By David Drury
Did you know that a common question asked of Disney World employees is this: “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?”
How would you answer that question?
Perhaps you would be inclined to answer with, “Um, it’s at three, silly!”
Disney World trains their people to answer this kind of question in a very different way than most. Their employees transition that answer to find out more about the guest’s next question:
“What time will the parade get to me?”
“When should I start waiting to get a good viewing spot?”
“Where is the best place to stand?”
As you can see, there is often a question behind the question people ask, even if the question seems silly at first.
One of the ministry philosophies that had a more obvious impact on the effectiveness of my churches was called “First Impressions.” This involved a transition from what I call the “stand here and hold the carpet down” model of greeting visitors to a model many churches now use that is visitor-centric. My job in first impressions is not to hand out a bulletin but instead to be sensitive, listen, and notice the true needs of people coming through the door.
A single-mom walking in with a child-seat carrier, diaper bag, and two other kids hanging on her legs doesn’t need you to hand her yet another item—I don’t care how nice the bulletin looks. Instead, she needs help carrying the car seat or perhaps helping get her kids to the children’s area.
Our job in welcoming people is not just to provide the information asked for but to find out what would enhance the experience for our guests. I visited a church for the first time a few weeks ago. They were phenomenal at this first impression experience, and they are only five years old as a church. Any church can make a difference in this area, and it doesn’t even cost money; it’s all about people.
I add another layer into this in the Church, because of course people often visit a church and don’t say anything about their spiritual problems. If we really want to see lives transformed, we will make attempts to find out the questions behind their questions and that will lead to transformative conversations, even with our visitors.
David Drury is the Chief of Staff for the The Wesleyan denomination. He previously served as a local church pastor in five congregations in the Midwest.