service

A nice man has just come to read our electricity and gas meters. He made a joke about not outstaying his welcome as he left.

Jesus face-planted as the church made another public statement
Jesus face-planted as the church made another public statement

Yesterday I had a courtesy phone call from the company with whom we have some of the family mobile phone contracts. And the lady with whom I was speaking was courteous.

On Wednesday I took my car to a local garage because the rubber mounts that hold my car’s exhaust pipe on had broken. The kind man replaced them all immediately and without charge.

Those people have put a positive, friendly face (or voice) to their companies. Companies today can appear to be faceless, inhuman money-making entities whose sole purpose is to try to get their hands on as much of our money as possible. That view is reinforced to me by junk mail and those irritating automated phone calls. So when I get to speak with someone human; someone who is polite; someone who is seeking to be helpful; it makes an enormous difference to the way that I view those particular companies. I feel much more favourably inclined towards them. I might not even begrudge spending some of my money with them.

I reckon churches have a considerable amount to learn about good ‘customer service’ and the impact that has on those who receive it. We know that we are supposed to be people who are examples of God’s welcome, love, acceptance, and inclusion. But that is not the message we project all the time.

I visited a church in South London once and sat in the back row with Sally. We seem to have sat in the seat that some older ladies normally sat in because when they arrived they sat either side of us. They may have said ‘hello’ but that has been lost in what happened afterwards. They started talking to each other across us, as if we weren’t there. During the sermon they passed each other sweets across us, not offering us any. We beat a very hasty retreat from there and never went back.

Not exactly a warm welcome.

I fear that the image of the Church as portrayed in the media is giving the same message to our society. Notwithstanding strongly held theological beliefs on both sides of the discussion / debate within churches (this is not a statement about their rightness or wrongness) the general public must surely be getting the (unintended) message from recent debates in churches and responses to recent legislative proposals that if you are gay or a woman you won’t be welcome in church. At best you will be considered a second class citizen.

Can we honestly say that Jesus would be saying that? How many times in the Gospels do we read of him telling someone that they were not welcome or that they were less important than others?

By way of contrast, the positive face of churches goes unreported on the whole. When those who are on the margins of society receive an unconditional, un-judgmental welcome by Christians it is not reported. When the lonely find comfort and love and support in church it doesn’t make headline-grabbing news. Even when someone finds that their life has been transformed by an encounter with Jesus it rarely gets any publicity. But those people will have received good ‘customer service’ and I hope will be as ready to share that with those whom they meet as I am about my recent experiences.

In a recent sermon I said that the only way for churches to be defeated is for us to press the self-destruct button ourselves. We have that capacity, and have demonstrated at least the ability to shoot ourselves in the foot on regular occasions. But we also have the best stories in the world – not ones that will make the headlines, but ones that each one of us can tell as good free samples of Jesus.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Corduroy pillows – they are making headlines!

 

statistically speaking again

blog visits

I have noticed a trend with the visits you are making to my blog. When someone else advertises a bloggage lots more of you visit than on the other occasions. That’s what the chart above reveals. The significant peaks in views and visits coincide with the occasions when one of my bloggages was featured on the Baptist Times Daily News Sweep. This encourages those who are not normally bloggists on my site to have a look and see what sort of bloggerel I have generated on that day.

That is interesting in itself but what I also find interesting is that on the subsequent days the number of views and visits drops back to whatever is considered normal. Clearly those visitors did not feel sufficiently inspired to make return visits. Actually (and by way of making myself feel better) these statistics are slightly misleading because (bless you) over 130 of you receive my bloggages each day by e-mail and those stats would show up in the visitor stats because technically you have not visited.

Several reflections occurred to me as I considered the rollercoaster nature of the graph above.

  • word-of-mouth and recommendation are much better ways of advertising than simply being there and waiting to be found.
  • funny headlines and discussing relevant topics may well encourage people to take a look. However…
  • …unless you develop a relationship with your visitors they may well not stay.
  • in the pursuit of increasing the number of regular visitors it is easy to forget those who are already regular visitors and receiving from you.

Perhaps churches ought to learn these lessons too. And if we are unsure perhaps we should contrast it with how Jesus went about things.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Statistics joke:

Aunt Bessie loved to visit her nieces and nephews. However, she had relatives all over the country. The problem was that no matter how much she enjoyed seeing them, she hated flying. No matter how safe people told her it was, she was always worried that someone would have a bomb on the plane.

She read books about how safe it was and listened to the stewardess demonstrate all the safety features. But she still worried herself silly every time a visit was coming up.

Finally, the family decided that maybe if she saw the statistics she’d be convinced. So they sent her to a friend of the family who was an actuary. 

“Tell me,” she said suspiciously, “what are the chances that someone will have a bomb on a plane?” 

The actuary looked through his tables and said, “A very small chance. Maybe one in five hundred thousand.” 

She nodded, then thought for a moment. “So what are the odds of two people having a bomb on the same plane?” 

Again he went through his tables. 

“Extremely remote,” he said. “About one in a billion.” 

Aunt Bessie nodded and left his office. 

And from that day on, every time she flew, she took a bomb with her.