We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Chattanooga last night. About 6:30am I got up to relieve myself and while I was standing there, I felt dripping on my head. (I knew it wasn’t me). As we were not getting up for an hour and a half, I moved the trash can under the leak and went back to bed. Upon checkout, I told the desk manager what had happened and that we weren’t 100% pleased with the situation. Not only did she apologize for our trouble, but consistent with the Hampton Inn promise, the stay was FREE, including the breakfast we had eaten.
Guess what hotel chain we’ll be staying at whenever we travel?
So why do I mention this. Two reasons. One is that I want others to know about the great service we received at Hampton Inn. Second, there’s a lesson for the church here.
Mark Waltz has been posting about paying attention to service (not the “service”) in the church. He asks some penetrating questions and I’d like to ask a few of my own.
It is inevitable that we have service errors when we greet and serve others, specifically, when we greet and serve non-members. One of the objects of paying attention to the details of how the building looks, how we treat folks who come in the door, and how we present our worship service is to provide an environment in which a seeker may find Jesus. That we’re bound to have service errors leads to the questions, “What do we do when we have a service error?” and “How do we discover that we’ve had a service error in the first place?”
There are those who pooh-pooh “fancy” programs that attract newcomers to the church. I’ve heard, “What you win them with is what you win them to,” implying that the only business of the church is to “preach the Word.” I agree, the business of the church is to explain the gospel message and it’s ramifications to all, but this doesn’t require that we ingore the culture, feelings, or values of those whom you are trying to reach. Therefore, it’s essential that we be sensitive to potential Christians. We want them to hear the message, not ignore the message because we’re preaching to ourselves. If someone comes, hears the message and never comes back, our tendency is to say, “Well, it’s their choice to receive Christ or not.” But what if the choice wasn’t whether or not to choose Christ, but whether or not to be offended by the churchy folks? And if it’s the latter, what do we do about it? It seems to me that we ought to be sensitive to non believers and even to beleivers that have different backgrounds than we do.
I think some who are against the newer methods of presenting the church are afraid that we’ll win people to the methods rather than to Christ. But if those methods are the outhgrowth of love for all God’s people, aren’t we winning them to love? Or should I say Love?
So how do we discover when we have service errors? Excellent question, hard to answer. Many churches, mine included, send a survey to newcomers. These serveys are valuable to a point. Unfortunately, they miss those who don’t fill out the “communication” (read “attendance”) card. They also don’t get the truth from people like me who are afraid to offend and usually don’t “speak up.” We also miss valuable input because we frame the questions from our point of view rather than the visitors’ points of view. Do we ever keep track of who doesn’t come back and attempt to contact them to find out the reason why? Do we ever “hire” someone to visit us and then give us a candid evaluation of how we do?
Sorry, folks, I have more questions than answers. I raise these questions because I’m not convinced that the traditional smile and a jerk-them-inside handshake is appealing to the vast majority of the lost. Perhaps we should listen to guys like Mark Waltz who are studying these questions. (By the way, Mark will be the first to admit he has more questions than answers, too. But at least he’s asking them.)