Lessons from Willie the Wal-Mart Greeter

May 10, 2011 — Leave a comment

Tonight I was reminded about the importance of greeters in our ministry.  They are literally the “front-line” of our church. Every Sunday, they are the first faces seen, the first voices heard, and the first impression left on regular attendees and first-time families.  Given the magnitude of their role, we need to evaluate the message that we’re sending (or not sending) through our greeting team.


Meet Willie. Or as he’s known around these parts, “Willie the Wal-Mart Greeter.”  (And yes, that’s his name on Facebook.) Tonight I watched as Willie did his job, and I was filled with ideas and inspiration.  Willie is a living legend because of his role as greeter at our local Wal-Mart.  Here’s why…

When you walk into the store, a seemingly mild-mannered man greets you.  As you get closer, he holds out his arm with hand clinched in a fist.  As your fist bumps his, he lets out the loudest “BAM” that you will ever hear.  Then he smiles a HUGE smile and says, “All right now…my man!”  As you continue walking, you hear that greeting repeated over and over to the customers coming and going.  When you’re in the very last aisle of the store, you can still here his greetings resonating over everything else. 

Here are a few things I learned from Willie that I think are transferable to greeters in ministry areas:

Willie is always smiling.
I’ve never seen him in a bad mood.  People enter frustrated, stressed, lonely—but they are instantly cheered on by the greetings from Willie.
Do our greeters understand the emotions and stresses that people are dealing with when coming to church?  How are we preparing them to counteract those emotions and prepare people for worship?

Willie is always stationed at the same entrance.
You can’t miss him.  He is always working the same entrance, the same hours, the same days.  People will intentionally park on that side of the store so that they can be greeted by Willie.
Do we promote consistency in our greeter team in the same way that we do so in our small groups ministry?  Why would it look like if we did?

Willie is always “on.”
Willie doesn’t let anyone pass without a greeting.  He doesn’t take a break from greeting or get caught up talking with other employees.  He knows that his job is to greet everyone entering the store, and he makes sure that he does his job. There can be 60 people walking in at the same time, and Willie will make sure that each of them get a personal greeting.  He does the same for those leaving the store.  He makes sure that they are thanked and invited back soon.  Even when someone walks through the door in a foul mood and tries to avoid the greeter, Willie finds a way to reach out to them and say hello.  (I can’t even put into words how amazing it is to watch)
How do we train our greeting team to approach those that are seemingly “unapproachable”?  How do we make sure that every individual receives a greeting?

I have to admit that greeting team is often overlooked in my ministry.  I know the importance of the position, but I don’t have a strategy for that ministry.  Willie does his job with excellence because he has a strategy.  He may not have it written down (or maybe he does), but it is clear that he has thought about it and took action to do his job well.  I will definitely be using what I’ve learned from him to train our greeting team.  Or better yet, maybe Willie can come train them!

If you’re ever in Maumelle, AR and need to visit Wal-Mart, let me encourage you to enter on the grocery/pharmacy side of the store.  Willie works everyday 3pm to 11pm.  Every day, except Wednesday and Sunday because he is also a minister at a local church.   You will immediately understand why Willie is a living legend.  The impression that Willie has left on people as a greeter will live on way past his service as a greeter. Would someone say the same about you or your greeter team?


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