The Guest Experience

Successful organizations care about what their guests experience. Simply walk into your nearest Starbucks and upon checking out you may be asked if you would be willing to fill out a survey. Why do they do this? Is it because they want to interrupt your day with a monotonous survey? No. By doing so, they hope to gather honest responses to gauge whether or not their attempts to serve you and connect with you were successful and if not how they can improve.

A little over a year ago we began to ask some of the same questions at our church. We realized that the first step in being able to evaluate whether or not we were succeeding was to clearly define our “win” for our Sunday morning worship services. Your “win” should and must be influenced by your theology. Ours certainly was as we place a strong emphasis on God’s grace coming to us through tangible means. This is what we call the sacraments. Baptism and Holy Communion.

Our win:

We Engage, Involve, and Challenge others to experience God, through His word and sacrament, for life-change in such a way that they want to invite others.

Right away certain words jump out. Engage, Involve, Challenge, experience, word, sacrament, life-change, invite others. These became the guiding principles for how we designed our services, which I will write about in a later post. They also helped us to evaluate whether or not we were being successful. Everyone has blind spots and it’s a good practice to encourage others to help you see them. We found that the best way to do this was by creating a Guest Experience Survey that we send to those visiting us for the first time.

Here are several things to remember when putting the survey together:

Evaluate The Whole Experience: Since we placed a high value on Engaging others to experience God, we didn’t want anything to get in the way before they had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. This meant that what happened in the parking lot was as important as what happened in one of our services. Someone who had a terrible time finding a parking space or was rudely greeted at the door after struggling to find the entrance to the church may turn around and never come back. Ask the guest to evaluate the ease of finding a parking place, finding the entrance to the church, friendliness of greeters and ushers, friendliness of the congregation, cleanliness of the facilities, clear and helpful signage, etc. All of these things can get in the way before people even enter your worship space.

Nothing Is Off Limits: Make sure to ask questions about all areas in your worship service. Make sure you give people the opportunity to give you feedback on pre-service, music, sermon, special elements, videos, transitions, etc. Anything you place value on in your service should be evaluated. Nothing is off-limits.

Evaluate With A Team: So you’ve created a survey and people have started to fill it out. What do you do with the responses? This is the most important part. Don’t evaluate alone, do it with a team. We go through every guest survey together in our weekly evaluation meetings which include the leaders of each area of our Sunday morning experience. Doing this in a safe team environment protects us from focussing too long on any criticism that might be off base, gives us an environment to speak words of encouragement, and helps us to speak the truth in love to each other. This can only be done if there is a foundation of trust built on relationship. Everyone in the room must know you have their best interest at heart before you speak.

Evaluate With Humility: 

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 (ESV)

These strong words always find a way to convict me. The first and easiest reaction when receiving reproof is to bristle and get defensive. There will be plenty of things that people find excellent in your worship services. Celebrate those, praise God for His mighty work in you! When the reproof comes, let it humble you. Proverbs 3 says it this way:

God treats the arrogant as they treat others,
    mocking the mockers, scorning the scornful,
    but He pours out His grace on the humble. Proverbs 3:34 (VOICE)

God pours his grace out on the humble. When there is criticism, regardless if it is founded or not, treat it as an opportunity for humility. This helps us realize that, as the words of the Sovereign Grace song Shine Into Our Night so aptly put it, “Our finest works are stained with sin.” We can do nothing apart from the grace of God. So receive the grace of God as you run the race set before you.

Question: How do you evaluate your services?

Copy of our Guest Experience Survey: Guest Experience Survey

2 thoughts on “The Guest Experience

  1. S Meyer says:

    Great write up, Nathan!! I have a couple of thoughts on the survey that might help you get better data. I’ve taken quite a few courses on survey methods, and have taken a fews beatings from my dissertation committee, so I know little about these things. Let me know if you ever want to do coffee or something. I’d love to help.

    Liked by 1 person

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