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3 Bad Words (That Destroy Guest Experience)

Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

A few weeks ago I found myself at Pebble Beach Golf Club.  It’s not what you think.  Heather and I were spending a few “alone days” in Monterey, California prior to the wedding of dear friends in a nearby vineyard.  While in Monterey we heard about the famous 17-Mile Drive.  Instead of driving the scenic highway we rented a few bikes and started peddling.  This beautiful stretch of road brings you through historic Cannery Row, along the Pacific Ocean, and drops you off in Carmel By-The-Sea.  What I did not know was this path would bring us right to the heart of the most famous golf course in the world.  

Heather loves to exercise.  I love Heather.  I find it rejuvenating to sit, eat, and watch.  Heather finds it rejuvenating to run, swim, and peddle.  Needless to say after 15 miles of peddling I was sweaty, messy, and ripe.  Heather was slightly glowing.  I noticed the signs to the golf club and remembered hearing of this famous location.  So, with a slight right turn I pulled right into the front gate of Pebble Beach Golf Club.  Wow, did we look out of place.  

I wasn’t sure were to park our bikes until I saw what appeared to be bike racks.  “Come on Heather.  Let’s lock them up here.”  As I pulled out my chain and padlock I noticed a very well dressed attendant approaching us.  Immediately I felt the disgrace of being out of place.  I wasn’t dressed right.  I don’t golf well.  I smell like I’ve been riding 15 miles in the sun.  I don’t belong here!  Then the man smiled.  “Hello there!  Welcome to Pebble Beach.  Would you like a safer place to keep your bikes while you are with us?”  It was at that moment I finally realized that I was locking our bikes to the golf bag stand.  No wonder the bike rack was made of mahogany and brass.  

Don’t Say Can’t

He could have easily said, “You can’t park that bike there.”  And technically he would have been right.  But that would have also reinforced my fear that I didn’t belong.  It was clearly the wrong place to park a bike now that I look back at the situation.  In fact some might say that I was kind of dense to have done such a thing.  But I’m thankful that a kind attendant didn’t feel it was necessary to embarrass me.  

    • Instead say Welcome

People feel awkward in new environments.  This is especially true in places that have the reputation for exclusivity.  So many people walk into our churches each week absolutely terrified that they will not be accepted.  Sadly, we often reinforce this preconception.  It is our responsibility to make each guest feel welcome and comfortable in this new environment we call the church.

    • Instead say Can

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enforce policies that are helpful to the majority.  We should just attempt to do so in a positive way.  Instead of saying, “You can’t sit on the front row with your infant child.”  Say, “Welcome to our church!  We are so happy to have you here.  Are you aware that there are excellent nursery facilities as well as family viewing rooms available for your convenience?  Of course you are more than welcome to sit in the auditorium if you prefer.  We have designated seating available for those who may need quick access to an exit.  

    • Instead say Better

Clearly the man didn’t want my dirty, rented bike locked to his pristine bag stand.  But he spoke to me about my desires and not his own.  He took time to think of my point of view. He could achieve his desired outcome (nasty bike gone) by appealing to my desires.  My bike would be safer around the corner, past the gate, behind the tool shed.  Instead of, “You can’t join the choir until you’re a member” we say, “we want you to feel fully trained and adequately prepared to sing and share your gift.  Connect Seminar is part of that training.”

Don’t Say No

There are clearly many places that are off limits to people who bike up to the front gate and have no reservations.  But honestly, I have no idea where those places are.  They weren’t emphasized.  After parking our bikes the gracious attendant encouraged us to check out “The Lodge” where we could grab a bite to eat.  

    • Instead say Yes

“You’ve got to try out the BLT, it’s legendary.  Also, snap a quick photo of the famed 18th hole from the balcony of the restaurant.  Do have a great time, we’re so glad you could stop on by.”  Never once did I hear him say the words: private club, don’t walk there, or off limits.  People will go where we guide them to go.  People will sign-up for what we promote.  We ought be giving clear direction to those who are our guests.

