Customer Service and the Church

The church can learn a thing or two from major corporations.

For example, Jen and I were recently talking about the outstanding customer service offered by the company Land’s End. They are friendly, helpful, informative, and you don’t feel like they’re in a hurry to get you off the phone. In fact, Jen appreciates their customer service so much that she said, “Their customer service is so good that I wish I liked more of their products!”

When she said that my mind immediately went to my church.

The worship at our church isn’t incredible. I’m not Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or Bob Kauflin, and my ability to lead our band is average.

Our sermons are biblically rooted expositional sermons, and we’re always trying to improve, but they’re nothing special. No one is making comparisons between us and John Piper or Matt Chandler.

Our facilities are average. At best. We don’t have a fancy sound system or a massive stage. Our children’s ministry is a bit crowded right now.

But there is one thing about our church that is outstanding: the people. Our church is full of the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people on planet earth. Time and again I’ve heard guests say that what struck them the most about our church was how welcome they felt. Over the years my dad (the senior pastor) has made a concerted effort to create a culture of warmth and welcome, and that culture is noticeable the moment you walk in to church.

It seems like people are willing to overlook a lot of deficiencies as long as they feel welcome in a church. The sermons might not be the absolute best, but the people can be the most loving. The worship might not be on par with Matt Redman, but the welcome can be on par with Matt Redman’s church.

Now don’t misunderstand me, a church should always be built upon the preaching of God’s word, and the preaching of God’s word and biblical worship should never be traded for something else. Never.

But lots of smaller churches, like mine, don’t have the resources to build an incredible building or install a magnificent sound system. And us smaller churches are pastored by people like me, who have limited gifts. So my church can’t be Northpoint, or Mars Hill, or Bethlehem Baptist.

But we can be the most welcoming church around, and I think that goes a long way.

Question: Have you experienced the difference that a warm welcome at church makes?

If you found this post helpful, would you mind sharing it with you friends on Facebook or Twitter? Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Ethan_Johnson @Ethan_Johnson

    For years our church tried to be something we are not (and could not be). Your thoughts summarize much of what we're trying to change (in a much better way than I could). I'll be forwarding this post to my connection team.
    Yes, a warm welcome is critical. Being a mini-mega church (meaning not really mega, but mega for this small town) we have to remain faithful to the mission; proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples, and connecting Christians to one another. The first step is making sure people feel warmly welcomed.
    Another great post with very helpful thoughts! Thanks for your continued ministry through your blog.
    (btw, we're rolling out 'So I Will Trust You' this week. Thanks for that, too :)

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Hey Ethan,

      How big is your church related to the town you're in? I'm curious because my church is also in a small town.

      • http://twitter.com/Ethan_Johnson @Ethan_Johnson

        We run between about 350+ in a town of about 9000 or so. But it's rural Wisconsin, meaning heavy Catholic and Lutheran territory. I mostly called us 'mini-mega' because for a long time we *wanted* to be mega (the 'Willow' of SW Wisconsin, so to speak). Fail. But thanks be to God that He's more patient with the church than the church is with Him.
        The current leadership is making some tremendous changes and I think we are righting the ship. One exciting thing is that there is a group of people who are recommitting themselves to our 'customer service'. Thanks again for your ministry through the blog/Twitter and your music. Amazing how what you do reaches this little corner of Wisconsin!

        • http://twitter.com/Ethan_Johnson @Ethan_Johnson

          And I forgot to mention, the Land's End factory/headquarters is just down the road from us in an even smaller SW Wisconsin town. I may even know some of those customer service folks.

        • Pastor Brad

          It's cool to see how you guys are seeing that being a mega church is unnecessary. That can be such a temptation in any church, mine included.

  • http://jakeanddiana.com Diana

    Totally agree. Grace Baptist Church in New Orleans is a perfect example. We were members there when we lived in NOLA, and we loved it. It's small. It's not the prettiest building or facilities. But the people are wonderful, loving, and accepting, and that's what really drew us in.

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Yeah, isn't it amazing how the welcome of people can overcome facilities that aren't the best?

  • http://darylhb.tumblr.com/ darylhb

    You raised some very good points, Stephen, we get similar feedback about our church.

    Your post reminded me of Jesus' "new command" in John 13:34-36, that the world will know us as his disciples by our love for one another – which is exactly what your church seems to be good at!

