How to Make a Guest’s First Sunday Count

Sure, you have a mission statement for your church.

We do, too. I bet our statements pretty much say the same thing, with only a variation of adjectives and action verbs. After all, God sort of gave us the statement in the first place.

Having a mission statement is obviously important, but ensuring the mission statement comes to life is more important. How we design for that is important. After all, if what’s written on the wall isn’t happening down the hall, then what good is the statement after all?

I recently heard a story that so beautifully illustrates the power of taking the mission personally, and it was birthed from our organizational design. I’d love to share it with you, because it was a massive reminder to me of what’s at stake very single Sunday in our churches.

A few weeks back a brand new guest came to Woodstock City Church (where I serve). She was new to church. Not just new to our church, but I believe new to church. Although she is married, she came alone this day. As she entered the doors, a volunteer at our New Guest kiosk greeted her (let’s call her Amy). We have kiosks just inside the doors of every entry point at our church to answer questions and help new guests navigate our building. After talking with the new guest for a short while, Amy offered to give her a tour of the building, getting to know her more along the way. As they walked by Waumba Land (our preschool area), the new guest shared something very personal — she had lost her pre-school child. Through the obvious emotions of that moment, she confessed she didn’t know where else to turn, but knew she needed to turn somewhere, so she came to church. Our church.

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6 Challenges in Portable Church (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 1)

AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment.

This post in one sentence…
Finding a sense of permanence in a portable church can be challenging, but not impossible.


As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. Over the next few posts, we will talk about portable church – the challenges, opportunities, and ways to succeed.


Let’s start with your challenges…

THE CHALLENGE OF PORTABLE CHURCH…

Do you LOVE leading a church in a temporary facility?

Actually, I’m sure there are some pastors who do, but even they would readily admit portable church provides many unique challenges.


MY PORTABLE CHURCH BACKGROUND

I’ve been a Lead Pastor for six years and prior served as a Family Ministry and Student Director for nearly four. That’s nearly a decade of professional Christianity, and most of these years have been spent in temporary facilities. Today, I lead a North Point Ministries campus location for Andy Stanley (Watermarke Church). We average roughly 5,000 people each week meeting in a school. We set up and tear down 40 classrooms, a gym, and a cafeteria every week.

All that to say, like many of you, I’m intimately familiar with portable church.

Before we consider the opportunities and paths to portable success, let’s identify some of the issues. Because leading in a portable facility presents many challenges.

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The Secret Sauce of Volunteer Recruitment and Retention.

How do you recruit and keep great volunteers?

If you have a growing church, no doubt this is a growing concern. At Watermarke, we have grown from around 500 to 5,000 in 5 years. And while that is certainly exciting, it comes with several challenges. Volunteer recruitment and retention is toward the top of the list. During our fastest growing years, keeping up with volunteer needs was an overwhelming task. If you were to look around our church today, however, you would see:

  1. Children’s ministries full of women AND men, most serving weekly, leading small groups and connecting with kids and their parents in meaningful relationships.
  2. Student ministry environments with men and women serving weekly who also attend multiple weekend retreats and summer camps with their students. Many use a portion of their vacation time to be there.
  3. Nearly as many MEN as women serving with children and students.
  4. Both churched and unchurched people helping park cars, seat guests, execute our services, and answer questions.
  5. In some areas, more volunteers than is required. In other areas, a wait-list to serve.
  6. An annual volunteer retention rate well over 90%.

As church leaders (or leaders of any volunteer-dependent organization), we know volunteer recruitment and retention is a top priority. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to capture the hearts of the disengaged while keeping the hearts of those already participating. It’s a challenge. But there is a solution.

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Can Your Church Parking Lot Be An Experience?

In your mind, when does the sermon begin?

If you said “The parking lot,” I think you’re dead on. While we as pastors might prepare all week to communicate a message with passion and energy, if our audience is frustrated, annoyed, or just confused before the enter the building, we are working out of a deficit.

We should consider it a given that families will argue on the way to church. They most likely left late. A child will be wearing mismatched shoes. And a parent will yell at some point. In many ways, the odds are stacked against us before they are even with us. But we have the potential to create a better experience the minute they drive on our property if we will just plan ahead.

At Watermarke Church, our parking lot is one of our biggest challenges. We currently meet in a school, so parking around the building is scarce. To help make room for our cars, we lease and shuttle attendees in from two satellite parking lots. But while we could look at our parking situation as a negative, our team has decided to make it part of the Watermarke experience. I think you can do the same – regardless of your circumstance.

Here are ten specific ways you can turn your parking lot into a parking experience:

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