I’m about to share a concept with you that I think could revolutionize the guest experience at your church. It’s this: Your church experience is a lot like a movie. It isn’t just a single event. It’s a story with a series of scenes. Treating it as such will take your guest experience from good to great.
For many, the church story look like this:
Scene 1: The Drive to the Church
Scene 2: Finding a Parking Spot
Scene 3: Walking to the Front Doors
Scene 4: Navigating the Lobby
Scene 5: Dropping Off the Children
Scene 6: Entering the Worship Center and Finding a Seat
Scene 7: Picking Up the Children
Scene 8: Finding Their Car
Scene 9: Escaping the Parking Lot Without Sitting in Traffic
Scene 10: The Drive to a Restaurant
For your guests, attending your church service is an adventure story akin to Lord of the Rings—especially if it’s their first time.
They’re on a journey, much like Frodo with his ring. Along the way, there will be inconveniences and stress points. Those along the path will either become allies, obstacles, or enemies. And each new scene they encounter will either be a place of healing or a place of hostility.
What will your ministry be in this story? Will it be Mordor—a place of dangers and stress? Will it be Rivendell—a place of healing?
What will your role be in the story? Will you be an Ork—someone adding stress and anxiety to the situation? Will you be a Sam—someone easing their burden?
Just like Lord of the Rings, each scene of your church is a moment of potential conflict. “Will I be able to find the church and deal with the traffic? Will they have a parking spot for me? Will I find the correct entrance to the church? Will I know where to go once inside the building? Are people going to look at me weird? Is the pastor going to make me do something embarrassing in the middle of the service?”
They don’t care if the parking lot team placed the traffic cones in the appropriate lanes. They don’t care if the greeter is standing in her assigned space. They certainly don’t care if the ushers placed a box of tissues on the back row of each aisle. They are thinking about which rooms and spaces they’ll have to visit. If you look at the scene list above, that’s quite a few spaces. And we didn’t even include bathrooms, nursing mother’s rooms, multiple buildings, or first-time guest rooms.
Each of those spaces complicates the process and creates a potential for conflict. Your job in extending hospitality is to ease those points of tension.
As a storyteller, you understand the importance of transitioning your readers/viewers through the scenes. A great story feels like a cohesive progression. That’s the opportunity you have when you create Sunday service experiences.
I wrote a book about this with my friend, Jason Young. It’s called The Come Back Effect. (link: https://amzn.to/357ZlTj) In the book, Jason tells a story that I think illustrates this idea so well.
At our Buckhead Church location in Atlanta, Georgia, we’ve been navigating this idea. We have been trying to decide where our control of the guest experience begins. We understand that several roads feed our location, but there is one major entry point that requires more attention than any other.
When you pull off Highway 400, you turn onto Lenox Road and turn left onto Tower Place Drive. The church is right there, with its 320 parking spaces and three rented parking decks that surround the church. Because vehicles are entering and leaving our parking decks, our control obviously starts on Tower Place Drive. We’re creating the traffic chaos, so we need to manage it for our guest. But even more than that, our control begins on Lenox Road—at the long red light that awaits our guest. Obviously, we can’t do much about the length of the light other than staff it with highway patrol that can direct traffic, but we’re constantly looking for ways we can help the guest navigate that scene of their journey.
The next scene? Looking for a parking spot. Again, we can’t control the other drivers in our decks, but we do our best to ease the tension of this scene through our parking team.
During every incremental scene, it’s important to ask, “What is the guest thinking and feeling?” Then we do your best to anticipate their needs in each scene.
One simple way we have anticipated needs is understanding that if you are a parent with an infant or a preschool-age child, you carry other items with you. Therefore, we want to make the walk as easy as possible for you and provide a shorter distance for you to walk. You will see street signs that tell you to put your flashers on and we will guide you to park in the deck underneath the church. There we have an express elevator for you to get to your child’s ministry environment. At some of our campuses, we even provide wagons in the parking lots creating a fun way to tote preschoolers and all of the accessories that go along with parenting that age group.
Jason’s story shows some of the ways North Point Ministries helps transition their guests from scene to scene. They become an ally in the story instead of an obstacle.
Now apply this to your church. What scenes do your guests experience, and how can you help transition them in a more welcoming way?