Go Ahead, Have That Spiritual Conversation

I spoke to a friend the other day. We haven’t talked in a long time. It was good to catch-up; to share some memories.

After catching up, my friend admitted she wanted to talk to me about spiritual things.

We spent the next hour talking about God. She wanted to know my story.  I told her my story of how Jesus got hold of my life and how I learned about grace and how it changed everything. It’s a crazy story but it’s mine. I am good with it.

I did my best to answer her questions about Jesus and what His life means for all of us.

It was a powerful conversation. I sensed the presence of God in it. At the end of our call she said I’d helped her…that I’d given her some thing to think about.

I really admired my friends courage. She took a risk to reach out to me; took a risk to have a spiritual conversation with me.

I think most people want to have spiritual conversations: Is there a God? Does he care about my life? Are things like love, justice and beauty absolute truths of the universe? Who is Jesus…should I even care? What’s my purpose? Where am I going?

The culture works hard to suppress these kinds of conversations. No, there’s no formal persecution, at least in the Western context. (There is in other parts of the world.)

Yet, the culture overwhelmingly works to keep this conversation to our private lives. (Never talk about politics nor religion…right.) It’s dangerous and leaves many people isolated and alone as they wrestle with these great questions.

We shouldn’t be afraid to have spiritual conversations. There’s nothing to fear. So when someone I know steps out and wants to have them, well, it’s kind of cool.

I know there are a host of you out there who long to have the kinds of spiritual conversations my friend and I had. Go ahead, find some to talk to. Ask the important questions.

All it takes is a little courage to have them.

What conversations do you need to start having? With whom? When? 

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Relationships and Responsibilities Help People Stick

If you’re church planting I am assuming at some point you will host Sunday morning gatherings. I will also assume that you want people to experience your community, and come back.

Excellent.

But what are you doing to help your guests connect in a meaningful way to your community? What are you doing to help them contribute to that community.

If we really want our Sunday morning services to be gathering centers that help people take next steps with Jesus, we’ve got to be intentional about helping our guests build relationships and assume a responsibility.

Your job is to create a culture that helps them do this.

Relationship building happens in:

  • Small groups
  • Meet and greets
  • Follow-up calls
  • Newcomer gatherings
  • Serving opportunities

Responsibilities are found

  • Serving on ministry teams
  • Serving in the community
  • Helping with projects or events

To be constructive members of any culture, people need relationships and responsibilities. People who can’t connect or find their place to contribute aren’t going to stay very long. It’s only after they have these that they will become part of your community.

Churches are no different.

To help people find relationship and responsibilities you will need to help them.

  • Be clear about ways new people can connect.
  • Build rhythms and platforms that help new people connect.
  • Set expectations that everyone find a place to contribute.
  • Be clear about how and what you’re asking people to contribute.
  • Keep the pressure on (in a positive way) about these things.

People ‘come’ to church for lots of reasons.

But they stay for the relationships and they will start growing when they have a real responsibility to the community.

What can you do today to help people build relationships and assume responsibilities in your church?

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Where to Position Greeters at Your Gatherings

Greeters help create the relational vibe at your Sunday gatherings. Most importantly, they play an important role in helping people connect to your community.

That’s why it’s worth thinking through how you leverage their skills and talents.

Now, greeting is part art and part science. What I want you thinking about today is how to position your greeters. I know it might not be something you’d want to invest time in thinking about. The truth is, you can have the nicest and kindest people greeting. But if you don’t position them well, you’ll waste their talents.

Some of my suggestions include:

  • Outside. Your visitors experience begins when they enter the parking lot. If possible have clearly marked attendants waiting to help people park and direct them to the front door.
  • Outside front doors. Have more greeters outside your main doors to hold them open for people.
  • Inside lobby. Ideally you have another greeter in the main lobby as people come in. they’re not too close to the front door, but they are present. there watching the doors and smiling and greeting people with a smile.
  • Transition points. These are great places for greeters. At our Park Hill location guests need to go up some steps to get to the auditorium where we hold our service. we’ve always got greeters there.
  • Floaters. Try to have greeters who float in our community space, the lobby, the hallway etc. They can help new families connect to our kids area etc.
  • Entrance to your auditorium or gathering space. This is where our greeters hand out programs and pens etc.
  • Inside the gathering space. one more greeter inside the meeting space to help people find seats.
  • Exit greet. It’s REALLY Important to do all of this on the back-end of service. Call it exit greeting. This is one last opportunity to make a positive final impression with people.

It’s easy to let greeting your guests become perfunctory. This is a huge miss. We need to remember that in the Western context at least, Sunday mornings play an important role in the spiritual life of most Christians. Greeting, like other Sunday gathering roles, can literally change eternities.

I’ve written about importance of connecting with your guests here.

What are other ways to position greeters on Sunday morning?

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How to Become an Advocate for the Local

Local: of, relating to, or characteristic of a particular place : not general or widespread.

Advocate: one that supports or promotes the interests of another.

I love Starbucks coffee. I also love at working and meeting people at Starbucks.

LocalBut as much as I love Starbucks, I’d rather hangout at a local coffee shop. The coffee will be richer, the music just a bit cooler, and the people will be a bit friendlier. Besides, I am always more productive at a local place–well, it sure feels that way.

