Archives For service

This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.

 

 

Your theology doesn’t matter

Ben Reed —  September 11, 2013 — 15 Comments

I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.

It’s really a great piece of equipment.

Nike-GPS-Watch

image via Nike.com

But mine started messing up.

And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”

When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)

Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.

They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.

You know what that translates into for me?

I’m a Nike customer for life.

I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.

Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.

I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.

I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.

The Church’s message

The same thing is true in our churches.

If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*

People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.

When…

  • life’s fallen apart
  • they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
  • they’re a wreck financially
  • their marriage isn’t fun anymore
  • they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
  • they’re coming because their spouse made them
  • they’re just looking for a little help
  • they don’t really want to be there anyway
  • they are skeptical of “church people”

…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:

  • how they were treated in the parking lot
  • how safe they feel dropping their children off
  • how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
  • how engaging the music was
  • whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
  • whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
  • how they were publicly addressed as visitors

That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.

Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.

You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.

Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?

 

*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.

**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Excellence doesn’t have to be expensive.

image via TypeInspire

A common misconception is that excellence is expensive. That you’re going to have to expand your budget, buy new “toys,” and constantly be on the cutting edge to have a service that is accomplished with excellence.

Thinking that excellence is tied with money is crippling. If you have the money, you’ll begin to rely on the money to do the work of excellence for you…that’s called laziness. If you don’t have the money, you’ll begin using the excuse, “We can’t do it as well as _____ because we just don’t have the resources.” Bologna. That’s a lack of utilization and equipping.

In the church world, where I spend my time and energy, I’ve seen plenty of leaders let excellence slide because they don’t have financial resources to pour into gadgets, lights, sound equipment, video equipment, new mics, and flashy “stuff.” And while that “stuff” looks nice, it doesn’t, in any way, guarantee excellence.

Want to pursue excellence as a local church? Here’s how you do it.

5 Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence

Execute your order of worship relentlessly.

I was recently a part of a service that was not planned well.  The worship leader didn’t know the lyrics well, and there were lots of gaps between songs, announcements, and the sermon.  Planning the order in advance so that everyone involved can see all of the details is crucial.  Running a rehearsal, including announcements, any videos, and any other elements are seen by everybody involved (before the live service) helps ensure major mistakes don’t happen.

Simplify.

The more programs you offer, the more diluted each becomes. And the less “excellent” each is, because each takes significant amounts of resources (time, energy, volunteers, money) to do well.  The simpler, more focused your church is, the more excellent you will be in each area.

Take pride in what you do.

Look around you. Take note of the little things. It’s often the small, seemingly insignificant gestures that go miles in promoting excellence. Here are a few things we do at Grace:

  • pick up stray trash
  • staff every door on Sundays with a welcoming person
  • keep printed material up-to-date
  • keep volunteers in the loop on information that new-comers will ask about
  • offer good coffee
  • set up an area on Sundays for moms with crying babies to still hear the service and not disturb others
  • keep your website updated
  • respond to emails promptly

Evaluate and improve constantly.

If an aspect of your church isn’t working, it’s time to change things up. Allowing a program to hang around because “we’ve always done it…” pushes excellence right out the window.  Evaluating, improving, and constantly being willing to change things that are broken encourages excellence across the board.

Celebrate.

If you feed something, it lives.  If you don’t, it dies.  Feed those actions, those habits, those strategical and forward-thinking moves that staff members and volunteers take.  When you feed those actions, they (and those they lead) will notice what your church values.  Thank them publicly.  Send them a note.  Throw them a party.  Celebrate steps in the right direction.

Pursuing excellence isn’t about money. It’s about the details. If what you’re offering (the Gospel) is valuable to your congregation, then casting it in the best light is vital.  Pursuing excellence does just that.

Are you serving in a church that pursues excellence?  What steps have you taken to get there?

 

 

 

The Sunday experience

Ben Reed —  April 4, 2011 — 4 Comments

My wife and I ate at a nice, swanky restaurant recently.

We felt like we were eating food that could be served on the Food Network.  Which is a far stretch from what we normally eat.  I learned what amuse bouche is (I had a pan-seared sea scallop with a slice of grapefruit, in warm vanilla sauce).  I had rillette and risotto…both of which I had to Google to know what they were.  The food was unbelievably good.

And as impressed as we were with the food, we were equally impressed with the service.  5 things stood out:

  1. We made our reservations online.  We’d never made online reservations for a restaurant before, but this process was incredibly easy.  We felt served even before we arrived at the restaurant.
  2. Our waitress was cross-trained.  She served our food, and could also talk us through the complimentary flavors, the local farms where they purchase their meat, and the precise way that each of our dishes was prepared.
  3. Our waitress wasn’t our only server…when we needed something, any server walking by would attend to our needs.
  4. I got up to use the restroom, and when I returned, my napkin was refolded and placed back on top of the table.
  5. The chef was feeling generous, and gave us a free tasting of his newest soup.

In short, it felt like the whole evening was about serving us, like we were truly honored guests.  And shouldn’t we be treated guests like that on Sunday morning in our churches?  Do we really offer that same level of service?  Because there are lessons to be learned here, whether your church is strong or weak when it comes to your Sunday morning experience.

Principles for serving on Sundays

  • Look for ways to surprise your guests with generosity. We paid a lot for our meal, but the fact that we felt served made us think less about the cost, and more about the experience.  And if “time is money,” then the people visiting your churches are “paying” a lot.  Make it worth their time.
  • Cross-train your volunteers and staff members. Our waitress cared about our entire experience, not just getting her tip.  And healthy team members know that, while their area of service may be primary for them, there’s a lot more that goes into a given person’s experience on Sundays than just their one area.
  • Serve relentlessly and creatively. The whole refolding-the-napkin-when-I-go-to-the-bathroom trick was awesome.  And it only took them 10 seconds.  But it took intentionality.  All of their servers had to keep an eye out for people who stood up to leave their table.  And that’s what it’s going to take to serve people on Sundays, too.
  • Prepared in advance to serve well. Serving with this level of class takes planning.  It doesn’t just happen naturally.  You, as staff and leaders, must plan ahead if you want your teams to serve well.  Brainstorming, dreaming, and mapping out action plans, is key if you want your guests to feel honored.
  • Know that Sundays aren’t the first, or last, impression. Our experience may have technically started when we arrived at the restaurant, but it certainly didn’t start, or end, there.  Taking this into account is important as you’re thinking through the message your church is conveying in your community and online.

Think, “What would this look and feel like for a first-time guest?”  Let that question propel you to creatively brainstorm with your team.

We’ve become raving fans of this restaurant.

Are you creating raving fans of your church?

What are you doing to creatively serve your guests?

 

When the service is poor

Ben Reed —  December 29, 2010 — 3 Comments

When the service is poor, I ________


a. Tip the full amount anyway. Hopefully, that’ll turn things around for them and they’ll serve better for the rest of their customers that day.
b. Tip less. They need to understand that they didn’t earn the full amount.
c. Don’t tip. Tipping is based on performance, and since they didn’t perform, they don’t get the tip.
d. Consult with the manager on duty. Poor service is unacceptable.
e. Let the sever know that you are the reason they have a job.
f. …have got a different kind of tip for this server…
f. Never go back to that restaurant again.
Do you think we, as followers of Christ, have a responsibility to offer grace, even to servers?

Do you think we, as followers of Christ, have a responsibility to offer love and mercy, even to servers?