Turnaround pastors have a unique opportunity to permanently change the trajectory of church hospitality.

Our “information gathering” in churches doesn’t even capture the majority of guests. Auxano research shows that five to eight percent of your worshipping community will self-identify as guests. Therefore the number of guests in one year is: [ (Ave. weekly worship attendance) x (.05) x (52)]

  • Will Mancini

Two factors work in your favor. First, you have more church visitors in a year than you think.

Second, you have a great deal of freedom because the church hired you to guide them thru change!

In this article I want to share with you one powerful technique that will rock your next church visitor’s world. By recognizing and using the power of narrative you can make it one of the most attractive and hospitable churches a church visitor will ever encounter.

Recognize the power of narrative

One of the most significant things an interim pastor can do for the church’s hospitality crew is to help them rewrite the church’s narrative. Each of us has a personal narrative that determines how we see the world, the meaning of events and how we fit in life’s grand scheme.

I believe that churches as corporate entities also have a narrative. The church’s narrative is shaped by positive and negative experiences, by the personal narratives of leaders and “thought influencers” and the corporate memory of events long since passed.

The beauty of narratives is that when they are brought into the light of day we can rewrite them. Dr. Timothy Wilson’s book, Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, demonstrates that simple “editing” techniques allow us to develop new narratives. (FWIW, this is akin to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Wilson’s research has proven that by rewriting our narratives and redirecting our thought processes accordingly, we become more optimistic. Behavior follows hand-in-glove with this change in attitude!

Rewrite the church hospitality narrative

The interim pastor can leverage the freedom the congregation has granted to rewriting the narrative about the church’s hospitality. The place to start is with the church’s hospitality team.

I suggest you begin with a 90 minute training session for the entire team – new recruits and those who have long served in this ministry.

  • Begin brainstorming around this question: “What comes to mind when you think about our church’s hospitality ministry? Have a recorder write down the words and phrases that pop up.
  • Pick two or three provocative statements (e.g., “we’re friendly to ourselves” or “visitors don’t usually return”) and ask team to expand on them to add more detail.
  • Give one example of how a narrative might be rewritten in a more positive fashion. E.g., you might rewrite the narrative “we have a hard time recruiting greeters” to read “people willingly volunteer for ministries they think are important.” Follow this with a brief give-and-take discussion about how this rewrite might help recruiting people for the church hospitality team.
  • Break the group into two or threes and have them discuss a new narrative: “We are a welcoming church that provides exceptional hospitality to church visitors.” Specifically they should answer:
  1. How will my service as a church hospitality team member be different from now on?
  2. How will the church be different going forward?
  3. What will church visitors experience when they join us on a Sunday?

How do you train the church hospitality team?

If you have some proven training techniques that would benefit others, please share it in the Comments section below!