Radical Hospitality in Unprecedented Times

Lessons in hospitality based on the culture and concepts of Walt Disney World

Highlights from Alice Williams’ April 20, 2020 Zoom Webinar:
Hospitality – Peachtree Road Style!
Peachtree Road United Methodist Church

Welcome to Worship at Peachtree Road

“True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

1. Know Your Goal

“Creating a Moment”

Impact Community Halloween Carnival

“For the visitor or the person who is searching for spiritual help, this Sunday is the only Sunday that matters.”  – Bishop Sally Dyck

  • When we first meet someone, we have one chance to convey that they are very welcome, and that they belong here.  Make it count!.
  • Make it memorable – so memorable that folks will want to capture, keep and share that moment.
  • Alice calls these “Instagram moments”
  • Delight, surprise and “wow” your guests with how welcoming you are.

2. Know Yourself

“What is hospitality at Peachtree Road?”

Ways of hospitality should evolve. Ways of hospitality will be different in the coming days.

The questions below are identical to those asked continuously at executive level meetings at Disney. They lead to conversations about what is done well and what can be improved.  Ask them often.

  • What does a sense of welcome mean?
  • How do you know you are welcome?
  • How do you know who are your guests?
  • What are people saying about Peachtree Road, and how do you know this?
  • What do you want people to be saying about Peachtree Road?
  • How good are you at building relationships?
Sunday ambassadors are here to help welcome you to Peachtree Road.

3. Know Your Guides

“Safety. Courtesy. Show. Efficiency.”

All roles – staff and volunteer – should understand the foundational guides, or “four pillars” of hospitality:


Establish these pillars as the foundation of hospitality and use them as constant guides. The understanding of these should be the same for every person, and not open to interpretation. These result of using these guiding forces can be measured by how welcome we made people feel.

Welcome to Peachtree Road United Methodist!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou

Together, we will determine what these foundational pillars will look like for Peachtree Road. But let’s explore what we mean by “Safety” right now. This will help us understand how BIG our view can be of these foundations.



Guests need to feel immediately and instinctively welcomed. We don’t want them to feel that they have to change or assimilate to fit in. We want newcomers as they are. We want their unique gifts, and the possibility and potential they bring with them.

  • If I’m “different” how will I be welcomed?
  • How will I connect?
  • Will I fit the personality of this congregation?
  • What is expected?
  • What are the “rules of conduct”?
  • How authentic can I be?


Meet people where they are in their journey of faith.  Help people understand where they are in their journey. Sometimes they don’t know. Help them understand their gifts. Offer levels of learning.

Modify “church-y” language. Newcomers may be intimidated by an unfamiliar culture. Begin introduction on a level everyone can understand. As guests visit more frequently, and learn about the church, language can change.

  • Meet people where they are
  • Help people understand where they are
  • Provide various levels of learning
  • Encourage small group connections
  • Be clear about theology/doctrine
  • Be aware of “church-y “language
  • Be transparent
  • Be compassionate
  • Be kind


Now more than ever, we must consider the physical safety of our guests, volunteers and staff. How we move forward will speak to how we value physical safety for  all of us.

  • Security
  • Distancing standards
  • Personal contact practices
  • Cleanliness efforts (Sanctuary, Children’s area, Restrooms, Hand Sanitizers, etc.…)
  • Volunteer hygiene
  • Children’s area
  • Lighting

4. Know Your Guests

“Value the gift of their unique presence. Value the gift of their possibility.”

Rev. Carolyn Stephens

Hospitality is truly all about the guest. The term is derived from the Latin word “hospes” or “guest.” Each guest is unique. Each has a unique story. Each has unique needs.

Each guest brings two gifts:
1. The gift of their presence
2. The gift of their possibility

Never judge them.
Don’t let their differences become your stumbling blocks.

Never judge the frequency of their visits.
Things are different these days.
Find their pattern and understand who they are.
There are so many ways to connect now.  Don’t get hung up on numbers.  Focus on connection.

Never judge their reason for coming.
They have an affinity for church. Find out what that affinity is and nurture it. It could be anything!
Go deep. Find out needs and strive to meet those needs.

This is how we will grow!
We can find new ways be in mission, new ways to be a resource, and new ways to help people find purpose for their unique talents.

Most guests – especially ones who become regular attendees – come by invitation.

Meet people where they are. No judgement.

Top Ten Reasons Why People Pick a Church
1. Theological beliefs and doctrine
2. Relationships*
3. Preaching
4. Friendliness
5. Church mission
6. Children’s programming
7. Likeability of the pastor
8. The church denomination**
9. Quality of Programing (Sunday School, Studies, Music, etc..)
10. Convenience / Ease of access***
– Barna Research Survey

* Most people come through by or because they know someone.
** People are willing to go outside their denomination if they align with beliefs and culture.
*** Easy navigation of campus and website are critical.

5. Know The Show

“A moment of ‘welcome,’ a message of hope.”

