Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
A few weeks ago I found myself at Pebble Beach Golf Club. It’s not what you think. Heather and I were spending a few “alone days” in Monterey, California prior to the wedding of dear friends in a nearby vineyard. While in Monterey we heard about the famous 17-Mile Drive. Instead of driving the scenic highway we rented a few bikes and started peddling. This beautiful stretch of road brings you through historic Cannery Row, along the Pacific Ocean, and drops you off in Carmel By-The-Sea. What I did not know was this path would bring us right to the heart of the most famous golf course in the world.
Heather loves to exercise. I love Heather. I find it rejuvenating to sit, eat, and watch. Heather finds it rejuvenating to run, swim, and peddle. Needless to say after 15 miles of peddling I was sweaty, messy, and ripe. Heather was slightly glowing. I noticed the signs to the golf club and remembered hearing of this famous location. So, with a slight right turn I pulled right into the front gate of Pebble Beach Golf Club. Wow, did we look out of place.
I wasn’t sure were to park our bikes until I saw what appeared to be bike racks. “Come on Heather. Let’s lock them up here.” As I pulled out my chain and padlock I noticed a very well dressed attendant approaching us. Immediately I felt the disgrace of being out of place. I wasn’t dressed right. I don’t golf well. I smell like I’ve been riding 15 miles in the sun. I don’t belong here! Then the man smiled. “Hello there! Welcome to Pebble Beach. Would you like a safer place to keep your bikes while you are with us?” It was at that moment I finally realized that I was locking our bikes to the golf bag stand. No wonder the bike rack was made of mahogany and brass.
Don’t Say Can’t
He could have easily said, “You can’t park that bike there.” And technically he would have been right. But that would have also reinforced my fear that I didn’t belong. It was clearly the wrong place to park a bike now that I look back at the situation. In fact some might say that I was kind of dense to have done such a thing. But I’m thankful that a kind attendant didn’t feel it was necessary to embarrass me.
- Instead say Welcome
People feel awkward in new environments. This is especially true in places that have the reputation for exclusivity. So many people walk into our churches each week absolutely terrified that they will not be accepted. Sadly, we often reinforce this preconception. It is our responsibility to make each guest feel welcome and comfortable in this new environment we call the church.
- Instead say Can
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enforce policies that are helpful to the majority. We should just attempt to do so in a positive way. Instead of saying, “You can’t sit on the front row with your infant child.” Say, “Welcome to our church! We are so happy to have you here. Are you aware that there are excellent nursery facilities as well as family viewing rooms available for your convenience? Of course you are more than welcome to sit in the auditorium if you prefer. We have designated seating available for those who may need quick access to an exit.
- Instead say Better
Clearly the man didn’t want my dirty, rented bike locked to his pristine bag stand. But he spoke to me about my desires and not his own. He took time to think of my point of view. He could achieve his desired outcome (nasty bike gone) by appealing to my desires. My bike would be safer around the corner, past the gate, behind the tool shed. Instead of, “You can’t join the choir until you’re a member” we say, “we want you to feel fully trained and adequately prepared to sing and share your gift. Connect Seminar is part of that training.”
Don’t Say No
There are clearly many places that are off limits to people who bike up to the front gate and have no reservations. But honestly, I have no idea where those places are. They weren’t emphasized. After parking our bikes the gracious attendant encouraged us to check out “The Lodge” where we could grab a bite to eat.
- Instead say Yes
“You’ve got to try out the BLT, it’s legendary. Also, snap a quick photo of the famed 18th hole from the balcony of the restaurant. Do have a great time, we’re so glad you could stop on by.” Never once did I hear him say the words: private club, don’t walk there, or off limits. People will go where we guide them to go. People will sign-up for what we promote. We ought be giving clear direction to those who are our guests.
- No Negative Signage
Few things are more off-putting than arriving a church and seeing negative signage. No Parking! No Smoking! No cell-phones! Don’t Enter!
Don’t Say Idunno
Never say I Don’t Know! It’s feels terrible to by uniformed or misinformed. However, it feels even more terrible to go to someone who is supposed to know the answer and hear, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.” If I had asked that kind attendant what it would cost to stay at the club for the evening and play a round the following day, I guarantee he would not have responded with, “I don’t know. Try asking at The Lodge.”
- Instead say Let me Find Out
It’s it infuriating when asking a grocery store employee in which aisle the olives can be found and being told that they don’t know? It may be their very first day and have less knowledge of the store than you but they should always respond with… “let me find out.”
- Expressing your Ignorance doesn’t reflect well on you or the Organization
When a guest of member of the church happens to ask you a question that doesn’t fall in your purview of ministry you should never throw the organization under the bus while attempting to come off as innocent. Instead, assure them that there is an answer and that you are just the person to find that answer for them.
Pebble Beach is simply practicing good business. They did not treat me as an outsider though I may have felt and even looked like one. They treated me with value and respect. As far as they know I could have been a millionaire ready to book my next vacation. Treating me as unimportant could have lost them business in the future.
We have an even greater reason to treat people with kindness, respect, and graciousness. These are people whom God loves dearly. We, His church, are to love all who come into our way without partiality, without arrogance, and without hypocrisy.
As for me? I can’t wait to go back to Pebble Beach someday. And I can’t even really golf!
Do you have some good ideas to enhance guest experience at your local church? Share them in the comment section below: