I remember one of the biggest challenges of getting volunteers at my church: How do I get people excited about operating a camera, or parking cars, or handing out bulletins? They aren’t very exciting roles, especially in Texas, where parking cars outdoors is straight up dangerous during the summer.
I was always apologetic when I invited volunteers to join teams. I know you have more skills than this, but we really need people to help open the doors and hand out bulletins. Consequently, my teams didn’t feel super motivated.
It all changed one day when I realized that we didn’t need greeters anymore. We didn’t need parking lot attendants. We didn’t need ushers. People can open their own doors. People can park their own car. They can find their own seats in a service.
No, what we needed was a team of people to make guests feel welcome and at home. We needed people who took the stress out of visiting a church for the first time. We needed folks who understood the negative feelings guests often experienced at a church and worked hard to replace those feelings with good ones.
How would a team like this do that? Well, probably by parking cars. But greeting someone at the front doors. By helping guests find a seat in the service.
It all changed when I realized the function wasn’t as important as the feeling a volunteer could give to a guest. The function of greeting or parking or taking someone to a seat, that was all to accomplish a bigger purpose.
When I began inviting people onto the team from the perspective of the larger purpose, things changed. Suddenly, I was excited to invite people to serve. And they were excited to volunteer.
You mean, I get to help someone feel comfortable during the service, when maybe they’ve never had a positive experience in a church? That’s exciting!
In The Come Back Effect, a book I wrote with my friend, Jason Young, we talk about how this change in perspective will influence a parking lot attendant, for instance.
A parking lot attendant who gets what the guest is feeling will make subtle changes to his approach. He’ll still park the cars, but he might make the following changes:
- His gestures will be slower.
- He’ll be more patient when people don’t quickly make it to the spot he’s guiding them to.
- He won’t be as sharp.
- He’ll make eye contact with the driver.
- He’ll notice the children in the back seat and wave at them with a smile.
- His facial expressions will be gentle and warm.
- He’ll notice the tire pressure is low and offer to fill the tire or change it for the guest during the service.
He’ll realize that the feeling he can give the guest is even more important than the task he’s performing. He realizes that people respond to feeling and that feeling is memorable. His job is not to park cars; it’s to show hospitality to the guest through the act of parking cars.
Your church doesn’t need any more greeters. Your church needs people who will offer hospitality to the guest. You need someone who sees the guest, understands what they’re feeling, and goes out of their way to make them feel comfortable.
– Jonathan Malm