An Unspiritual* Reason Why Your Church Might Not Grow This Year

unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo
unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo

Recently a fellow pastor and myself went to a large retail store to pick up a bunk bed for a local family in need. The bunk bed had been ordered online and simply needed to be picked up from customer service. Simple, right? Well, that’s what we thought too. Over the course of thirty minutes we haggled with the lady behind the customer service counter, who genuinely seemed to try everything she could not to help us (I think the irony of ‘customer service’ was lost on her). At the end of the episode we left frustrated and without a bunk bed. What stunned me the most was how little this employee cared not just for the customer but the company that was paying her to represent it. I will not go into that store again unless necessary.

On the way back from that real life episode, my pastor friend and I started talking about customer service in general. He mentioned a fast food restaurant that he’ll intentionally go through the drive thru if he’s in that part of town simply because of how amazing the lady is that works the drive thru. In his words, “you would think she had an ownership stake in the restaurant, the way she goes above and beyond.”

Something as unspiritual* as customer service will have more of an impact on your church’s success this year than you might imagine. Everyone expects the pastor to be nice and friendly because that’s what he’s paid to be. What separates thriving churches from stagnant churches many times is as simple as inspiring volunteers and church members to go above and beyond to create a warm, friendly and excellent environment on Sundays, as if they have an ownership stake in the church. It’s why I’ve written before that your church parking lot is more important than your pulpit. There’s a surprisingly simple thing that guests look for when they come to your church.

When a guest comes to your church, they’re already a bit anxious and perhaps already looking for a reason not to have to come back. If they’re not greeted, if they have to find their own way, if no one comes up and talks to them, if only insider language is used from the stage, it all screams the same message I received from the customer service lady at the large retail store: we don’t want you here. If people don’t feel welcome, if they don’t feel comfortable, if they don’t feel like they can belong, why in the world would they ever come back?

Many times as churches we try and over spiritualize everything. The reason your church may not be growing may not be something as grandiose as theology or the translation of the Bible you use or even the style of songs you sing. Many times it comes down to customer service. If you have a bad customer service experience at a restaurant, you likely won’t go back, no matter how good the food might be. If guests (or their kids) have a bad customer service experience, they most likely won’t come back, not matter how good the preaching (or anything else) might be.

What’s the solution? Go above and beyond to create a first-time guest experience that will exceed their expectations. Have greeters in the parking lots. Have greeters hold open every major door in the church so that guests not only don’t have to open a door but get to interact with several church members before they sit down. If you serve coffee, have a coffee host. Make sure your children’s ministry is the best ministry in your church. Create great customer service, and don’t be surprised when your church starts to grow.

*Many people think customer service is unspiritual but it is extremely spiritual, because customer service reveals if you truly value other people as much as God values them.

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