Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Get First-Time Guests to Become Second-Time Guests

Thanks to Rick Ezell at for the majority of this article.  I have taken the liberty to edit and make some changes as well as add thoughts and ideas of my own.  My hope is that after reading these “Five Simple Facts” that church leaders will take to heart that it takes more than good sermons and music to turn a first time guest into a second time guest.   Andy

Fact #1 – Your visitors make up their minds regarding your church in the first ten minutes
Before a first-time guest has sung an inspiring song, watched a compelling drama or well-produced video vignette or heard your well-crafted sermon they have made up their mind whether or not to return. But, you probably spend more time and energy on the plan and execution of the worship service than preparing for the greeting and welcoming of your first-time guests.
Action – Use the following questions as a quick checklist:
  • Are parking attendants in place?
  • Is there appropriate signage?
  • Are your ushers and greeters doing more than shaking hands and handing out bulletins?
  • Is the environment user-friendly and accepting to guests?
Fact #2 – Most church members are not friendly
Churches claim to be friendly and may even advertise that fact. But my experience in visiting churches as a first-time guest demonstrates that most church members are friendly to the people they already know, not to guests.
Watch to see if your members greet guests with the same intensity and concern before and after the worship service as they do during a formal time of greeting. The six most important minutes of a church service, in your visitors eyes are the three minutes before the service and the three minutes after the service.
Action – Encourage your church family to:
  • Introduce themselves with genuineness and care.
  • Find out if guests have questions about the church.
  • Introduce guests to others who may have an affinity or connection.
Fact #3 – Church guests are highly consumer-oriented
If your church building is difficult for newcomers to navigate, if your people are unfriendly or focus mostly to their friends then another church down the street may have what they’re looking for. The pastor and church members need to look at their church through the eyes of a first-time guest.
Action: Consider employing objective, yet trained, anonymous guests to give an honest appraisal. Many restaurants, retail stores, and hotels utilize the service of one or more outside services or individuals for helpful analysis of welcoming and responding to the consumer. Churches would be well served to utilize a similar service.
Note:  Multiplication Ministries/Pastor to Pastors Ministry staff are trained and well equipped to provide an evaluation of a church’s ministry which includes attending your church service as a “secret worshipper” which can provide valuable perspective for pastors and church boards about the ministry.
Fact #4 – The church is in the hospitality business
Though our ultimate purpose is spiritual, one of our first steps in the Kingdom business is attention to hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). Imagine the service that would be given to you in a first-class hotel or a five-star restaurant. Should the church offer anything less to those who have made the great effort to be our guests?
Action – Encourage members to extend hospitality to guests by offering to…
  • Sit with them during the church service
  • Give them a tour of the church facilities
  • Eat lunch with them after service
  • Connect with them later in the week
Fact #5 – You only have one chance to make a good first impression
Your first-time guests have some simple desires and basic needs. They decide very quickly if you can meet those criteria. The decision to return for a second visit is often made before guests reach your front door.
Action – Use the following questions as an evaluation tool:
Are you creating the entire experience, beginning with your parking lot?
Are you working to remove barriers that make it difficult for guests to feel at home?
Do newcomers have all the information they need without having to ask?
Are greeters and ushers on the job, attending to details and needs?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Self-Aware Leader is Not a Self-Obsessed Leader

I have become very interested in self-awareness as a leader’s capacity to take stock, to reflect, to look at things defining a bigger perspective. I spoke with Multiple Intelligencesauthor, Howard Gardner, for my Leadership: A Master Class series about understanding what self-awareness is – and isn’t – for effective leadership.
“Understanding and knowing yourself is a significant aspect of leadership. But I would argue that you’re not able to know yourself with any totality. I also don’t think it’s a valuable feature of a good leader to be obsessive about self, about motivation, and so on.
Self-knowledge needs to be with reference to your role as a leader in the company, which can be pretty expansive. If you have a temper, if you make people feel bad, those are things you need to know.
In other words, some self-reflection or self-knowledge matters, but it should be the right kind. You should have the right focus, which has to do with ‘how am I doing in this role?’ Or ‘What do I need for this role?’
One of the paradoxes is that the higher a leader rises in the ranks, the less performance feedback she receives. People are afraid to tell her, particularly when she’s making mistakes. A leader can think they’re doing fine, not realizing that actually they’re not.
Of course, the wise leader goes out of his or her way to consult with people who will offer honest feedback. That proves they have the right kind of self-knowledge.”
How do you foster "the right type" of self-awareness at work? Share your thought in the comments field.
Learn more about Today's Leadership Imperative with Howard Gardner in my Leadership: A Master Class video series.
Further reading:
Source: LinkedIn

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Many of us love the busyness, energy, and creative dynamism of a robust church. Many of us love the program direction and even the management. And yet all of us pastors must summon an uncommon discipline if we are to reflect the priority and importance of preaching.

