Our guest services teams are guided by what we call our five plumb lines. At the top of that list is our “north star” of sorts, which states:
In a nutshell, that means that there are things we can control about a guest’s experience…and one thing we shouldn’t. The message of the gospel – no matter how shocking, surprising, or stunning – is strong enough and powerful enough to stand on its own. We need not water it down, dress it up, or cast it aside in order to make the message more palatable to the masses.
On the other hand, there are plenty of things we do – intentionally or unintentionally, overt or covert – that serve as distractions at best or are patently offensive at worst. Poor signage. Misspelled lyrics. Insider language. An unsafe kids environment. No follow up plan for first time guests. Any one of those things can serve as a pebble of offense that trips up a guest and gives them the one excuse they need to never come back.
And here’s the thing about offenses: we don’t get to define them. I can look back over years of ministry and recount conversations with church attendees who were critical of ____. You name it, they could fill in the blank with it. And the entire time they were talking, the little voices inside my head were yapping, as well: “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!” the voices would say. “Who on earth gets upset over something like that?”
(Pro tip for the married guys out there: never say that to your wife. Ever. Never ever ever.)
People’s offenses are their offenses. People frequently come loaded down with baggage and laced with history. They drag in artifacts of past church experiences and find it all too easy to connect the dots between something they experience with us and something they experienced four churches ago. And while we might find it silly, it’s significant to them. So it must be significant to us.
But what do we do when an offense isn’t so much silly as it is a non-negotiable? What happens when the thing our guest is offended by is something that we can’t budge on, lest we change the very nature of our church?
We’ll cover that in the next post.