Christmas at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church

“On behalf of everyone here, we thank you for joining us… We hope your [time] with us has created wonderful memories that will last… Until we see you again… Thank you…”  – Paraphrased from Disney’s “Kiss Goodnight”

We must make our guests’ experience memorable here – so memorable that they will want to capture, keep and share the moment. The Show consists of three phases: the Pre-Show, the Show, the Post-Show. This structure is applied to every aspect of the guest experience. From first meeting us online, to being welcomed in person, to leaving the campus at night.

Never take this for granted. All of this is “opens” the show. Time is of the essence. We need to put our best foot forward each and every time we show up. Within minutes, guests will decide:
60 Seconds: Is this a place I want to be?
15 Minutes: Do I want to remain here? Do I want to come back?
30 Minutes: Do I want to know more about this place?

  • The Pre Show includes:
  • Media presence
  • Reputation*
  • Signage
  • Parking
  • Building, landscape, lighting
  • Greeting area
  • Signage – way finding
  • Facilities appearance**
  • Children’s area
  • Programming (music, ministries, missions, classes/studies)
  • Volunteers***

* Reputation. We need to know what our reputation is in the community, in the conference. How are we managing our reputation? Is everyone representing us well? Is everyone inviting, welcoming?
** Signage is critical. Cleanliness is critical. Buildings & grounds needs a checklist. Paint, signage, cleanliness, tidiness.
*** Volunteers.  Are they Pre-Show ready? Do they understand their role as the church needs it? Volunteers must be the best they can be for the church. What can we do for our guests so they feel a part of the church immediately? Are we always putting them first?


Be in this moment and make it memorable. You will enjoy and treasure it as much as our guests. It all speaks to who we are. At the end of each experience – worship, study, prayer – make the last moment memorable by expressing our message of hope – we find peace and purpose here. Each time, in every way. That is our “kiss goodnight.”

  • Worship Experience
  • The essence of Methodism, but offered our unique way.
  • Should be age appropriate
  • An environment for all the senses (temperature, lighting, volume)
  • Music
  • Doctrine / Theology
  • Message
  • Discipleship
  • Sunday School
  • Studies
  • Missional engagement
  • Online Offerings
  • Look/brand
  • Content
  • Ease of navigation


  • Time is of the essence. We need to put best foot forward each and every time as we follow up. By Day 6 after a visit:
  • We should have reached out with ways of engagement comfortable for our guest, or we lose them.
  • What spoke to them?
  • What would they like to explore?
  • What would nourish them – mind, body and soul?
  • What are they curious about?

Don’t let newcomers be an island in a sea of people. Engage with them!

Find an ice-breaker, a conversation-maker. Find something in common, or explore your differences and learn more about them.

What is next? What do we do next together?

Everything that everyone does contributes to, and manages the reputation of our church.
Always offer our “kiss goodnight” – a message of hope in finding peace and purpose here. Repeat often, mean it always.
We have 6 days at the most to re-engage in a way that is comfortable and meaningful for our guests.

Continuous training and assessment for staff and volunteers is non-negotiable. See questions in “Know Yourself” section. Reinforce the foundations of our hospitality so everyone has the same understanding.

6. Continue the Connection

“Creating connection in an ever-changing world.”

We live in an ever-changing world. We will gather again, but not in the same way. Think of TSA before and after 9/11.  Now is the time to organize, restructure, streamline, simplify and implement so we can deploy an ENHANCED experience when we get back. We should have new digital connections within every ministry in tandem with traditional personal connections. In this way we will extend our hospitality, expand and grow.

  • Make stronger digital relationships now.
  • Create as many online small groups as we can.
  • Equip our members to connect in every way we can.
  • Use the sermon to engage people – give them an action item each time.
  • Encourage new viewers to introduce themselves in the LiveStream chat. Have ministers respond.
  • Have Zoom shepherds.
  • Create online video messages by all ages and stages of members and friends.
  • Think globally, act locally AND vice-versa.
  • Numbers don’t matter anymore. Connection does.


New Ways of Thinking and Doing: 7 Shifts by Tony Morgan
Analog > Digital
Teaching > Equipping
Gathering > Connecting
Global > Local
Over-spending > Generosity
Complexity > Simplicity
Counting attendees > Engagement

7. Creating the future

“What will hospitality be at Peachtree Road?”

Healthcare Heroes

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things…  – Walt Disney

It’s time to revisit the questions from Section 2 – “Know Yourself.”  Remember, ways of hospitality should evolve. Hospitality today will be different tomorrow. How will we answer these questions, using all of the information that Alice gave us?  What are we doing well and what can be improved?  Ask these often.

  • What does a sense of welcome mean?
  • How do you know you are welcome?
  • How do you know who are your Guests?
  • What are people saying about your Peachtree Road and how do you know this?
  • What do you want people to be saying about Peachtree Road?
  • How good are you at building relationships?


Virtual Presence

  • Your website homepage is the first door to your church
  • Web page layout is as critical as the look of your building
  • Design all product as virtual
  • Offer variety
  • Make virtual programing interactive

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