Getting FIRST TIME GUESTS to come back

Part of Multisite Monday

 

Churches all over the nation welcomed first-time guests this past weekend. The only difference between churches that are growing and churches that find themselves stagnate or in decline is the retention of those individuals. You’ve probably heard it said, “You get one shot to make a great first impression.” When it comes to ministry, I would add to that statement, “You get one shot to make a great first impression or you won’t ever see them again.”

The question becomes, “How can you create an experience that has a lasting impact and will compel guests to come back?” The key is PREPARATION. When families make the conscious decision to “try out” your church, they expect you to be prepared for their arrival. There is no RSVP or advance notice. Whether you expect 10 first-time guests this weekend at two locations, or 1000 first-time guests at 20 locations, establishing a plan to receive these individuals is a necessity.

When families feel welcome, understand what the morning holds, know where and how to pick-up their child, and make a connection with one or more volunteers or staff, the likelihood they will return increases exponentially. Excellence is in the details. Let’s spend a few minutes examining the practical aspects of welcoming guests. Below you will find questions to help you evaluate your preparedness.

 

How long does it take a first-time guest to check-in their child? (From the front door to dropping off at the classroom)

Tip: Schedule “secret shoppers” to time the process and get an accurate evaluation of each location.

Tip: Have check-in volunteers wear ministry logoed t-shirts to help parents easily identify those who will be assisting them.

 

What training have you provided to your check-in teams?

Tip: Volunteers come and go. A quarterly refresher will keep your teams operating with efficiency and effectiveness.

Tip: Check-in systems and database trainings are a great start, but welcome scripts and hospitality coaching is also a necessity.

 

What VIP treatment will you offer to first-time guests to make them feel special?

Ideas:

  • Informational handouts about each area of ministry
  • An assigned volunteer to assist each family from the parking lot to the classroom
  • A number for parents to text to check on their child throughout the service
  • A sticker or lanyard that easily identifies the child as a first-time guest, so he or she will receive VIP treatment throughout the experience

 

Are you conveying a commitment to safety throughout your check-in process?

Tip: Have a security volunteer or police officer present near the check-in area to reinforce your dedication to safety.

Tip: Following child check-in, have the volunteer escorting the new family to their classroom explain safety protocols, including lock-down times and pick-up procedures.

 

What steps do you take to make pick-up easy and efficient?

Tip: Consider giving parents a blueprint map of the building, explaining traffic flow and pick-up procedures.

Tip: Think of ways to make it easier and quicker for first-time guests to navigate pick-up lines.

 

Discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty combined with sluggish check-in or pick-up systems will drive away potential attendees and prohibit growth. Parents’ expectations are high. They walk in your door and expect you will be ready to receive them. If you stumble and fall below the imaginary line of expectation, the gap created is enough to discount your church before you’ve had an opportunity to minister. The opposite is also true. When you exceed expectations, moms and dads will not only notice, but also grant allowances when small hiccups occur throughout the morning. I’ve actually had parents say, “They forgot to feed my child his bottle, but they were so sweet, helpful, and welcoming it wasn’t a big deal.” Parents will excuse small missteps when they know you are committed to excellence. Exhibiting that excellence starts from the moment they step out of their car.

In a multisite model, it’s easy for check-in systems and volunteer training to vary from location to location. I would encourage you to make this a central responsibility, one person dedicated to monitoring quality control, ordering first-time guest gifts, updating and checking weekly database entries, and scheduling volunteer trainings. If that isn’t possible with your current staff org chart, a scheduled meeting-of-the-minds is necessary to examine standards and set expectations.

I hope you will join me again next Multisite Monday as we continue to discuss FIRST TIME GUESTS. Part II will focus on subsequent follow-up and retention.

For More Multisite Mondays Click Here

Jess Bealer

See You At The Orange Conference #OC17

 

Jess and I can’t wait for #OC17. It really is our favorite conference of the year! If you’ve been waiting to register, the wait is over!

If you’ve never been then you should know what’s going to happen.

  • You’ll learn from, share with, and be accepted by those in your tribe.
  • You’ll hear speakers that are innovative, practical and experienced.
  • You’ll have the freedom to set your own agenda with over 100 breakouts.
  • Your team will get back on the same page.
  • And you’ll be reminded that ministry can also be crazy, ridiculous fun! That’s a lot of awesome.