    It's great how humble you are, but please don't sell yourself short. You have a very effective ministry with this blog, which is a channel I think most churches do not explore enough.

    And never underestimate God's vision for your church – your gifts may seem smaller than others', but their power is only as limited as you believe it to be. What God has given you, He can multiply according to his purposes!! :)

    Keep up the great writing!

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Thanks for your encouragement Daryl. And you're right, God can take my small efforts and use them for his glory. I also need to remember that.

  • Elaine

    We are His ambassadors and we need to convey that truth effectively

    Friendliness is not enough to draw us to a church but coupled with Biblical preaching and God honoring worship….well, it's Irresistible. And friendliness that goes beyond the first visit. We were struck by the care and interest people showed us right from the beginning but that care and friendliness continues to grow to this day, more than a year later. It's restored our hope in what a church can and should be. We desire to serve our local body by showing that same care and concern to people no matter if they are just visiting for the first time or long time members.

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      You're right Elaine, friendliness in and of itself isn't enough. But when coupled with Biblical preaching and worship, well that's a great combination. I sure am glad you guys are in our church and people get to meet you guys.

    • bfpower

      Elaine,

      As a note, I've never been to a church with serious teaching or worship problems that also has loving people. Maybe I haven't been around enough. Just a thought.

      Ben

  • Petra Hefner

    A church is not an incredible building or a magnificent sound system or even a group of welcoming and loving people. The world can offer all of those! But what is the church that the world is not–what does it have that the world has not? The amazing Christ, the amazing Triune God and His amazing Word and Truth divinely empowered and proclaimed, God's amazing Grace, amazing worship, the amazing Bread of Life, amazingly good fruit (of genuinely loving believers, not just sweet sticky candy, but lovingly correcting as well). Those were (and are) the 'amazing' that welcome me to my current home church. It definitely was not the building, equipment, or necessarily even the initial welcome. But oh, when I heard God's Truth proclaimed without compromise, I knew that I had found the Amazing! God bless you, your church, and your shepherd's heart!

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Yep you're absolutely right. Starbucks can offer great buildings and Bose offers awesome sound systems, but the church offers the body of Christ.

  • http://insidepastorkevinshead.blogspot.com/ Kevin Sorensen

    Stephen, I thank you for this post. As the solo pastor in a small church (about 80-90 people), I can relate completely: our building is 40 years old and showing it's age & we can't always shell out the money to fix everything little thing we'd like; we've not been blessed with lots of talented musicians (we have two good pianists and one fair pianist; a few singers who can carry a tune and that's about it), and with the numbers we have, we don't try to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to programming (I wouldn't let us, even if we did). Instead we offer worship that is not "professional" but genuine (we still seek to do our best); preaching that is God-centered, Christ-exalting and Biblically-driven (not trying to sound prideful; those are words from others about the preaching here at Cornerstone); and, a group of people who really, really love one another.

    One of our biggest frustrations is this: while we welcome people, guests and new-comers to the point of almost appearing desperate, many don't return or stay. I think there is a difference between that "first time welcome friendliness" and the deep, lasting relationships that have formed by those who have remained. And how do you get people to know that deep, caring fellowship if they don't come back for a few Sundays to experience it? Whenever someone tells me they're "checking us out," I usually tell them to come back for 4-6 Sundays; they'll get a much better sense of who we are in Christ.

    I appreciate the thoughts and any further insights on this issue would be most helpful. Keep on serving. Remain steadfast in your endurance. Give all the glory to God.

    Kevin

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kevin. I know that God is pleased with your faithful pastoring, even if it doesn't seem like many people are staying.

      Our of curiosity, have you come up with any strategies for getting newcomers connected with people in your church?

  • http://Facesoflions.wordpress.com Dave Wilson

    Steven,

    Church not impressive? I think we're in good company:

    "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

    Thanks for the reminder about the importance of welcoming people. Reminds me of the saying that people don't care about how much you know, until they know how much you care. Always seemed a little bit too "Hallmark" to me, but I think it's true.

    Dave

    Thanks for reminding us of what really matters.

    Dave

  • http://thewarriorsforchrist.blogspot.com/ Caroline

    Yes it does make a difference when the people at church are welcoming:) I come from a small church too, and many times the same thoughts go thru my mind as u mentioned above. But, I love my fellow believers at church, the preaching and the two people who faithfully play the guitar at church every Sunday:) Praising God for all that He has given!!!