July 2009

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m a fan of Joseph Michelli’s podcast, The Starbucks Experience (he’s also the author of a best-selling book by the same title).  On a recent episode, he talked about the concept of keeping our personal problems out of our professional (or ministry) lives.  It’s the principle of “making it invisible.”

Making it invisible is a constant discipline for me on Sunday mornings.  Regardless of what volunteer doesn’t show up or what task didn’t get completed or what ball got dropped, I have a responsibility to our guests and my team to make all of those things invisible.  When I’m prone to complain or talk about what a rough morning it’s been or how busy I am (and believe me, I can complain about that stuff a lot), I have to remind myself that my momentary problems are not the problems of other people.

In the guest services realm, we have the responsibility of making it invisible.  When we bemoan our tasks or our job or our lives in front of guests, we chip away at their “wow!” experience.  This Sunday, do a mental inventory of the things that you’re talking about, and ask: can I make it invisible?


Last week on the big TenneBama vaca, I went to one of the three restaurants in my hometown (And no, I’m not joking…there are three: a Mexican joint, a barbecue joint, and a place with a bona-fide salad bar / sports bar combo called Legends.  Sure, there are fast-food restaurants that hold their own – especially the Burger King that required four days’ worth of cops directing traffic when they first opened 12 years ago (true story!) – but as far as sit down, you’ve got basically three that are worth going to.  But I digress…)

The Legends salad bar / sports bar combo is the “fine dining” option in town, meaning that typically the menu doesn’t have salsa or barbecue sauce stains on it.  We usually hit it at least once when we’re home, and I’m very glad we did this time.

My sister had called ahead to let them know we had a party of seventeen (yep, big family), and when we arrived during the lunch rush, the seater up front wasn’t really sure what to do with us.  Apparently, our party of seventeen and another party of eleven were too much to bear.

Suddenly, out popped a waiter with a larger-than-life personality.  He recognized my sister, took control of the situation, and led us to our table.  I found out that Steve was a regular waiter for my family, and they were pretty excited that I was going to get to witness his wow-worthy waiter skills.

Steve took our drink orders first…with no notepad.  Not too terribly impressive, because just about everybody in our family orders Legend’s famous fruit tea.

But then, he came back for our food order.  Seventeen people…seventeen different menu choices…at least fourteen different special orders (my family is picky)…and Steve nailed every last one of them.  Not a single order was wrong, though not a single order was written down.  He remembered every last detail.  Hold the mayo on your burger?  Check.  Extra cup of ranch dressing for your potato chips?  Not a problem.  Want your fries extra crispy?  Can do.

But Steve’s amazing memory wasn’t the most impressive part.  No, in a local service economy that’s usually known for poor customer care, Steve was the architect of a very good experience.  He was entertaining, he was responsive, he was attentive…

He owned it.

Steve probably doesn’t make more than a few bucks an hour before tips.  But I would hasten to guess that if his customers are smart, those tips are very good.  Because the food, although good, is nothing spectacular.  The atmosphere, while arguably the nicest in town, is nothing memorable.  But the service?  The service is something that’ll keep me coming back.

I told Steve at the end of our meal that if I had the power to do it, I’d move him to North Carolina and put him to work here at the Summit.  I told my family that if they had any sense at all, they’d make sure Steve was a believer (if not – bonus witnessing opportunity!) and use his expertise to build a guest services ministry at my home church.

The church world needs more Steves…men and women who are attentive, who are responsive, and who take control of the situation and design the experience on behalf of the guests.

Great job, Steve.  You bring truth to the name of your restaurant…you truly are a legend in your own right.

…get the t-shirt!

As a former student pastor, I am the proud owner of no fewer than 718 t-shirts.  Each one has a proud history, from summer camps to mission trips to annual themes to even – I kid you not – t-shirts that were made up to look like gas station uniforms (complete with name patch) …just because we could.

I am a huge fan of the t-shirt, much to the chagrin of people who feel that they are inappropriate attire for the office, for evening wear, and for the occasional funeral.

Nonetheless, we are giving away mountains of t-shirts to random folk who go online and vote for one of five new designs.  You can do that now through Sunday, so go on and get your clicking finger loosened up and cast your vote for your fave.

I’m secretly hoping for a five-way tie, because I’d really like to bump my total collection up to 723.  And I probably have an upcoming funeral, so I need fresh digs.

From the mouth of my 12 year old:

“Dad, when I grow up I’m going to be an NBA player.”

[Thirty seconds later…]

“I’ll have to be an NBA player because I’m going to need to make a lot of money.”

[Twenty more seconds…]

“Because I’m going to buy a monkey and he’ll need lots of bananas.”

Last week the fam and I spent some time back in our hometowns in Tennessee and Alabama. Both Merriem and I grew up in towns of less than 8,000 people, so going home is a little bit of culture shock for our kids, especially at McDonald’s (No shirt? No shoes? No problem!). Nowhere but home can you…

  • …have total strangers ask you how your recent mission trip to Greece was.
  • …hear an answering machine message from a senior adult at your home church asking if “Brother Danny made it in alright.”
  • …find out that you were the beneficiary of a prayer request in Wednesday night prayer meeting (I’m pretty sure it included the phrase, “traveling mercies”).
  • …watch your kids revert to their inner cowboy as they spend every waking hour with their “Paw” at the barn.

Obviously there are sobering moments at home, as well…

  • …such as hearing my 12 year old refer to Tennessee pulled pork BBQ as “that meat stuff.” (Darn you, North Carolina! You have rendered it impossible for my kid to recognize REAL barbecue!)
  • …having people tell you, “You’ve lost weight!” followed by “…and your hair!”

I really dig my hometown and my home church. Merriem and I have decided we’re going to host our first Redneck Camp next summer, complete with bunk beds at the farm, BBQ tours, and cow tipping. That’s right. I said cow tipping.

Sign ups begin now for the low low price of $89 per person, per night. Shirt and shoes optional.

Your Mom Goes To College
















In a recent post I was probably a bit too harsh on some of the new social media. But in reality, I am amazed at what our e-mails and Twitters and interwebs will allow us to do…

  • I can communicate vision to an entire ministry (or an entire church…or fans of an entire movement) with two minutes of typing and hitting the “post” button on a blog.
  • I can turn on my phone and find out what some of America’s most influential pastors are reading, what conferences they’re attending, and even what they had for lunch (although honestly, that last one is still lame).
  • I can use the power of Skype to talk face to face – and pray with – some of our church planters located on the other side of the globe.
  • We can broadcast the gospel to the darkest parts of the earth through the uber-coolness of iTunes.

Does technology have its drawbacks? Certainly. But the church has done a pretty good job of redeeming technology for the kingdom of God. And that’s something that even Kip can get behind.

As you know by now, this fall we’re adding a 12:30 service and a 10:45 overflow service to the Brier Creek AM Campus. With those additions come a huge need to beef up our First Impressions Team. We need peeps to serve on the parking team, the auditorium seaters team, the coffee bar team, and on and on. If you want to serve, we want to help you get plugged in to serve.

On Saturday, August 22, we’ll be hosting the First Impressions Frontline event, designed for both potential, beginner, and seasoned members of the FI Team. It will be held at the Brier Creek Campus, but it is open to Summit folks from all campuses. Watch for sign up info coming soon or talk to your First Impressions Campus Director today!

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