March 17, 2014

Smiling is Not Enough: The Top Ten Mistakes Your Volunteers Make Welcoming Guests at Church

Guest at Church, Will Mancini & AuxanoThe team at Auxano enjoys playing the role of “secret worshipper” when we take a church through our visioning process called the Vision Pathway.  We call it a guest perspective evaluation. As I prepare to debrief a church again tomorrow, I want to share some general insights on welcoming ministry and hospitality for guests.

Here are the top ten mistakes I see when volunteers are helping me as a first time guest:

#1   Volunteers have not thought in advance about my next step as a guest so they don’t know how to guide the conversation with me. 

#2   Volunteers  are talking with friends and don’t notice me.

#3   Volunteers are doing task work and are not available or responsive the moment I show up.

#4   Volunteers generally hesitate when I initiate with a question. 

#5   Volunteers don’t know where the most pertinent information is located.

#6   Volunteers  tell me what to do with no information or tools or other people to help me.  

#7   Volunteers generally look preoccupied, distracted or unsure of themselves in their non-verbals even when being friendly.

#8   Volunteers are unaware of the basic “how to” questions for checking-in children of every age.

#9   Volunteers don’t introduce me to others at the church.

#10 Volunteers gave me written information that is not important, pertinent or strategic (sending me on a bee-line to the trash can). 

If you want more resources on welcoming ministry and church guest services, check out VisionRoom.com and follow Bob Adams who works as Auxano’s Vision Room curator and guest services maven. Here is a list of resources on his blog

My team and I want to connect with you. Fill out the short form below and one of our Navigator’s will contact you.

December 31, 2013

How to Communicate Your Church’s Vision Visually (2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown Post #4)

Communicate your church vision visuallyIf you are clear about who you are and where you are going as a church that’s awesome. Now it’s time to help everyone else in the world to see it, catch it and pass it on.

The single most powerful way to help people become contagious carriers of your vision is to give it to them visually! Did you know that of all five of your senses, your brain allocates 80% of its energy to the eyes. We are visual thinkers. I have watched over and over and over, how many people NEVER get the vision through words alone.

So what kind of visuals are we talking about? Allow me to explain two ways. First, I will ask you some simple questions as a bit of a litmus test. Second, I have attached Auxano’s brand process guide to illustrate how we build a design and communication toolbox for churches.

Have You Communicated Vision Visually?

  • Does your logo tell a story or create a conversation starting point?
  • Do you hand out a program or worship guide during services that is hard to throw away?
  • Is your church’s mobile website easy to use and engaging?
  • Can you draw your church’s strategy as a simple napkin sketch? (i.e., how you make disciples)
  • Do you capture video testimonies that illustrate your church’s mission, vision and values in the lives of people?
  • Do you have stylistically appealing tagline? (font, color, placement)
  • Can you read and see things about your church on social media (facebook, twitter, instagram)?
  • Do you have a 3-5 minute anchor video that shows where God is taking your church?
  • Do you have a consistent set of purposefully chosen design elements (based on you mission and values) that make up the look and fee of your primary communication tools?
  • Does your space intentionally utilize your church’s brand from architectural pieces and symbols to banners and signage?

Would you like to do a better job this year with this important aspect of vision-casting? If so, check out the brand process guide that we use at Auxano. It tells the story of the design and communication toolbox we did for Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach last year.

DOWNLOAD:  The Auxano Brand Process Guide

If you are interested in getting some outside help for branding & design, you can let us know here:

Fill out my online form.

December 28, 2013

Ministry Vision & Planning Series: Three Disciple Making Catalysts in the Life of Jesus (#6 of the 2014 Countdown)

Jesus the disciple maker It’s easy for the church’s disciple-making mission to get cluttered with lots of programmatic stuff. So as you look ahead to the next year, try refreshing your conviction for disciple-making by looking to the Master himself.

In each of the three synoptic gospels we see a different scene in the life of Jesus just before he calls his twelve disciples. Each snapshot, I believe,  reveals a unique aspect of both the heart of Jesus and his earthly-eternal kingdom strategy.

