Miss yesterday’s post?  Catch up here. Go on.  I’ll wait.

This week we’re asking this question: do churches treat guests the way car lots treat customers?  It’s going to be a no holds barred, honest look at the way we interact with new people.

During Saturday’s AgonyFest known as Looking for Cars, we met a guy that I’ll call Frank, because that is his real name.  Frank took one look at our boys and decided that their names should hereinafter be “Sport” or “Precious Cargo.”  (i.e., “What grade are you in, Sport?” or “Mom, I know you’re concerned about your Precious Cargo, so here’s a nice feature…”)

Frank was knowledgeable about the cars on his lot.  Scratch that.  Frank was extremely knowledgeable about the cars on his lot.  Scratch that. I get the feeling that Frank had more knowledge of the cars on his lot than his kids at home (who I think were all named “Sport”).

Frank’s knowledge was too lofty for a mere mortal to understand.  He talked about safety ratings, crash test results, manufacturer’s rebates, catalytic converters, crumple zones, industry standards, power train warranties, and cup holders (I got that part).  One simple question from one of us would elicit a flurry of comparison notes, this-is-why-we’re-better-than-the-other-guys-spiel, and more car talk goodies than Click and Clack.

I immediately realized that Frank knew a lot about cars.  But he didn’t know much about us. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t expect Frank to take me out to coffee and pick apart my life story.  But he spent so much time telling us about his product that he forgot to engage our preference.  For example, it would have been helpful if he had asked – even once – if we were interested in new or used (answer: used.  Sticker shock doesn’t begin to describe what I experienced.  Hey pal…I’m buying a car, not a vital organ.)

I absolutely believe that Frank was a nice guy.  But I think he was a guy who was more comfortable with a canned script than customized service.

Is that the story of your church?  Is that the story of our church?

Are we more excited about giving guests the 47-minute history lesson of what God’s done at the Summit than to find out their story?

Are we answering questions they haven’t asked because it’s the questions we think they should be asking?

Do we take every guest through a pre-packaged script because that’s how we’ve been trained, or do we listen for cues that help us provide individual ministry?

Not all of these things are inherently bad.  I believe it’s helpful to have a process, to have some standard talking points, and to have some clear on-ramps to involvement.  But when we do so in a one-size-fits-all manner, we risk alienating many of the people that God sends our way.

So now the question: what’s been your experience?  At your church?  At the Summit Church?  Let’s open up a dialogue, Sport, because the comment box is a nice feature.