In the fall of 2018, we solicited the help of some outside experts — ok, call them what they are, consultants from Artistry Labs — to try to help us reach our potential as a congregation.
Their most painful yet much needed feedback was this: “you feel more transactional than relational.” Meaning: the newcomer doesn’t really how to take you because you seem to want to get something from them rather than get to know them.
So, with that rebuke and that challenge, we have made five of the following changes to what we do and who we are on Sunday mornings:
- Shared Leadership. Previously, we’d sing, the GS Feed video announcement would come up, I’d preach, we’d sing a bit more, and then I’d wrap up. To us, it seemed “seamless.” To the newcomer, our consultants told us, it seems like all the leadership is on one person (me). Newcomers want the assurance that leadership is shared and that the success of a place doesn’t hinge on one person. So we established a rotation of live worship hosts at Moss Road (Chris Thayer already serving that capacity at Zoar) who provide both a Welcome and a Landing. As an added bonus, by doing it “live” rather than on video, we immediately are more relatable and relational.
- No Speed Dating. For years, at the end of every service, I’d stand at the door and shake people’s hands as they exit. Better than retreating to a Green Room, isn’t it? Except there was no time to interact, especially with new folks. It was “hurry on, now, I’ve got to shake another hand.” So we moved me to the Welcome Center where I’m able to park myself and engage people who might have questions or who might simply want to see what I’m like in person after hearing me on platform. Our consultants told us what kind of conversations I’d have with people, and within two weeks I was having exactly that.
- Less Data Gathering. This was maybe the most startling and most painful thing we learned about ourselves (really, that I learned about myself). For years (like, all of them) I’d wanted to get as many Connection Cards as possible from our first time guests. Why? To write them a hand written note, of course! Wowing them with just how relational we are. What I failed to see is that people who don’t know the letter is coming can feel like you’re awfully invasive asking for their contact information with such persistence. I thought we were being nice because I knew the end result; guests might well think we were being creepy. Or, at best, transactional: we’ll give you your gift as a first time guest if you’ll give us your card! Just this past Sunday, a woman mentioned that she’d fill out her card NEXT TIME (just like the consultants told us would happen) and I was glad to say, “oh that’s no big deal. Here’s your gift for being here today.”
- More Story Telling. When a new family arrives, we have always done our best to escort them to the right room for their child rather than simply pointing and saying, “it’s down there.” However, while on that jaunt, our volunteers are now telling a bit about our children’s ministry, our philosophy of coming alongside and resourcing parents, and why we know that faith “starts at home.” I saw that happen on Sunday, live and in person. On my end, I have learned in meeting new folks that rather than trying to get to know parents so well, I ask the parents to tell me about their kids. Because that’s what they love to talk about.
- The Things We Kept. We weren’t all bad before. We’d always done a relatively good job of making a big church feel small. So we still have pastor and musicians NOT in a Green Room before the service, but instead out among the people. I continue to hand write notes to first time guests. I still call those same folks on Saturday evening (even if I have to leave a voicemail in this era of “if I don’t recognize that number, I’m not answering that phone”) and continue to hear that those phone calls often are more impactful than the notes. We still do our best to have a pastoral presence in hospitals and nursing homes. Because through all this transition, we don’t want to be some relational that we forget about relationships.