it tells a story, whether we intent to or not. This is a real life example of how this is played out in an everyday occurrence.

Does your church offer a WOW experience and tell a story that is congruent with your mission, vision and ministry objectives? If not, you may be missing an incredible opportunity to meet the needs (especially spiritual) of those in your community.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

3 Steps to Best Serve Your "Customers"

Do you know who your customers are? If not, how do you know if you are serving them?

If we were in the retail industry, I am pretty confident that we would have a darn good understanding of whom our “customers” are or at the very least who we intent our customers to be.

If I provide Countryman Microphones, then my customers will likely be any organization that has a public speaking component where the orator(s) does not want to be tethered to a hand-held microphone or a wired lapel mic.

If I were in the bass boat market, my target customers would be fishing and outdoors-men (and women) enthusiasts.

If we sold Mercedes Benz vehicles, I believe my target market would be people that either have relative high net worth…or want to “convey” that they do (whether that is real or an illusion).

But what if I am a Facility Manager?  Who are my customers?  Who am I serving?  Who am I striving to please? Who is reliant on me doing my very best so they can provide there best to “their” customers?

Most of you who read our blog are involved in church work in some form or fashion…so the idea of a “customer” may feel foreign or contrived.  Some of you may even bristle at the use of this word in your church setting…but think about this definition of a customer:

The recipient of a good or a service, or a product, or an idea, obtained from another via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration.

We recently received the following in an e-mail from Nathan Parr, Facility Manager at First Baptist Church, Belton, TX.  Pay particular attention to his last sentence:

“Scheduling events and maintenance in a church is tough. Add a full-time daycare and a private school it gets complicated very quickly. With over 11,000 room uses a year, we needed a system that was easy to understand, robust enough to handle our demands, accurate enough to avoid all scheduling conflicts, and with enough features to be a “one-stop shop” for all we needed. We found it with Cool Solutions Group and their eSPACE Event Scheduler and Work Order Management systems. Meeting the varied needs of different ministries can be challenging, with Cool Solutions Group the easiest part of my operation is now event and maintenance scheduling. The systems allow for more time to be invested in our ministry of supporting every other Ministry Team at First Baptist Belton.”

Did you catch that?  To me it is pretty clear as to whom Nathan’s customers are.

So…how to you best serve your customers?  Here are 3 steps that will improve your customer service:

Identify the customer. Most organizations have two sets of customers, each with different needs. In hospitals, the ultimate customer is the patient. But the most immediate customers are nurses, doctors and therapists. In K-12 schools, the ultimate customers are students, the most immediate customers are teachers and principals. In a church setting, your guests, members and attendees are the ultimate customer…and I would actually say the guest is the primary.  However, the most immediate customers are the other ministries, staff/leaders and organizations that use your facility.

Set goals. By understanding the needs of each type of customer, you can set realistic goals and expectations that will help your team meet those needs. It will also help your customers know the limits of what your team can and cannot accomplish or at the very least, set realistic expectations as to bandwidth and duration of tasks.

Communicate…OVER-Communicate. I can not emphasize this enough.  Having regular and proactive lines of communication to and from your customers is critical…may I say imperative?!?! Do the people you serve know what you are doing to serve them?  Do they know the status of one of their requests?  Do they think (remember…perception vs. reality) they are being heard? Have you ever bought anything online from Amazon?  Did you get notification when the item was processed…shipped…and a projected ETA?  Think how that made you feel as their customer…now repeat that to your customers.

Customers should NEVER be seen as a “pain in the neck” or the bane of our existence. Remember, without customers, you are out of a job.

Facility Stewardship Binder - Small