Today marks the second birthday of Super Center Savior’s publication. To celebrate, I’m going to share another guest blog post I wrote for the Virginia Baptist’s website. At the end, you’ll get to see a video that friend and NYT best-selling author Kiera Cass made for the book as part of our church’s encouragement to me last November.

“Lessons in Church Hospitality from Walmart Greeters”

In my last blog post, I introduced the concepts and thoughts behind my book Super Center Savior. In this post, I’ll take a few thoughts from the book about what the church can learn from one of Walmart’s most visible (and beloved) employees – the greeter.

2-year-logo-squareIn smaller communities with Walmart, the greeters are more noticeable, because you generally KNOW them. It’s “Ralph” or “Bob” or “Susan.” You know them because you go to church with them, or they live in your neighborhood. In larger towns, the Walmart greeter has a little bit tougher job – to simply greet you, without having a relationship with you.

They are Walmart’s first “touch” on customers. Their attitude, their smile, their simple “welcome” will shape your experience. Good Walmart greeters can enhance your experience. Average greeters may not add to your experience, but they don’t subtract from it. Bad greeters can be a definite hindrance.

What about an excellent Walmart greeter? In the short book The Richest Man in Town, the story is told of Marty Martinson, an elderly Walmart greeter in Brookings, South Dakota who made a huge impact on his community and individual lives by simply being an excellent Walmart greeter. I dare you to read it without being moved to thankful tears by a life of loving, focused simplicity.

Is your church or ministry really ready for guests each and every Sunday or Wednesday in the same way that Walmart is ready for customers?

How does this apply to your church? In Super Center Savior, I devote an entire chapter to simply asking, “Are you ready?” In other words, is your church or ministry really ready for guests each and every Sunday or Wednesday in the same way that Walmart is ready for customers?

Walmart is a multi-billion dollar corporation. It sees the need to have trained, ordinary people greet customers as they enter their stores. They hire for it. They know that there’s something about being welcomed well that shapes a person’s experience and facilitates their return.

It’s been said that proper prior planning prevents poor performance. Has your church or ministry prepared to welcome guests? Do you have a plan and a loving strategy for how people will experience their first encounter?

Our preparation will dramatically impact the experience that guests to our churches have. In so doing, our preparation will also impact our ability to participate in God’s work. Scripture assures us that it’s God who draws people to Himself, and it’s God who adds people to the body. Is your church actively believing that

Think back to Walmart for a moment. How would you react if you walked up to their building and their automatic doors didn’t whoosh open for you? You might be a bit stunned initially if you had to manually slide open the doors. Think further. How would you feel if you walked in and no one greeted you?

If you walked further in and noticed that the floors hadn’t been swept or shined? That things looked generally “dumpy?” How would you feel if you began to notice that the shelves were poorly stocked, things weren’t where they should be, and the Walmart associates were standing around talking to each other instead of seeking to help you?

As a campus minister, I often supply-preached for pastors in southeast Arkansas when they went out of town on Sundays. I remember arriving at one small country church to preach and being momentarily alarmed. As I tried to enter the sanctuary from the door closest to the parking lot, it was locked. Had they seen me coming?

I walked around to the front of the church and entered through the large main doors. As I related to one of the leaders that the parking lot door was locked, they responded, “Oh. Yeah. Everyone around here knows to come in the main doors.” I nodded and grinned to let him off the hook, but it screamed, “Not ready!”

Unfortunately, this is an all too real description of many of our churches. Our churches simply are not ready to receive guests. From the physical appearance and presentation of our building or rented facilities to the private conversations and cliques of the members present, we communicate our unpreparedness on a weekly basis.

When visitors step into our places – whether a sanctuary or a small group – they get the same sense that we might feel in a dirty Walmart with self-consumed employees.

Some of you may be thinking this doesn’t apply to your church because you don’t have visitors very often. There’s probably a good reason for that. You see, if you’re not ready to “love your neighbor,” I doubt very seriously that God will send visitors your way.

Why would God send people that He wants to hear the glorious message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a church that is not ready to lovingly receive the guests He sends?

The book drop video

On this day...