As many families did this summer, my family and I took a vacation. Our time away took us to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York where we spent time with my family, Carol’s family, and church family from our ministry in New York.
Now, whenever my family goes on vacation, one of our most favorite things to do, believe it or not, is stop at Dunkin Donuts. Since the franchise is not located where we live, it is a treat whenever we can enjoy some of their products (especially their coffee). So, during our time away we frequented Dunkin Donuts quite a bit, and I would like to quickly tell you about one of my experiences.
We stopped in the city of Ithaca, New York at a brand new store. They were still finishing up some of the landscaping around the building, and there was a sign out front advertising the fact that they were still looking for employees. We walked in and got in line behind a few other people, figuring out what we were going to order. So happy to be in a Dunkin Donuts and smelling the pleasant aroma of coffee and donuts, I didn’t even notice that not one employee said “hello” or “welcome to Dunkin Donuts” or “we will be with you in just a minute.” Instead, they just kept their heads down and were trying to get orders filled both at the counter and the window. Soon several more patrons made their way in and got behind us. Again, no welcome or even an acknowledgment by any of the workers. And then it happened — after several minutes of nothing being said by any employee, people started to walk out, get in their cars, and drive away without ordering anything. In light of how they were treated, they decided they didn’t want coffee from that particular location of Dunkin Donuts, so they went somewhere else (probably the Tim Horton’s across the street.) Sadly, I was so desperate for coffee and knowing we were next up to order, we stayed.
I tell you that story in order to illustrate what may in fact happen at churches every Sunday morning. Guests walk through the doors of a church, and they do so because they are either curious or desirous of the “product” that the church has to offer. And make no mistake about it, the church has a great product to offer. The church offers salvation from eternal death through Jesus Christ. It offers equipping of a life through the teaching ministry of the Word of God. It offers genuine community through the building of genuine relationships centered on the Word of God.
The product the church has to offer is great. However, a guest’s response to that product can be greatly affected by those in the church. It can be very easy for a guest to walk out a church, get in their car and drive away, deciding that they will never come back and partake in any product the church has to offer based on how they felt the customer service of that church was. Now, while I felt bad that the guests walked out of Dunkin Donuts with a bad impression because of how much I like that franchise, as a pastor, I am much more concerned about guests walking out of church with a bad impression – especially if they walk out of South with a bad impression.
So, in light of that, let me share a few things that will help us to make a very good first impression on guests that walk through our doors at South.
1. Make sure we leave open parking spaces for guests at the main doors.
The more spaces we leave, the better impression that we give to guests that they matter. So if possible, park further away from the front doors.
2. Make sure we avoid seats that would be considered prime “guest seats” in the auditorium.
Guests can become very uncomfortable when they have to stand around and try to find a seat. Therefore, we can make a great first impression by leaving prime guests seats available for the guests. What are prime guests seats, you ask? Simply put, they are the back sections of each section of seats, and the ends of each row. So, don’t be afraid to move up and/or slide in.
3. Acknowledge guests when we see them.
If we see someone at church who looks unfamiliar to us, we ought to acknowledge them by walking up to them, introducing ourselves, and talking with them. You don’t need to ask them if they are a guest, but rather you can just treat them as someone in the church you haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. So, don’t walk by a guest without acknowledging them, even if it means a smile, a hand-shake, and a simple, “hello.”
4. Do whatever we can to serve our guests.
If they are guests with kids, they may need to be shown down to our children’s wing. If they are looking for a seat in the auditorium, you may offer for them to sit with you. The key is to be sensitive to the needs of our guests, and be willing to do whatever you can to meet those needs. So, imitate Christ by having the desire to serve rather than be served at church.
When those patrons walked out of Dunkin Donuts not wanting to buy their coffee because of the way they were served, that store simply lost a few dollars for that day. However, when a guest at our church walks out and doesn’t want the product we have to offer because of the way they were served, we lose the opportunity to have an eternal impact on their lives. Our founder, Christ, is not very happy with that, and if He continues to see that happening here, He could very easily pull our franchise tag by removing His light from our church (Rev. 2:5). I pray that never happens, and I hope that you will work with me to make sure that it doesn’t.