At Stevens Creek Church, I (along with my staff and many volunteers) oversee the entire “experience.” That includes everything from what you feel as you drive onto the property to the elements you see as you sit in the service. There are so many churches out there on the brink of having great experiences, but for one reason or another, they can’t seem to get over the hump. I want to share 5 things that if you can incorporate into your planning, you will see an immediate return on your efforts.
At Stevens Creek we believe that creating a great experience is much more than just what happens on the stage. Of course the service is very important, but if people have a bad experience in the parking lot or checking in their kids, it makes the job of the people on stage much more difficult.
1. Have A Greeting Plan
We want people to feel welcomed and cared for before they even sit down in the auditorium. So years ago we implemented a five-touch greeting plan for our first impressions team.
The first touch is in the parking lot. We do this by having parking attendants greeting and guiding people through the lot. We also identify guests by asking them to flash their lights. Then we take them to designated spots and have volunteers specifically assigned to address their needs. The second touch is with our greeters at the front door. This is a simple welcome into the building with a warm smiling face. The third touch happens as you check your kids in or go to the information center. Both of these places have people who are ready to help you and answer any questions you might have. The fourth touch comes before you enter the auditorium. Here we have greeters welcoming people, again with a smile, and handing them a worship guide for the day. The fifth touch is the ushers helping people find a seat in the auditorium. We hear all the time how people remember their first time at the Creek because people were friendly and welcoming. I guarantee if you implement the 5 touch rule, people who come to your church will feel like you care about them, and are there to take care of them.
2. Intentional Worship Time
There are three main things I look for in our congregational worship time. First is to start with energy. Most of the time that means an upbeat song that people can clap to. It allows everyone from the seasoned believer to that person that’s just kicking the tires of christianity to be involved. Everyone can clap but not everyone will engage in worship.
The second thing is to sweat the transitions. Make sure there is a flow to your setlist. If you are going to talk, make sure it is scripted out so you can transition into the next song with ease. Some people think a script or a plan limits God moving, but I think it’s the complete opposite. When you script things out, it gives you flexibility to adjust if God is taking things in a different direction.
The third thing is knowing how you want the worship set to end. How do you want people to feel? What do you want to accomplish? If you pray at the end of your set, what do you want to accomplish through your prayer? Here is a blogpost I wrote on How To Pray With Purpose. It’s also important to remember that your private worship affects your public leading of worship. You can’t lead people somewhere you haven’t already been.
3. Engaging Comments
In so many of our churches this section gets the least amount of attention -- and it shows! Comments and announcements should be four to five minutes at most, but ends up being ten minutes of everything happening in every ministry, and a mini sermon from the student pastor who’s trying to impress everyone with their preaching skills.
Here are four things that will immediately improve your comments section.
1. Have a script for your comment person. Link for example script.
2. Use a timer - ours is 4 minutes long and we make sure it’s visible.
3. Rehearse the comment section and provide feedback.
4. Make sure your main objective is to connect people and to give them their next step - not to read a bunch of announcements.
4. Relevant Authentic Message
Our lead pastor Marty Baker and our entire teaching team make authenticity a priority. We always want the content to be very clear. If you sound super smart, but your words flew over your audience’s head, then you have not communicated anything. Like it or not, people think in short impact statements, usually 140 characters or less. We try to boil our sermons down to two or three tweetable statements that can live on in people’s minds and social media feeds long after we leave church. Let social media be your friend!
We have found that 30 minute sermons are the sweet spot for us. If you’re preaching longer, you might be talking to hear yourself talk. Most people check out after 30 minutes-if not sooner.
Run your sermons through this filter: What you want people to know, what you want people to feel, and what you want people to do. We find this gives the sermon focus.
We also always give people a chance to pray the prayer of salvation. No matter what you teach, it is so important that you give people that opportunity.
5. Life Giving Exit
The exit is just as important as the entrance. We want to to give people a reason to come back, so before we dismiss we will talk about some next steps that will encourage them to come back for more. It’s important to end with something hopeful or life-giving, and we usually accomplish this with a song. Make sure your greeters and ushers serve with the same energy and excitement as they did when people were coming in. And the parking lot flow is just as important when people are trying to get out. We are constantly trying to make that a better experience. One easy way to alleviate some of that pressure is to hire a police officer to help with the traffic at the road.
We have an hour to make a mark on people. Let’s do our part to make it the best hour of their week.