(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

A few weeks ago the Franks crew made a stop at a Starbucks.  I love Starbucks like fundamentalists love denim jumpers.  They are all about customizing the experience for the customer and delivering the element of “surprise and delight” as Joseph Michelli mentions in his bestseller The Starbucks Experience. Our visit that day illustrated that point well.

As my 14 year old Jacob was waiting on his drink, the barista behind the counter took a glance at his baseball jacket.  As he walked away from the cash register, he casually said, “Second baseman, right?”

Both Jacob and I were stunned that he nailed Jacob’s position, so much so that all Jacob could stutter was, “Um…uh…yessir.”

We basked in that moment until he came back with the drink, when he said, “So aren’t you going to ask me how I knew?”

I jumped in, “Well if he won’t, I will.  How could you tell?”

He replied, “You see, it’s all about the stance.  I played ball long enough that I know how second basemen stand.  You guys are always ready to run, you’re always loose.  You walked in here wearing your jacket, and I said to myself, ‘That’s a second baseman right there.'”

As amazing as that experience was, it pointed to something bigger than an accurate guess of my son’s team position.  It proved to me that the barista knew how to connect with his customers.  If he’s taking the time to size up my son’s baseball skills, how much more will he take the time to get our order exactly right?  How much more will he ensure that our visit was the best it could be?  You don’t develop that sort of observation by nodding off on the job.  I’ll bet my barista friend has spent years honing his skill as he honored his customers.

It’s the same way in church: we honor our guests when we’re attuned to their needs.  We should answer not only the questions they ask, but the questions they don’t.*  Some examples:

  • Why is this mom of three young children arriving at church by herself?  Maybe she’s a Summit staff member’s wife, and her husband has been here since dark-thirty, or maybe her husband has written off not only the church, but his family.
  • Why is this man visibly sad?  Many guys aren’t known for showing their emotions.  Is his marriage failing?  His health crumbling?  His job disappearing?  How can you minister to him?
  • Why is this college girl sitting by herself?  College girls don’t do anything by themselves…they always travel in packs.

This Sunday, practice the power of observation.  Not only will you surprise and delight your guests, but you might find a unique way to minister to them.

*I’m 95% sure I stole this from Mark Waltz’s First Impressions, but I’m too lazy to look up the page number.  So there.