Easter, often known in the church world as the “Superbowl” of Sundays goes above and beyond to entice as many people as possible to come through the doors.
It may be the promise of a big stage show, using an extravagant message series, giveaways, the-best-of-the-best-Easter-Eggstravaganza… You get the idea.
I can remember my first Easter Sunday as the Connections Director, literally running back and forth, barely remembering names of the people I just met while passing out newcomer gifts and ushering crowds into the door, never making a real connection.
Several years ago, after being part of the creative brains behind creating the “WOW factors” in the Easter experience, during a debrief of our service, the Lord spoke something so clearly to me that it almost knocked me out of my seat.
“Pay attention to my kids,” the Lord said.
In my true “Gini” form I argued back and said, “That’s exactly what we are doing. This is all for them!”
Again, I heard,
“Pay attention to my kids.”
It was in that moment I realized in all the hustle and bustle of planning and creating an experience, I had lost focus of the people that were coming through our doors.
In that very moment, the way I did ministry (in every aspect of the church) changed.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that those things don’t have a place. I am merely asking…
what is our heart behind the matter?
are we doing them to impress people?
or to be the best church in the neighborhood?
or are we asking the Holy Spirit to anoint us for His purposes of allowing the church to minister the life-changing Word of God?
Here are a few practices that have helped us to shift our vantage point and allow God to do what He does best:
Excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23).
These two principals are key to any ministry. Take time to regularly communicate vision to your team. I make it a practice to try and do this in quarterly gatherings and I make sure to have one planned near Easter so that it’s fresh on everyone’s mind. Reminding my team that they are the front line of the church, that their ministry matters and is a crucial part of the church.
A guest will often return because of his or her experience with your team, not what the pastor spoke about that day. Make sure that you are appropriately staffed for an influx of guests. Having extra volunteers scheduled allows for more intimate connections with new families.
It’s also a great time to appreciate your team/volunteers for all their hard work. Having a pep talk, providing breakfast or a small token goes a long way with making your team feel like the rock stars that they are!
Make eye contact. And take your time. Generally, when you rush a conversation you forget key information (like their name!) Use this time to show a genuine interest in your guests. Find out who they are, how they found your church, what their interests are and guide them to them to their destination (whether that’s the Sanctuary, Kid’s Check-in, Welcome Center, etc.) Never leave a guest alone or just point them in a general direction.
It’s like leaving them to drown in “no-man’s land.”
After your guests are settled in, write down some notes. Our team utilizes the back of our information card to make short comments about our conversation with them. This helps tremendously in follow-up and knowing how to connect our new families to a ministry in the church.
Our rule of thumb is to connect each guest to three people. This can mean connecting them to a volunteer at check-in, another greeter/usher, or to people who are regular attenders in your congregation. Each person does not have to have an extensive conversation, but it gives them someone who will recognize them if they return and helps the guest not to feel alone. Our volunteer teams also follow the same protocol of making eye contact and engaging in a genuine welcome.
Often, guests will come back to one of these connection points to ask about how to get involved, more about what’s happening at the church, or even for prayer. Relationships form because we are genuinely interested in the lives of the people who walk through our doors.
Because we have worked so hard at establishing a relationship from the get-go, follow up is easy. Each guest gets a personal phone call on Tuesday nights. I already know a little about them (from the information card and the notes that were taken) and can easily engage them in conversation. Take time to find out what their interests are and answer any questions they may have about the church. Our pastor follows up with a hand-written letter and a phone call later in the week. Based on our conversations we are then able to connect them with the staff member that can create a lasting connection. Later, guests are invited to a quarterly dinner at our pastor’s home and encouraged to continue getting connected through classes and small groups.
This system has created a community that we call family. Repeatedly we hear people say,
“I love our church because it loves people.”
“I felt welcome the moment I walked in the door.”
It has provided opportunities to pray with strangers, allowed people who are alone to have someone to walk down to the altar with, and has created life-long relationships. When we took a second to look into the eyes of our guests we began to see the heart of God. Because of this,
lives have been changed
marriages have been healed
and we get a front row seat to it all because we were obedient to love his people.
It has become less about us and more about Him.