There’s a couple of great coffee places in Kansas City. (I recommend the Quay in Rivermarket.) And now that I am transitioning back to the Chicago suburbs, I am looking for any local coffee shops. Unfortunately there aren’t many options.

See, I value the local. I suspect you do as well. In our over-marketed, hyper-consumer society there is something rich and pure about the local experience. We want that unique experience the local provides. My experience as Starbucks will always be the same no matter where I am. My experience in a local coffee shop will always be unique.

That’s why I urge church planters to become the chief advocates for their local community. We talk about contextualizing the gospel message to the community that God calls us to plant a church.  And one way to do that is to promote the interests of others. Taking up the cause of someone else is another way to serve them, isn’t it?

 We an opportunity to serve people in our community by becoming advocates for the local.

So what would it look like for you to patron all of the local businesses, to advocate for local causes and events, to advocate for the local public schools?

There are lots of things for you to advocate in your community if you think about it:

  1. The music scene.
  2. Art fairs.
  3. Teen crisis centers.
  4. Pubs and eateries.
  5. food co-ops.
  6. Boys and girls clubs.
  7. Sports leagues.
  8. Owner operated coffee shots.
  9. Volunteer programs at the local school.
  10. Public school teachers.
  11. Library and literacy events.
  12. Community block parties.
  13. Safe children programs.
  14. After school programs for teens.
  15. Races, 5Ks, 10Ks and other sporting events.

I am sure this will get you thinking…

Now be careful here. I am not saying that you become the chief marketer in your community. Leave that to the local chamber of commerce. And I’d advise you to stay out of anything that is political or divisive in the community. There are plenty of people fighting for causes.

Advocacy is different. It’s ultimately about serving the agenda of others.

The church has a unique opportunity to serve the community by promoting the general interests of the community. And that’s a great way to contextualize the gospel.

What about you? What are some ways you can become the local advocate of your community?

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10 Ways to Connect People with Hospitality

I like to eat. I am assuming you do as well. And the people who celebrate with you on Sunday morning do too. That’s why I am a strong advocate of having food and drink available to guests at all times. tea-cakes-l

This is more than just feeding people. Food is a social elixir. Food makes people comfortable and when people are comfortable they are more likely to connect with each other.

You need a rockin’ hospitality team that plans and executes well at all of your gatherings. I led out Guest Services teams at Restore for several years and learned a thing or two about connecting people.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Find the right leader. God has gifted certain people in the area of hospitality. Find them and let them lead.
  2. Home-made baked goods. We have a team of contributors that do an amazing job of getting freshly baked good to our campuses: donuts, cinnamon rolls, pastries, cupcakes etc. Sure, we rely on good ole store bought goods to fill in the gaps. But our primary focus is on freshly baked good. Our baking team is also another way people can contribute.
  3. Ensure you have hosts at your hospitality tables. We have an extraordinary team that are hosting the tables of food and coffee each morning. While they are plating the food they are also checking for empty coffee pots, keeping the cold water cold. And most importantly, they are connecting with our guests. Their presence assures first-timers that we are really trying.
  4. Brew great coffee. And lot of it.We’ve tried lots of varieties, brands and roasts. Offer decaf for those of us who try to watch our caffeine intake. Finally, offer hot water for tea and iced water for drinks. Crappy coffee is worse than not offering any. So don’t.
  5. Go for great presentation. If it were up to me, I would get a ‘Box a Joe’ to go, leave it on the table, open a box of donuts and call it a day. Thankfully, we have a coach who leads hospitality team who has a flair for presentation. Our treats are plated and arranged tastefully. Our portions are cut so our guests can easily grab them. Our team uses table clothes and decent plates. Let someone with a gift of hospitality help you with this.
  6. Don’t skimp. Be sure to have plenty of food and coffee available. This might mean you have more than you need some mornings. And that’s OK. But it’s not cool when you have new guests and you’ve already run out of food. (Aside, on the mornings when we’ve over-estimated the amount of food we need, we’ll bring it to the local fire station and/or food bank. Nothing need be wasted.)
  7. It’s always free. The point of a hospitality team is to connect people, not feed them. So I strongly urge you to NEVER charge a penny for food and coffee. Build the cost into your connections budget.
  8. Plan ahead. A well run hospitality team needs a great leader. There is quite a bit of coordination that needs to happen to ensure the food and supplies are available and the team is staffed. Having someone who is passionate about hospitality and food will make all the difference.
  9. Small portions. You’re not providing breakfast. You’re providing snacks and treats. That means 10 oz cups of coffee are fine. Smaller portions of treats are perfect. Think finger food.
  10. Music. Ensure you have music playing in your hospitality space. Music helps give the space energy and ambiance. Go for something chill and relaxed.

Now don’t miss the point. While food is great, it’s a miss if people don’t connect. The more time people spend talking with each other, the greater the likelihood they’ll connect in a meaningful way. And that just might change eternities.

What about you? What are some ways you’ve used to connect Guests with hospitality?

I’ve written about creating a relational mess in your lobby here. I’ve written about who you’re expecting here.

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