Before I begin, I’ll give the disclaimer that this doesn’t describe EVERY church, denomination, district, etc. but the one’s I’ve experienced by and large. I know people might not like this comparison because the Church is not a business, but I’ll address that. Now back to our main program already in progress.
The reason? Customer service. So the church won’t call it that because that’s a business term and we (as the Church) aren’t looking to have customers or just service them, but when you break down our interaction with people for the sake of argument, please bear with me. I also am going to call it this because quite frankly, the business world gets this where churches don’t, which is how you treat people matters infinitely more than the product you have. Sure, a successful business with a loyal following, like Apple, can get away with things like charging for tech support, but they know if they push the “make money” button for too many things, too much, at the cost of customer interaction, they will lose the business and fail.
I don’t think the church at large has learned this. Sure there is research that tells us that having a great greeting/visitor experience will lead to repeat attenders, but it’s mostly ignored or just applied like a lot of other things in the church – with the best intentions and bad execution. But even beyond how we handle visitors for first impression, it’s how we handle our interaction with people in general that is costing the Church bodies. Sure, some people will flock to the feel good church because of a different doctrine, sometimes watered down teaching, along with a myriad of other things people would say they won’t bend on, but that feel good church at least makes them “feel good” and genuinely cared for more than most.
Things I have experienced or witnessed in relation to personal communication:
- How many people have:
- Attended a church and received no friendly “hello”?
- Not received post-visit phone call/email/snail mail message?
- OR have received a stale form letter/email/recorded phone call? (Personalization is key!)
- Sent an email/letter/text/made a phone call to the church, specifically staff without ANY reply?
- Asked questions or looked for help offered only to be handled with an attitude of:
- Been lied to or had the church representative not keep their word?
- Been told things that turn out to be the proverbial “blowing smoke” only to find out it was all just to get them out of the way?
- Passive aggressiveness?
All of the above would cause any business owner to slap their forehead in unbelief. Maybe not so much the last point, but every business person knows not to treat people that way. Like it or not, we are in the “business” of people. Truth be told, like any business, we are competing for people. We want their ears to hear the preacher, hear the lessons in Sunday School, hear the sharing in Small Groups, but that all doesn’t even matter to most because they see how they are treated before they even get that far. The one’s that do make it past that, have the point that what matters is their attendance and money driven into their head time and time again by how they are treated… personally.
But wait, we’re not a business. Exactly! We don’t see people as a way to make money (or do we?)! We are the Church, the body of Christ who spent and spilled his body for people. People aren’t our livelihood, they are our lives! We don’t stop caring when we punch the clock at church and head home, do we? We don’t just tell people what they want to hear so we get them in doors only to use the ol’ bait-and-switch with a substandard, less-than-promised product, do we? We don’t treat people as numbers, instead of souls for the Kingdom, brothers and sisters wanting to be in this thing called life arm in arm with one another seeking God, do we?
Sadly, by and large, the answer by our actions has been “Well, yes. We do.” The business world sets a bar of expectation of how to be treated below what we in the Church should be living up to. Quite frankly, we have been living below their bar; FAR below. We haven’t thought of risking our time, let alone our lives, to reach people outside the church. It’s too messy, long, and drawn out for us to even bat an eye, mostly. If the business world knows that people matter, why doesn’t the church? We’d rather call the world hard hearted then let the light of Christ expose us.
Too many times I think we’re too busy being right in everything else, that being right in how we treat people – genuinely treat them – has been left off our check list. Funny thing is, if we allow Christ to live IN us; to sit on the thrones of our lives and have His Spirit living through us, this all comes effortlessly. So the question is, if it’s not, then who’s living our lives? Who’s the director? Your words are either backed or betrayed time and again by your actions…