Register for The Orange Conference by February 16 to save $50 off regular rates!

www.TheOrangeConference.com

Frank Bealer

Think Differently About Appreciating Volunteers

Part of Multisite Monday

 

A few years back I wrote an article entitled, Death To Volunteer Banquets. A little blunt? For sure. Truthful? Absolutely. The point of the article was to explain how a once a year dinner designed to cast vision and give direction but branded as volunteer appreciation does little to propel your ministry forward.

Volunteer care and appreciation can only be accomplished through strategic means. It can’t be reactive. It must be proactive. In a multisite model, it’s even easier for volunteers to fall through the cracks. Reduce burnout, isolation, and dissatisfaction by systematically creating routines that enable you to personally appreciate each and every one of your team members. Let’s take a closer look at how to do just that.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be PERSONAL.

Volunteer banquets treat everyone the same. They equalize the volunteer who puts in ten hours at the church office in addition to his or her full time job, with the volunteer who rarely shows up even when you call and offer reminders. Not everyone enjoys getting dressed up or eating in front of other people, and not everyone has another night to give you. What was meant to honor their sacrifice becomes another burden they must bear. Instead, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Think back to some of your all-time favorite presents. I can almost guarantee what set those gifts apart from the rest was how special and unique they were to you. Someone noticed something about you, a problem you dealt with, a preference you had, or an experience that made you feel cherished and loved. I’m not advocating for everyone on your team to get a surprise trip to his or her preferred vacation destination, but I’m sure you see the point. If you truly desire to honor those you lead, you must KNOW enough about them to appreciate them in a way that is special and unique. It must be personal.

Example: A fellow children’s director I know honors graduating seniors with a collegiate mug or water bottle filled with their favorite snack or candy. She matches the mugs to the college or university each will attend in the fall. By recognizing the season he or she is entering the director shows appreciation and support.

Tip: When volunteers sign up to serve in your ministry, have them fill out a favorites form. Ask them to list everything from their favorite restaurant and Starbucks drink to their favorite dessert or hobby. When the time comes to show appreciation, you’ll have ideas of how to uniquely honor them as individuals.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be ROUTINE.

Saying thank you and offering words of encouragement should come as natural to you as breathing. When you witness someone act in a big picture kind of way or notice a volunteer sacrifice time and energy to move your ministry forward offer in-the-moment praise and IMMEDIATELY make a note in your phone or planner to follow up with a word or gift of appreciation at a later time. I once heard a pastor say, “Gratitude is never silent.” Your words and actions should scream gratefulness.

Example: Before the hustle and bustle of child check-in begins, I set aside 15 minutes to walk around and say hello to each member of my team. I offer compliments on everything from a perfectly set up room to a fresh haircut. Knowing my volunteers and making them feel valued and loved is as much my responsibility as ensuring we have enough veggie straws in the cabinets.

Tip: Have a secret stash of spontaneous gifts you can grab to show on-the-spot appreciation to volunteers when you notice them acting in a way that deserves immediate recognition. Keep a variety of candy, gift cards, lotions, albums, books, or even church t-shirts on hand.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be SYSTEMIZED

A life in ministry is busy. The work is never done, and for many of us, we indulge in procrastination far too often. I’ve come to realize if something matters to me, I must carve out a new pattern in my life to help establish habits that are healthy and productive. Volunteer appreciation should be no different. Create systems that force the behavior. Schedule time on your calendar to send thank you notes each week. Make it a habit to swing by Starbucks or Krispy Kreme every Sunday morning and pick up sweet treats for different teams of volunteers. Divide your volunteer appreciation budget into a monthly amount and set reminders to spend that money regularly. If you don’t have money set aside in your church budget to honor volunteers, advocate for it. When you systemize your volunteer appreciation it won’t be long before the practice becomes a pattern.

Example: During the holiday season, Elevation honors volunteers by honoring their children. Each year they create a Christmas clubhouse promising seasonal treats and activities to help kids enjoy the long hours spent at church each Christmas.