 Snapshot #1: The Great Opportunity Meets a Great Shortage (Matthew 9:35-38)

Before Jesus calls the twelve from Matthew’s perspective, we see the compassion of Jesus for the crowds. As he looked over masses (sheep without a shepherd) he observes that “the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.” His last command before selecting his inner circle is to pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers. In the light of the urgent opportunity Jesus begins investing deeply into the Twelve. The first catalyst is the massive gap between the need and the manpower.

 Snapshot #2: Building the Infrastructure Not the Popularity (Mark 3:7-12)

Mark shows us a different angle of Jesus’ motive just before he appoints the Twelve. In this passage he repeats the phrase “great crowd” showing for the first time the sheer volume of people who were responding to Jesus. Not only that, he shows the intensity of their pursuit by explaining how the people were “pressing around him” and how they needed to escape in a boat “lest they be crushed.” If that wasn’t enough even the demons cried out that he was the Son of God. What was Jesus final act before appointing the twelve? Jesus strictly ordered them NOT to make him known.

Why in the world did Jesus come to earth if he wanted to lower the volume of his identity and mission? Why would he intentional minimize his platform? The answer is simple. He wasn’t building a stage and a audience, he was building a people movement. And the disciple-making infrastructure was being threatened by the quick popularity.  Thus he focuses even more on the Twelve. The second catalyst is the threat of a shallow and wide ministry. 

Snapshot #3: The Weight of Life’s Brevity on Earth (Luke 6:6-11)

In Luke’s snapshot before selecting the Twelve,  we see a simple healing scene. This is where Jesus heals the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It’s also the first time we see the scribes Pharisees filled with fury to the point that they begin plotting what they are going to do with Jesus. This is the fountainhead of the death plot that would end Jesus’ physical opportunity on planet earth to be a disciple-maker. The next thing we see him doing is praying to the Father all night and then recruiting his core team.

The third catalyst is the recognition that you won’t be around forever.

What about you?

As you plan this year, how does Jesus disciple-making conviction, and especially these three catalysts, rescue you from a “program management” culture. Are you herding people through classes and events? Are you relying too much on  better preaching? Or do you have a robust, disciple-making strategy built around life-on-life investment, like Jesus.

Take these catalysts into your planning time:

  1. Helping people see the amazing opportunity of lost souls and recruiting them to pray for more harvest workers.
  2. Building the core with significant time investment before gathering the crowd.
  3. Being deeply aware of the finite window on earth to invest in others in light of eternity.
September 21, 2013

10 Rules of Raw that will Make Your Church More Relevant

Will Mancini - The Austin Stone

Raw is the best way to articulate the new relevance of church. Keep in mind that the term itself has varied definitions, most of which are helpful in describing mindset of church leaders that are better at reaching people in their 20s and 30s.

Raw =

  • not processed, undiluted & unvarnished
  • frank, overt & stark
  • powerfully impressive & hard core

For this post I will not reference demographics, but summarize the ambiance I see regularly in churches that have a stronger edge in attracting and sending younger leaders. To provide illustration, I will use a recent service I attended at The Austin Stone.

#1 Integrity of self-expression is stylish.   Raw = Don’t try to hard

If you haven’t noticed, it really doesn’t matter what your style is, it just matters that you are true to whoever you are. When that happens, the passion and the “being good at being you” factor, trumps genre.

At Austin Stone for example, an African American worship leader led a primarily Anglo congregation. At one point we sang a hymn, at one point we screamed our heads off, chanting recently written worship choruses.

#2 Honesty is the new quality.   Raw = Be vulnerable

Does “excellence” really matter anymore? In some ways yes and in other ways no. The basic expectations of our culture bring a “quality threshold” that a public gathering like a church should meet. But people don’t notice when you have it. It’s a permission-to-play thing; they only notice it when you don’t. What they do notice is the vulnerability of the leader. If he or she is refreshingly honest, there is respect and attraction.

