A Pet Peeve About Customer Service

This post will allow me an outlet to express my frustration at the rude customer service I had in a local business recently.  It was very obvious the employee did not want to be at work that day, nor did it appear he or she wanted me as his or her customer. (I am trying to protect the identity.) Thankfully I held my composure, I am not naming names, and I protected my witness. I even prayed for the employee as I left.  It reminds me though of an important principle of customer service.

One rule of customer services that is also a pet peeve of mine is that when one is in a role of providing service to others, he or she must put their game face on before he or she shows up to work.  I posted a blog recently about a restaurant that can be inflexible.  You can read that HERE. If a waiter or waitress here is having a bad day you will most likely know about it, but you will continue to frequent the restaurant. (I must say, however, that I have yet to experience bad customer service here, but they could and I would keep coming back.)

For most of us though, we need better customer service than this.  We must train our employees and volunteers to represent the organization well by putting on a smile, leaving personal problems at home, and being ready to assist our customers or clients with a welcoming attitude.

I understand all of us have bad days and our organization (church) is especially one place hurting people should feel welcome, regardless of their ability to smile that day, but serving in a front-line position in any organization represents the organization’s vision, character and reputation to the community at-large.  That is too important to not do it well.  If an employee or volunteer’s emotional state keeps them from at least providing reasonable, friendly service, the person should consider excusing themselves from responsibilities that day.

Thanks.  I feel better.  What is your pet peeve about customer service?

One Secret To Our Success At Grace Community Church

theGbwI had a great conversation with one of our original core members this morning as he stopped in to say hello.  We were reminiscing about the first four years at Grace Community Church.  Our anniversary is in September.  God has continued to amaze us with His presence.  Last Sunday we had a 43% increase in attendance over the same day in July last year.  Wow!

I think my friend nailed one of the reasons for our growth.  He told me he had a bad experience in his last church and because of that was anxious to begin a new work where drama, tradition, committees, and anything that hindered reaching people for Christ was kept to a minimum.   He also told me that before he started he had told his wife, “Honey, we got to make this church work, because if it doesn’t, we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

After a good laugh-out-loud moment, we concluded that he was onto something.  Everyone in our original core knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, to wonder if there was something more to the church experience, or to have struggles in life that seemed unbearable.  We knew how it felt to hurt and we were ready to build a church for other hurting people or people who wanted more from their church experience; people with whom we could easily identify. We still attract similar people today…and we love them when they come!  (When we were planting I called it a “holy discontent”, but then Bill Hybels wrote a book by that same name.  Good book too.)

Thank you God for life’s struggles that can be used to make us better and help us reach others that struggle with life.

Developing Your Personal Leadership Style

I write a lot about leadership principles.  The bookshelves are full of leadership books.  There are wonderful principles about leadership that can help a person be a better leader.  I would encourage every leader or aspiring leader to continually learn from great leaders and attempt to develop and grow their leadership skills.

One principle of leadership that must be understood, however, is that every leader must develop his or her individual leadership style.  All leaders need to have a style that is unique to them.

Leaders should not use individuality as an excuse for inadequacy and excellence should be a standard for all leaders. There are key leadership principles, especially Biblical principles that no leader can ignore, but the goal should never be to carbon copy another person’s leadership style.  Just as every individual is unique in his or her personality, every leader will have uniqueness in his or her leadership style.  Great leaders figure out the style that works best for them to produce the greatest results.

Have you been trying to be someone else with your leadership style?

How I Prepare a Sermon Message

I frequently get asked the same two questions about my message preparation:

How long does it take?

An average message takes about 20 to 25 hours from start to finish. I am a slow processor and I like to sit with things in my heart and mind a while before I put them on paper.

How do you go about putting a message together?

Most of my messages are birthed the same way.

  • Need: We plan series months in advance based on the perceived or realized needs of our people or the directions we sense God wants us to take the church.
  • Bottom-line Idea: I need to land on what the central point of the message is before I can go much further with the message.  Hopefully this happens weeks before the week I’m crafting the message.
  • Notes: After I know where I am headed I begin to keep notes on paper, on my computer, on my iPhone, and in scrap pieces of paper in my car or on my desk. These could be Scriptures, illustrations, or thoughts about the central idea.
  • All notes are eventually transferred to my Evernote file.
  • Study: I begin to study passages surrounding the theme/bottom-line I feel God is leading me towards.
  • Passage:  Preferably a week or two before the message is written I land on the passage of Scripture I feel God is leading me to use.
  • Study: I spend more extensive time studying the specific passage I am using in my message.
  • Point of Desperation:  Usually the week I am writing the message nothing I have written so far seems to make sense any more.  I almost always reach a frustrating point where I am forced to cry out to God for help breaking through the mental and spiritual blockage.  (I wonder if this is God-designed?)
  • Breakthrough:  God always seems to provide the breakthrough I need to move forward towards a completed message.  Sometimes it takes longer than I would like, but He always provides.
  • Outline:  I begin to outline my message with the 1)Opening Illustrations, 2)Scripture or Bible Story,  3)Closing Applications and Challenge
  • Script:  I am a manuscript guy, so the week of my message I write out the majority of what I plan to say on Sunday morning.

Of course, this whole process needs to be bathed in prayer and Holy Spirit directed, which means I need to spend quantity and quality time alone with God if the message is to be meaningful.

Pastors, how does this differ from the way you put together a message?

I Am A Teacher, Not a Know-It-All

899171_16345967I am a teacher, but I am not without flaw.