Tip: Create a card writing station and encourage leaders to utilize it to show appreciation to their teams. Provide beautiful stationary, colorful gel pins, stickers, confetti, and $5 gift cards. Then ask every leader to write two cards to volunteers they caught going above and beyond. Make it easy by only requiring them to write the volunteers’ names on the envelope. You can always go back and add the stamp and address later.

 

Let’s be honest, all volunteers are not created equal. Some are incredible. They move your ministry forward and you wonder what you would do without them. Others show up and get the job done and while you’re thankful for their service, they may not shine like those showstopper vols you cling to so tightly. Then there are those who you may or may not see during their scheduled service time. They arrive late, rarely smile, and occasionally spout something that has everyone around them rolling their eyes. Their contribution is little more than a ratio met. These types of volunteers are few and far between. They exist, but are definitely in the minority. Over the years, I’ve discovered that almost everyone serving in ministry signed up with altruistic intentions. No matter their “type,” at some point they just wanted to make a difference in the life of a child or student. They wanted families to feel welcome and empowered, and they wanted the personal fulfillment that comes with serving. But ministry is messy. Toddlers throw tantrums. Parents get offended. Supplies go missing. Systems change and then change again. Before you know it, a volunteer is throwing his or her hands in the air and walking out the door, or in most cases, disappearing to never be heard from again.

There are a million different reasons why a volunteer vanishes, but I’ve found more often than not, it’s because they’ve fallen off our radar. For too long in ministry, we’ve relied on a slap on the back or a kind word to keep volunteers energized and moving forward. That’s a great start, but ultimately it’s not enough. Your volunteer base may be the key to execution for your ministry, but it’s crucial to remember these are individuals with interests, concerns, and needs, and one of their greatest needs is to be valued by you, their leader.

In a multisite model, systemizing your volunteer appreciation is essential if you want to build team camaraderie and increase longevity. Whatever system you create must be transferable from one location to another. Systemizing volunteer appreciation doesn’t have to be complex to be complete. Effectiveness is most often found in personal touches and meaningful relationships.

Join me again next Multisite Monday as I talk about First Time Guest follow-up and care.

 

Jess Bealer

Defining a Leading Lady – CLARITY

 

A few years ago when preparing to launch a new portable location I asked my intern to wipe down the school’s water fountains. She smiled and nodded, but sighed as she walked away. A little later in the day as we were unloading supplies I asked, “Did I upset you earlier?” She explained how sometimes she felt insulted because I dumbed things down, shared too many details, and had a tendency to repeat myself. I asked for an example and she laughed and said, “You told me, in detail, how to wipe down the water fountains, explained what happened the last time you asked someone to wipe down the water fountains and they did it wrong, and you’ve reminded me about six times today to wipe down the water fountains. I got the message loud and clear, you want the water fountains to be clean.” I cringed and quickly apologized. I thought I was bringing clarity when in reality I was only creating frustration.

Over the years, I’ve learned clarity comes when you care enough about those you are communicating with to make a conscious effort to be cautious, clever and brief. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

Be CAUTIOUS

As a child and teen my dad would say, “Just because it can be said, doesn’t mean it should be.” He taught me that before you speak you should run it through a filter. Ask yourself these three questions.

Is it TRUE?

It has to be absolute, not just partially true, not an opinion that could and most likely will be subjective, but fully truthful.

Is it KIND?

Ask yourself, would you like for someone to say this to you or about you? If not, keep your mouth shut.

Is it NECESSARY?

So much of what we say is superfluous. It’s unneeded or useless. When we say too much, we often find ourselves regretting what was only meant to serve as a momentarily entertaining conversation.

Clarity starts with caution. Voicing the wrong sentiment or saying too much altogether can muddy the conversation and cause you to sidetrack. Use discretion when you speak. Don’t waste the time or relational equity focusing on nonessentials.

Be CLEVER

I’m not advocating for you to speak in rhyme or for every word out of your mouth to be a pun or parody, but in most circumstances there is a way to create innovative language that is also memorable.

Here are some examples:

We want to engage kids and empower families.

This explains the priorities by narrowing the scope and limiting the distractions created by highlighting everything.

We don’t “have to,” we “get to.”

This expounds on the mindset of servitude without the ten-minute speech.

Create Wow Moments.

We repeated this to volunteers frequently to remind them to go above and beyond when serving families.

The most effective form of communication is unforgettable and implicit. Say what needs to be said, but find sticky ways to get your message across.