When Tyler David bookended his message with an illustration, it wasn’t just helpfully clear and it wasn’t just funny. It was revealing. He was willing to make fun of himself and that made a huge difference with his audience. When it came time for serious application of the text, sharing his own weakness was natural.

#3 Influence is proximate or not at all.  Raw = Get closer than comfortable

The hunger for relationship and connection not only requires honestly but proximity and access. People want to be up-close with others. You can impress people from a distance but people don’t want to be just impressed, they want to be known. And they probably want you “closer” than you realize.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 9.38.26 AMAt the Stone, platform leaders stayed around and mingled. The put up slides to introduce their leadership- they wanted to be visible. The greeters were incredibly engaging. After-the-service opportunities to connect were very clear with people-savvy people “lining the way.” Albeit a large service (I am guess over 2,000), the environment invited people into relationship.

Austin Stone Welcoming

#4 Bold is beautiful.  Raw = Magnify reality

The opportunity to be bold is related to the first three rules. So don’t try to be bold if your not being real. But when it comes to the overall tone of your organization and your leadership style, boldness is desirable. This is not the time, or the generation, to shield the truth about sin, or leave the benefits of the gospel understated. Don’t paint in muted colors; show more contrast and create higher definition in all you do.

The message at Austin Stone had many short punchy statements that carried a boldness factor. The lyrics and the volume of worship could be described as bold. Perhaps the first bold impression  is the name of the church itself. It is not “Austin Stone” it is, “The Austin Stone.” Does that sound too arrogant to you? Maybe it’s just being bold in a way that you’re not used to.

#5 Direct gains respect.  Raw = Don’t spin, don’t schmooze

Model preaching during my years of seminary carried an “indirect factor.”  We looked for metaphors to carry the force of a point. For example, you didn’t say, “You need to be more accepting.”  You tell a story about someone who took down their fence, and say, “Take down your fences.”

Today it is possible to be too indirect.  Some specific statements in Tyler David’s sermon include:

- You can’t see God, you can’t see Jesus, you can’t see the Holy Spirit…What can you see if this Gospel is good? You see community.

- It’s easy to think you are loving when everyone you love is like you.

- Some communities simply feed our egos and hide our arrogance.

- Without mission our communities turn our gifts on each other and nitpick in the name of holiness.

Sometimes a go-for-the-throat style is more appreciated. Have you noticed this trend over the last few years?

THE NEXT FIVE RULES…

In the next post I will unpack the next five rules of raw:

#6 Keep it simple or throw it away.  Raw = Make it obviously usable

#7 Challenge is expected.  Raw = Go hard core

#8 No acceptance, no good.  Raw = Take everything “as is”

 #9 Young is smart.  Raw = Let the rookies play

#10 Feel something.  Raw = Move me

March 10, 2013

How Your Church Can Leverage Five Trends in Retail

I am currently helping a large, non-profit Christian retailer go through a visioning process. Last week a retail consultant led two hours of dialogue in a meeting I attended. These points are heavily adapted from that conversation with some additional thoughts on how they relate to the church.

Trend #1: Tweets and Seats- Provide free wifi and places to sit.

This is fairly simple to apply at church. Don’t wonder wether you should have wifi or not in any church space. Provide it! Retailers understand this is not a distraction for their customers but is a part of how their customers live (constant mobile connectivity). In addition, its an opportunity for customers to engage the retail space itself in deeper ways like getting more product information, validating lowest price or seeing creative applications and outcomes of certain products.

In church, the connectivity that wifi provides can translate to deeper engagement to everything that matters for the mission. Examples:

  • “Can I download the music I am worshipping to right now for personal worship on tuesday morning?
  • “Can I sign-up for a group while I am listening to a sermon on biblical community?”
  • “Can I use my preferred digital copy of God’s word while following the sermon?”
  • Can I take notes in way that will be automatically accessible in a cloud before I leave the service?”

The possibilities are endless.

Trend #2: Big Data- Know my wife’s birthday—and remind me—before it comes to my mind.

