Things change. Everything.
When I was a kid we went to church, got the message from the pulpit, had some coffee in the vestry and slipped out as soon as Mom thought we had paid our “dues”. This is how it was done, but today there seems to be a new place to proclaim the message. The Church Lobby.
Today the vibrant church has great music, inspiring sermons, social media and big lobbies. The lobby is the central gathering room before and after church. It is a place where people still have a sliver of “real person” in them before they go to the sanctuary. Todays lobby is large, bright and filled with happy people that seem not to be in a rush. Joe McKeever at crosswalk.com puts it this way “Healthy church congregations love each other and welcome newcomers and their people are reluctant to leave following the end of services.” Lobbies have become a long underutilized place of proactively getting new comers and old timers to engage and grow.
Three crosses in Castro Valley California is a great example. They state their purpose as “Life Transformation Through Following Christ.” . Its a worthy statement but do I just show up on Sundays to find out how ? The answer of course is a resounding No ! When you step into the lobby one of the first things you see is a prominent set of tables with a banner that promotes a series of seminars called “Life Transformation Seminars”. It is here that people can meet other friendly people and learn about a path that could lead them greater fulfillment. The real message to the newcomers comes not from just the pulpit but through the lobby and then to the various ministires and groups that invite people to further engage.
It is the use of lobbies to promote messages that makes so many churches successful at attracting visitors to the full purpose of the church. Lobbies are used to promoate everything from mens groups and retreats to Vacation bilble Camp and outreach opportunities.
Here are eight tips for making your church lobby a place where the ministries message is proclaimed.
- Always have your “type A” personalities at the lobby tables from 30 minutes before service to 60 minutes after.
- Keep staff in lobby during the service. Many times it is during the “slip out” where the most meaningful encounters happen.
- People should stand in front of tables to engage those looking but not talking, sometimes the table is a “barrier”.
- Rotate table attendees monthly, not weekly. When somebody is interested on week 1 you want them seeing the same person on week 2 .
- Everyone at the table should have a name tag, first name with large letters.
- Banners and lights should be elevated above the table for maximum exposure. Dont hang your great banners on the table, they can’t be seen ! ( Three Crosses uses the ezframe for this )
- Every message should have a “next step” prominently available for people to explore without commitment.
- Collect names and emails for immediate followup and further invitation
I spent many years as part of the hospitality team at Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Ten years later I was surprised to observe how many key leaders I remember meeting and engaging with personally, on their first visit, in the lobby. Frank, our head of Prison Ministries has told me often ” Jon, I met you in the lobby on my first day here, you had my email by the time I left, I heard from you the next day and for 3 months you were the face I looked for every week”. Frank came back not because of my great personality, or our pastors great message. Frank came back because he was immediately drawn into a singular relationship at a ministry table, which introduced him to a small group, which gave him a message, which engaged him in the Church family.
And it all started… in the lobby.