    • No Negative Signage

Few things are more off-putting than arriving a church and seeing negative signage.  No Parking!  No Smoking!  No cell-phones!  Don’t Enter!  

Don’t Say Idunno

Never say I Don’t Know!  It’s feels terrible to by uniformed or misinformed.  However, it feels even more terrible to go to someone who is supposed to know the answer and hear, “I’m not sure.  I don’t know.”  If I had asked that kind attendant what it would cost to stay at the club for the evening and play a round the following day, I guarantee he would not have responded with, “I don’t know.  Try asking at The Lodge.”

    • Instead say Let me Find Out

It’s it infuriating when asking a grocery store employee in which aisle the olives can be found and being told that they don’t know?   It may be their very first day and have less knowledge of the store than you but they should always respond with… “let me find out.”

    • Expressing your Ignorance doesn’t reflect well on you or the Organization

When a guest of member of the church happens to ask you a question that doesn’t fall in your purview of ministry you should never throw the organization under the bus while attempting to come off as innocent.  Instead, assure them that there is an answer and that you are just the person to find that answer for them.

Pebble Beach is simply practicing good business.  They did not treat me as an outsider though I may have felt and even looked like one.  They treated me with value and respect.  As far as they know I could have been a millionaire ready to book my next vacation.  Treating me as unimportant could have lost them business in the future.

We have an even greater reason to treat people with kindness, respect, and graciousness.  These are people whom God loves dearly.  We, His church, are to love all who come into our way without partiality, without arrogance, and without hypocrisy.

As for me?  I can’t wait to go back to Pebble Beach someday.  And I can’t even really golf!

Do you have some good ideas to enhance guest experience at your local church?  Share them in the comment section below:

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Paul Lahari
    April 17, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    I am so blessed and inspired by this encouraging experience. Thank you for the kind words. They are so thoughtful and helpful.

  • Reply
    Daniel Johnson
    April 18, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Good read.
    Thanks for the insights.

  • Reply
    Steve Watson
    April 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Great article. Thanks

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 18, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Great post! Thanks for the insight

  • Reply
    Nanxy B
    April 18, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    So true. That attendent had good training, good instincts, and an educated heart. I hope to do half as well with visitors to our church. Great post.

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      April 19, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Yes. It really is our responsibility to train our hospitality teams in our church. This makes me think of our incredible team at Southern Hills. They are so very professional while remaining approachable and kind. I could ask for a better team. They truly represent jesus well

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    We went to a Baptist Church after moving to another country (Switzerland) I was homesick and hoping to find people that would be friendly. NOT ONE person spoke to us. We even stayed for coffee fellowship after the am service. AKWARD! I’m a PK and I learned quickly I’ve taken my friendly church in the USA for granted! So much for finding new friends at church. We left feeling pretty down!

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      April 19, 2017 at 11:17 am

      Very sad. Let’s pray that our church’s can learn from these mistakes and present a genuine sense of welcome to each guest.

  • Reply
    Joanne Morris
    April 18, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    I appreciated your thoughts! One comment about your suggestion to the couple with the young child at church. Some parents may not know where the nursery is, but many, our family, have chosen to bring our children with us into the service. We believe corporate worship is for All ages-not just adults. Families with children should be welcome anywhere in the sanctuary-not just the back rows. Most parents will be glad to bring their children out of they are disruptive, but want to feel welcomed from the start.

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      April 19, 2017 at 11:16 am

      JoAnne – great point and I’m glad you brought it up. It is incredibly important that people who desire to worship together as a family in the main service feel they are welcome to do so. I’m so grateful that you pointed this out. As they say, the family that prays together…

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 19, 2017 at 12:38 am

    Your church is really growing fast! “About Me” at the beginning of this blog says it averages over 900. By the end of the article I’m reading it averages over 1000!

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      April 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Ha. Easter was good for us. 😂

  • Reply
    Bill Patterson
    April 19, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Great thoughts, Pastor Josh! It has been an encouragement to me to watch God use you for His glory. Take care, my friend!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 19, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Another wonderful read! Thank you Pastor😇

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