Be BRIEF

I distinctly remember a British Literature class I took in college. Every day I would sit in the front row and attempt to focus and stay awake. The professor was highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, and immensely boring. It wasn’t because the subject matter was uninteresting; it was because my professor spent half the day chasing proverbial rabbit trails. She would start with Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales and within a few minutes we were listening to her recount her recent trip to England. By the end of the hour, most in the class were confused, bored and frustrated because it meant we were going to spend hours in the text self teaching material that should have been explained to us.

We’ve all sat through a lecture, a speech, or a class and thought, “Why doesn’t he get to the point?” or “How does she not realize no one is paying attention?” Yet, most of us have the unfortunate tendency to over share the personal when only the pertinent is necessary. Personal examples, if relevant, can help to illustrate a point but only if they are concise and draw direct correlations from an intangible thought to a concrete experience.

Don’t assume your audience knows anything, but say only as much as is necessary to clearly explain the point. In most cases, truth is straightforward and simple. Your speech should be as well.

The next time you find yourself leading a team meeting or preparing for a difficult conversation ask yourself how you can be more cautious, clever and brief.

Join us again next week on FamilyMinistry.Church as we continue to define what it means to be a Leading Lady in ministry.

Jess

Kidmin Multisite – The Infrastructure of Evaluation

Part Of Multisite Monday

 

In recent years, EVALUATION has become a buzzword in ministry. Growing up a preacher’s kid, I distinctly remember phrases like, “We’re not growing in number, but we’re growing in depth,” or “It doesn’t matter how many people show up if one person gives his or her life to Jesus, it’s worth it.” I also remember my dad shaking his head and saying, “No. If we can’t measure success, it’s time and money wasted.” I’m not speaking in absolutes. I’m sure there are actions you could take or ministries you could launch to further God’s kingdom that would be difficult to measure. However, I also know that defining victory increases your odds of success.

Family Ministry is one big puzzle made up of a thousand different pieces. It would be simple if we could look at our teams and say, “I trust you. Now go do a good job!” The problem is that success, if not defined, is subjective. Everyone will have a different take and those varying perspectives may not align with the purpose or vision of your ministry.

Policies, procedures, standards, and systems don’t handcuff your teams, they free them. They grant the authority necessary to meet expectations. They empower volunteers to identify solutions within the parameters you’ve set, and they clearly define boundaries. I call this the infrastructure of EVALUATION. In a multisite model, a strong foundation is essential if you want excellence to translate from one location to another, but that requires a clear set of blueprints. Below you will find a list to help get you started.

Atmosphere

Room Ratios / Small Group Ratios

Toy Replacement / Standards

Signage Requirements / Standards

Large Group Quality Control (Run-through / Actors)

Minimum Standards (By Area)

 

Policy and Procedures

First Time Guest Welcome Procedure

First Time Guest Follow-Up Plan

Special Needs Family Procedures

Child Bathroom Policy

Diaper Changing Policy

Infant Feeding Procedures

Snack Restrictions / Policy

Check-In / Check-Out Procedures

Room Opening / Closing Procedures

Tear-down / Set-up Procedures

Incident Reporting System

Safety / Security Standards

Evacuation Plan

Active Shooter Policy

Curriculum Distribution Procedures

Transition(s) Plan (Small Group / Large Group)

Parent Paging System (During the Service)

 

Volunteers

Volunteer Communication / Feedback Plan

New Volunteer On-boarding Procedures

Volunteer Training / Coaching Plan

Volunteer Appreciation Plan

Volunteers’ Children Care Plan

Volunteer Dress Code

Supply Needs / Communication Procedures

Setting clear expectations for your teams allows for advancement and accountability. This list isn’t a catchall. As your ministry changes and expands, additional policies and procedures may be necessary. Your current systems and standards will most likely be null and void a year from now if you’re experiencing growth. Building the infrastructure in advance will ensure you’re ready for all God has planned for your ministry.

I hope you’ll join me again next week on FamilyMinistry.Church for Multisite Monday as we discuss systemizing Volunteer Appreciation!

Jess Bealer

Thoughts On Leadership Development

 

Leadership Development (with Craig Johnson & Frank Bealer) from INC Pastoral Resources on Vimeo.