Could the same principles that create a five star hotel be applied to the church and its hospitality?
That is the basic structure of the fictional conversation between a pastor and staff and the general manager of a five star hotel, as mapped out in the book The Five Star Church: Serving God and His People with Excellence, by Stan Toler and Alan Nelson.
Utilizing that framework, Toler and Nelson make points of connection of quality, customer service, and exceeding expectation to help a church grow by attracting and connecting first time church visitors with the local church.
“People are attracted to organizations that are run with excellence and that are unabashedly committed to top-quality customer service.”
From other church hospitality books I’ve read about welcoming visitors, this one takes the different angle of utilizing the fictional conversation to cover the same points that are touched upon elsewhere.
The strength I found in this book is overcoming some of the common objections to quality improvement.
Take these quotes for example:
- Beth wondered, “So we’re not compromising on the gospel by putting people at the center of our ministry?” “It’s not an either-or, but a both-and situation,” Jeff responded. Churches ought to be the leaders in excellence and customer service because we have the highest stakes—eternity.
- We need to strive for excellence and care about our church property, programming and publicity because God deserves our best.
- Top service organizations typically gain reputations for the “second mile” service they provide for people. Courtesy, follow-through, giving the benefit of the doubt and service with a smile characterize service-oriented companies.
- Beth questioned, “Will we know when the shopper will attend? It seems that people might get a little nervous or even defensive if they think they’re being watched or judged.” “They’re being watched and judged anyway,” Jeff said. “The only difference is that we’re not benefiting from the feedback. A church may want to get the board or leadership team to buy into the idea first, and they will have to make the decision of whether the staff is informed. Or you may want to just spring a secret shopper on everybody without warning. Every situation is different. At Family Church, I think that as long as a team of a half-dozen people are aware of what we’re doing and why, that is sufficient. I suppose in congregations where there is rarely a visitor, an announced shopper program could ruin it.”
Who would this book be for?
- Hospitality committees looking for quality improvement ideas (Check out this list)
- Leaders of hospitality committees that want discussion starters.
- Hospitality committees that are looking to restart and are not sure where to go (Start here too).
This book was first published in 1999 when some of these concepts and connections were novel and part of a huge growth focus on quality service.
As such, some of critiques of the book nowadays (in 2014) reflect the passage of time, and it may feel a little outdated if you have read many different books on church hospitality.
The evaluation questions at the end of each chapter can help church leadership evaluate their current level of quality.
- Order from Amazon: The Five Star Church: Serving God and His People with Excellence, by Stan Toler and Alan Nelson
- Alan Nelson Website: http://www.alanenelson.com/ , Twitter: @KidLead
- Stan Toler Websites: http://www.stantoler.com/ , Twitter: @StanToler