Today wraps up a discussion that began earlier this week.  You can catch up here and here.

We’ve been talking about creating “Wow!” moments for our guests.  Yesterday we discussed the sometimes months-long process to move people from being a Consumer to Worshipper to Minister.  The question remains: why do we give so much attention to the consumer?  Why not just rebuke their sorry, sin-sick, selfish soul and tell ’em to buck up and shut up and slap the coffee cup out of their hand and make ’em smooth out their faux hawk and put on a tie, for crying out loud?  In other words, why don’t we do church the “right” way?  You know, the way that many of us experienced growing up?

Answer: because it doesn’t work.

Church-as-usual has a proven track record, and it’s a failing record.  Rituals, traditions, rules, regulations, secret handshakes, all that stuff has done more to turn people off of Christianity than we’ll ever know.  And the funny thing is, it has nothing to do with Christianity.  So the model of guest-services-in-church is a decidedly different approach.  So why do we cater to the consumer?

Answer: because often (not always) it does work.

In Win Arn’s work The Church Growth Ratio Book, he cites research that shows that the average church in America will keep about 16% of its first-time guests.  (Rapidly growing churches such as the Summit tend to keep 25 to 30% of their first-time guests).  However, if a church is worthy enough to bring a guest back for a second week, they will retain 85% of those guests.

After reading that stat a couple of years ago, my mindset on guest services shifted.  My goal now is not just to provide a “Wow!” experience, but it’s to convince them to return.  As I said yesterday, rarely does someone become a Christian on their first visit.  It takes weeks of questions answered, time invested, and relationships built for someone to lay down their defenses and accept the Gospel.  The stakes are too high for us to let someone slip out after the first visit, never to return, and a Summit-branded coffee mug is a very small price to pay if it means that they’ll be more open and available to hear the Gospel.

One last thought: they’re not always going to return.  The Consumer – Worshipper – Minister model won’t always work.  It certainly didn’t seem to work for Jesus, and he was Jesus!  However, his mandate was to reconcile people to the Father, and he made himself available for every last person that he encountered.  Our mission and mandate is the same.