Big data is used to describe the massive amounts of data that retails are able to gather, configure and use to better serve their customers. As connectivity, social media and technology accelerate, big data will yield mind-numbing implications for how people are served. For example, imagine Hallmark cards reminding you of your wife’s birthday at the right time, the right place in the right way (device & medium) for you.

Today at Elevation Church, every attender was strongly urged to tear off a response card and answer three questions. The first question is “What year were you born?” The big deal is the appeal that was made in the moment of asking. The creative pastor shared that, “We want to do everything possible to design the best worship experience for you and this information will help us.” This is Elevation’s way of building their data.

There are a few big players out there in the church information space (I recommend checking out CCB). Be sure to select the one that is most usable and relevant for the future possibilities of big data. More importantly, think creatively of the umpteen ways that you can collect and use information to serve people. For example, I was recently scolded by my church’s student ministry assistant for missing the cut-off of camp sign-up. (Okay, it was my fault). But there’s about 3-4 different ways that this ministry could have reminded me of this info, if they used the data they already possessed. Is a simple text reminder asking too much?  Think of the implications way beyond event sign-up, like daily discipleship tools, digital missions and social story-telling. Quite frankly, the possibilities are amazing if church leaders wake up to this opportunity!

My prediction: the pastor of digital engagement will be the fastest growing new church job of the future.

Trend #3: The Back Story- Sharing why you sell what is you sell is more important than what you sell.

If you look, you will see many retailers returning to their roots and telling their creation story to emotionally connect you to their brand. Johnston & Murphy wants you to know they have been making shoes since 1850 and, it just so happens, they are the shoe provider for U.S. Presidents. While we see this all the time with creative upstarts and social entrepreneurs, more and more big for-profits are going there.

The simple lesson for the church is that values are important— a practice we are constantly trying to help church leaders advance at Auxano. This trend should be the church’s constant centerpiece, at least with regard to the biblical ideal. Why we do what we do is the heart of any ministry. The relevant application of this is pushing your ability to articulate—and then integrate—how your unique creation story and ministry values help people see, experience and engage the vision. The first step is to communicate the difference. Why does your community need your church anyway? (And don’t give me with generic answers.) Here is an article just posted on the Vision Room that will help.

Trend #4: Store within a store- Speak to specific segments within your tribe.

Stores like JC Penny or Best Buy are leading the way. At Best Buy you can make a purchase at several different stores within the big store. For example, you can buy standard cables for your new TV in the standard Best Buy aisles or you can go to Magnolia section, with a distinct in-store look and feel, and pickup higher-end cables. You will pay more, but you will also get customized service, like a follow-up phone call, to see how your TV installation went.

This is a harder point of application for churches, because of the pre-existing problem of fragmentation. In other words, if your church already has too much stuff, creating another sub-ministry logo won’t help. (Here is a post on that challenge.) The best way to apply this principle is not with a sub-ministry program in the traditional sense, but with an equipping feature in the “tools and resources” sense. For example, Mountain Park Community Church has a “Home Team” area in their lobby with tools for families based on specific family issues and life stages. The resource center does not clutter the church’s programatic offering but provides a “value-add” to certain segments of their congregation. The key question is “How can you add specific value to specific groups in your church?”

Trend #5: Generational Training- Teach a millennial how to greet a boomer.

Retailers know that age-segment values and practices can make people feel like arrived on a different planet.  You can’t just expect a 23 year-old woman to know how to great a 63 year old woman. Tight-niche retailers worry less about this because they will hire to mirror their demographic target.

But most churches don’t have this tight-niche luxury, so this trend is particularly appropriate. When was the last time you trained your first-impressions team or welcome ministry in generational preferences? Beyond greeting, imagine the rich implication for all of discipleship. In many churches with history over 30 years, generational viewpoints on walking with God may be your greatest under-utilized asset. How are you leveraging the variety of perspectives, convictions and practices of generations for the sake of the mission?

I would love to hear of any practical applications along these line at your church!