Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do you want my money?

I just got back from an evening trip to a supermarket where they don't accept credit cards. As a primarily-plastic kind of guy, I always feel a bit of stress as I fill up the basket. I typically have no cash and don't even know where my wife keeps our checks, so if my card fails me, I'm out of luck. Today as I was shopping, I was chatting on the phone and heard the tail end of an announcement saying "we will only be accepting cash, check and [muffled noises]". I begin to wonder what that muffled option was, hoping the debit services hadn't gone down. Just as I was about to unload my cart, I asked the cashier if they were accepting debit, and she said "no". Eying my cart full of goods, I asked "sooo, do you know when it will be working again?". "No" was her ever-helpful response. She then proceeded to ask if I had cash or a check, which I found annoying (would I really ask about debit if I had a wad of cash in my pocket?). I said no, returned all the cold items to where they needed to go, and left.

I recognize that this experience itself wasn't the fault of the supermarket, as they most likely hire a company to provide the debit service, but it touched on something I have been noticing more and more lately.

I'm having a really hard time spending my money.

It's not that there aren't things I want to buy anymore. It just seems that I am being presented more hurdles than I remember. Which brings us to communications.

Any organization or business needs revenue to survive. If you have convinced people to buy your product, but make it so hard to complete the transaction, you will lose business. The causes that I have experienced recently include: bad service, employees not knowing where inventory is, know knowing anything about the inventory, not having the inventory, or not being able to take money if it isn't cash. All of these are hurdles preventing a successful sale, not to mention establish a negative perception of the company. There are certain places I simply won't go to for certain things anymore. Its a sad day for a company when the consumer is willing to not purchase something they want because of the company selling it makes the process so difficult.

The same applies for communication in the church. The principal is very basic, and applies to just about every form of communications, but it is crucial to view things from the consumers perspective. Who is your consumer? Is it a young church or an old church? Are you focused on bringing in those tho don't know Christ, or developing those who do to be more effective ministers? These questions, and others like them must be asked every time a decision is made. If we lose sight of the flocks we are supposed to lead, we will not them well.

** A note with regards to this topic: **

It is crucial to understand the church that God has called you to be. The biggest mistake you can make is to say "Famous Church does it this way, so should we". Yes, we can glean a lot from the 'famous' churches in terms of ministry practices, but the reason they are successful is because they reach the people God has called them to reach. They don't do what they do because everyone else does it, or because it is neat. They do it because they have determined it to be the most effective way to reach those that God has called them to reach. Be willing to take the risks that will help you reach your flock most effectively, not the ones that are trendy or attractive. The Good News stands the test of time, style, and trends.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Think Before you Stick

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently, and this article caused that conversation to come up again, so I must post it. It is about the whole Christian bumper sticker/fish/and now license plate thing.

When my wife and I were moving from Orange County to the High Desert, we ran into some traffic while driving up the Cajon Pass because of wildfires. Firefighters had closed off 3 of the 5 lanes coming "up the hill" as we say, so, understandably, there was quite a traffic jam. Towing a trailer of the few things we own, I was driving more conservatively than normal as it isn't something I frequently do. I turned on my signal to merge lanes and began creeping into an opening in the lane to my left. Just as I was about to merge over, the truck in the lane I was merging into sped up, prevented me from making the lane change. So, there I sat...angry that this guy wouldn't let me over as my lane came closer and closer to an end. As he pulled forward, it revealed something that took me from angry to furious...the Christian fish.

So let me get this straight...the guy who wouldn't let me over, the guy who prevented me from merging out of a closed lane in the midst of a traffic jam...was a Christian? If I wasn't moving from one church job to another church job, I have no idea what fingers I would have trusted vigorously into the air.

So why does this matter? It matters because people associate our behaviors with our faith. Even if those associations are completely unrealistic, unfounded, or just plain wrong. For all I know, the guy driving the truck had no idea I needed to get over, and no idea my lane was ending. And yet, my reaction, even as a brother in Christ, was that he gives the faith a bad name. With that understanding, it is critical that we choose our actions and words carefully, as they are a reflection of our relationship with Christ.

This applies personally and organizationally. If you are rude while wearing your work uniform, or the logo of your school, people will judge the respective organization based on your actions.

We must be intelligent when we choose how we display our faith.

When you see the back of a car long enough to notice the stickers on it, you have just been cut off or are being forced to drive significantly under the speed limit and are angry (at least I am). Not exactly the best time to promote your faith... or just about anything else.