It can be done. [Joseph] Sittler [wrote in his essay “The Maceration of the Minister”]:
It [the congregation] is likely to accept, support and be deeply molded by the understanding of Office and calling which is projected by its minister’s actual behavior. It will come to assess as central what he, in his actual performance of ministry and use of his time, makes central.
The preacher, Sittler concluded, must order her or his time around study, reflection, and sermon preparation.

--Christian Century, March 19, 2014 edition, page 3

Friday, March 21, 2014

5 Keys to Taking New Ground in 2014

Here are five keys to taking new ground in 2014:
  • Sharpen clarity on your preferred future.  One of the most productive things all of us can do is to develop razor sharp clarity on where we want to go as an organization.  If “path, not intent, determines destination” (Andy Stanley), then clarity on destination makes the best path obvious.  See also, Start with the End in Mind andChoosing What Not to Do.  In addition, two excellent resources on this subject areThe 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Church Unique by Will Mancini.

  • Be about finding solutions.  There are people on almost every team that seem pre-wired to focus on problem identification.  If you want to take new ground, you must build a team that is about finding solutions.  Since there are no problem-free solutions anyway, wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  Colin Powell had it right when he said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.  An excellent resource on this is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley.

  • Ask great questions.  Learning to ask great questions is very near the center of great leadership.  Whether you develop your own questions or simply develop the skill of collecting and using great questions you hear or read is not important.  Making it your practice to insert great questions into your conversations and meetings is essential.  Albert Einstein was expressing a similar perspective when he said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions.

  • Develop and celebrate an “others focus.”  If you want to take new ground, you will need to become preoccupied with the interests of others.  Forever working to provide more and better services for the usual suspects won’t take new ground.  New ground is taken only when we begin thinking about and prioritizing the needs and interests of the people we haven’t yet reached.  Craig Groeschel has said that “if you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you need to do things no one else is doing.”  See also, Unexamined Expectations about Commitments and Priorities and Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the Right People.

  • Refine your menu to offer only the best next steps.  While this is a very challenging step (it means disappointing the owners of the sacred cow), it is an important key to taking new ground.  There are two underlying truths in this key.  First, the more options your menu offers the more difficult the choice becomes.  Second,  Peter Drucker pointed out that “planned, purposeful abandonment of the old and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.  Above all, abandonment is the key to innovation—both because it frees the necessary resources and because it stimulates the search for the new that will replace the old (p. 143, Managing for Results).”  See also, How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose and Purposeful Abandonment: Prerequisite to Innovation.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

4 Steps to Extending Your Reach into the Crowd and Community

Ever said anything that remotely sounds like this:
  • Our student ministry isn’t reaching new teens.
  • We’re just not reaching young adults anymore.
  • We’re not reaching young couples.
  • We’re seeing plenty of first time visitors, but they’re not coming back.
  • Our congregation doesn’t reflect the community.  We’re older.  We lack diversity.  We drive the wrong cars and listen to the wrong music.
What if there was a solution, but it required leaving behind the safety of your office?  What if there was an answer, but it meant getting out of your office and spending time with the people you’re trying to reach?
There is a solution
If we were product developers or marketers, we would understand the need to develop empathy for our customers’ needs.  We wouldn’t spend a lot of time criticizing our customers (or non-customers) for not being wise enough to choose our product.  We wouldn’t spend any time or energy trying to figure out why they won’t buy what we think they ought to buy or do what they should do.
If we were product developers or marketers, we wouldn’t do any of those things, would we?  No…it would be a waste of time.
Four steps that extend reach into the crowd and community
What would we do?  We’d do these four things:
  1. We’d get out of our offices and venture into the messy unknown of the lives of the people we hope to reach.  Instead of theorizing, we’d actually spend time with them.  Instead of postulating or pontificating about what they want, we’d spend time with them learning what they need.
  2. We’d suspend our fear of judgement and begin rethinking our strategies.  Instead of worrying what the usual suspects will think, we’d courageously follow the course that leads to the truth.  We’d honestly diagnose the effectiveness of what we’re currently doing.  We’d honor the wins of the past while admitting the failures of the present.
  3.  We’d accept losing control by bringing outsiders into our project.  We’d be open to the inclusion of new team members who might offer fresh perspectives on our mission.  We’d invite the participation and insights of other experts on aspects of the community.
  4. We’d quickly take first steps by implementing unproven but promising prototypes.  Instead of waiting for a fully perfected new model, we’d eagerly search for next steps that lead in the right direction.
I’ve been reading and reflecting on a set of ideas from Tom and David Kelley’s Creative Confidence.  In addition, there are excellent examples in two HBR articles by the Kelleys: Fighting the Fears that Block Creativity and Reclaim Your Creative Confidence.

How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose

If you’ve been along for much of this journey…you’ve probably read several of these posts.  If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to go back and familiarize yourself with the ideas in them.
I want to encourage you to watch this short TED presentation by Sheena Iyengar called How to Make Choosing Easier.  Best known for her work on the phenomenon known as choice overload, Iyengar has delivered a real gift here for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.  What she’s talking about has application for all of us.  If only we’ll listen.
Can’t see the video?  You can watch it right here.