One common misunderstanding is that those who teach principles are perfect at implementing those same principles in their life.  Hopefully before someone agrees to teach on a subject they have a certain “expertise” in the area he or she teaches, whether by education or experience, but it is probably false to believe he or she is perfect in every area they claim expertise.  Obviously teachers are to be held to a higher standard (James 3:1), but just because someone teaches does not make them perfect at the subject they teach.

For example, I teach some principles I do not yet live out fully and perfectly.

  • I teach on marriage, but my marriage is a continual work in progress.
  • I teach on parenting, but each new age creates a new learning curve for me.
  • I teach on leadership, but I still have so much to learn about the subject.
  • I teach the Bible, but there are those I teach who know some passages better than me.

I believe and aspire to the principles I teach, and I do have education and experience in each area, but I am still very much a work in progress.

Do not make the mistake of believing that just because someone teaches good principles that they are fully implementing them in their life.  Hopefully they are attempting to, but you may be disappointed if you look for perfection from the teacher.

What qualities do you look for in a teacher?

Simplifying the Call of Ministry

This past year I have encountered numerous ministers in transition, waiting for their next God assignment.  It has been interesting to note how many of them feel purposeless because they do not currently have a paid ministry position.

A verse that those of us who are “called” to shepherd others vocationally need to memorize:

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15

The role of the shepherd according to this verse is two-fold.  We are to:

  1. Follow after God’s heart.
  2. Invest in others.

We often try to complicate the call.  Sometimes we spend more time and energy trying to figure out the where and how of ministry and less time and energy on our primary calling.  Obviously the where and how are important, but it seems to me that if we will concentrate on following God’s heart and investing in others that the where and how will be easier to discern.

Perhaps it would simplify our life and make our ministry more effective if we will do what we have been called to do wherever and however the situation and circumstances call for at the time and allow God to work out more of the details of our call.

Just a thought.

Don’t Give Up Doing Good Deeds

feet4Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV

It is hard being the nice guy all the time, is it not? I have heard people ask, “Why do I always have to be the one to give?” I’ve heard that question relating to marriages, to parenting, and among friends. Sometimes it just seems that we are the only ones doing good unto others. I know that is not true, but it does feel that way at times. We sometimes start to feel that we are being taken advantage of, do we not?

Paul knew that feeling. Think of the cold nights he spent praying over the church, knowing all the while that many of them would not suffer for him as he was for them. He knew the struggles of building the first church, trying to start from nothing, while many others enjoy the freedom of “Sunday’s off”. A large portion of Paul’s letters is devoted to encouraging the believer to keep going!

May I offer you the same encouragement? Don’t give up! Keep doing the good you know you ought to do. Go the second mile in your Christian walk.  Keep serving others, even when it hurts or you feel unappreciated.  Not because everyone else is doing it, but because of the love you have for your Heavenly Father. Do it because it is the right thing to do. Do it because in the end, you will be rewarded for your faithfulness.

Though it may seem you are being taken for granted, or that no one really cares, remember that Jesus is watching. He’s keeping track and He’s building your reward accordingly. Hang in there! It will be worth it in the end!

The Movie Defiance Impacted My Life

Possibly because I watched this movie on the long plane ride home from Lithuania and had visited the KGB Museum while I was there, but the movie Defiance left a huge impression on me.  (Read about my KGB Museum experience HERE.)  Maybe it was because I knew this was based on a true story and it graphically displays the conditions of people during times of war and domination by another nation.  Whatever the reason, I am not usually an emphatic person and it is hard to impress me (just being honest), but this movie may well be remembered as one of greatest impact and even favorite movies of my life.

This is a movie about:

  • Perseverance
  • Hope
  • Faith
  • Work Ethic
  • Leadership
  • Community
  • Commitment
  • Vision

This movie reminds me that when one has no more prayers to offer and all they have is what is left of their strength and faith, that, if they are following God’s command on their life they should continue to move forward.  (I realize this is not a movie about faith per se, but I see the illustration of perseverance in seeking a direction or pursuing a cause as a great demonstration of what we are called to do with our faith.)

If you have not seen this movie, I encourage you to rent it today.  If you saw it, did it have that kind of an impact on you?

Student Mission Trip To New Orleans, Part 2

This is video two from our student ministry mission trip to New Orleans.  God is using them this week.  As you know, this is my personal blog, so aside from my role as a pastor at Grace Community Church I am also a dad. I am very proud of Nate Edmondson this week. You’ll see him in this video several times in the gray shirt teaching with his hands.  He loves teaching God’s Word.  I love him loving to teach God’s Word.  God has great things planned for him.  He leaves in a few weeks for a new adventure at Moody Bible College.  Prayers appreciated…

Ugly Clothing Marketing Works Great For Churches

UglyTie-33053I love shirts that do not have to be ironed. I travel a lot and right now the nylon, breathable shirt appears popular, at least among my age, and so I can be “in style”, comfortable and basically wrinkle-free with little effort. I have to confess to something, however. My style is usually determined by what other people do not want. I choose to dress primarily in rejected clothing! You see I am hugely price conscious. I love new clothes, but the thoughts of spending more than $10 for a shirt bothers me, so if it’s on sale for $6, I tend to like it even more. I have often wished there were a store for folks like me that sold only the clothes others didn’t want…the rejects…at dirt cheap prices.

I realize this would not be the best marketing approach for the clothing industry. Imagine the ads going after customers no one else wants. What kind of commercial would you make from the clearance rack?

It may not be the best approach in retail marketing, but guess what? The system I use in clothing myself is a great marketing approach for churches. If you want your church to grow, go after people no one else wants. Go after the ones who feel unwanted. Attempt to reach the people the world has rejected.

It worked well for Jesus. It has worked well for Grace Community Church. Perhaps it will for your church as well.