Thursday, July 12, 2007

Car Dealers Do a Better Job!

Jan and I bought a car this Saturday. The purchase was the culmination of over a month of research, email conversations and planning. It has been a while since we purchased a car and much has changed since then. The biggest change is the internet. All of our research was done on the net. No more visiting lot after lot. No more subjecting ourselves to multiple salespersons playing the car purchase game. Instead, I reviewed the available cars from dealers in a 30 mile radius of our home without ever leaving my study. I entered my desired make, model, price, and mileage parameters and out came my selection. I read reviews of different dealerships from customers. All in all it was a good experience (not something I’ve often said about car buying.)

On Saturday night I tried to decide which church to attend for worship on Sunday. I selected a congregation and sought the most basic information, the time of the service. First, I searched the internet for a webpage and found a page which was two years out of date (even had the wrong pastor listed) which told me summer worship was at 9 AM. I called the church and the answering machine told me 10:30 AM. I checked the conference website which confirmed 9 AM. I looked up a listing in the local paper which offered 10 AM as the option of the week. It took a phone call to the church on Sunday morning to find the correct worship time.

If this was a unique experience I’d would not even mention it. But this is a common experience for me. As a district superintendent I have incentive to be persistent and stubborn. Usually I find out the correct information. Of course I have also arrived at a church to find out I am a half hour too late or an hour early.

But what if I were a visitor coming to your church for the first time? Well frankly, I probably would not even come. I’d chose some place with a current website and a clear time for worship.

At the dealership where we purchased our car one salesperson told me they are required to answer all emails within 3 business hours. This was my experience. Even emails sent late in the business day were almost always responded to within an hour. The information on their web pages were up to date and included times for business, contact information and directions.

Frankly, compared to most of our churches the dealerships do it better. They really want visitors to come to their showrooms. They try to make the showrooms hospitable with refreshments, play rooms for kids and more. Someone greeted us at the door and more than one person inquired if we were being helped.

Car dealers know that they exist for those outside their business. If no one new came to their business they would go out of business. When someone new walks through the door, they try to do everything in their power to make a sale. They are passionate about selling cars.

Golly-gee couldn’t we in the church have at least this much passion about the Good News of Jesus? Don’t we have something far more satisfying than cars to offer people? We have the life changing, transforming power of Christ which can make any life new, heal any hurt, give meaning to any life. We have a community of grace and love to offer them. Yet we won’t even bother to make sure they can easily find the time we worship together! (I won’t even go into how we welcome them.)

Some churches are doing a good job, a small few are doing an excellent job at this simple task of basic hospitality and welcome. Most are doing a poor job.

Right now car dealerships beat us, hands down at this very simple and basic task. Good for them, not so good for us.

By the way, when people ask, I will tell them about the good experience we had with this dealership. Visitors do the same thing with your church. This old adage is true. “If a customer has a bad experience they tell 20 people. If they have a good experience they will tell 2.

So what are visitors telling others about your church? How many never even make it to your doors?

Grace & peace,