My friend and first impressions guru Mark Waltz has undeniably drilled in my skull the importance of “wow!” moments: small or large gestures designed to communicate to guests, customers, or friends, “You matter.”

A few weeks ago I was on the receiving end of my own “wow!” moment. My wife is from a tiny north Alabama town, and in that town is a burger joint that is the stuff of legends. Whenever I meet someone from her hometown, I don’t bring up the local football team (let’s face it, I wouldn’t carry the conversation), the cow to human ratio (although it’s sizeable) or the fact that two of my children were born in the local hospital (there’ll be a sign with their name on it at the city limits someday).

No, I immediately bring up the burger joint, and suddenly we’re lifelong friends. It’s a hole in the wall place that’s lined with old news clippings, family photos, and remnants of grease splatters from burger eras gone by. It’s also a local hangout located just off the town square…the kind of place where real political decisions get made over a plate of greasy fries and a large Coke.

Every time we go home, Merriem goes there. It’s a non-negotiable. If we’d had a pre-nup, that would have been in it.

So when her mom and dad visited us recently, they decided to surprise Merriem, her brother, and the rest of the family with – you guessed it – cheeseburgers from everybody’s favorite burger joint. My mother in law called the owner and asked him what the chances were of transporting burgers 11 hours across two states, and of course he said that the quality would be terrible and the food poisoning would be awful. But then he told her, “Hey, give me thirty minutes and come on down here. I think I have an idea.”

Now in full disclosure I should pause at this point and tell you that the restaurant was actually founded by my wife’s great uncle and is now owned by my mother in law’s first cousin. And for potential legal reasons, trademark burger grease violations, common sense, and the fact that there will be a chaotic rush on the joint, I’ve decided not to name names, although anyone from her hometown who stumbles across this will know where I’m talking about.

But I digress. What the owner did had nothing to do with being family (Merriem’s family is spread from coast to coast, and I’ve never heard of this before). It had everything to do with communicating “you matter.”

When my mother in law arrived, he had a box of freshly-patted burger patties wrapped in wax paper and foil and ready to freeze. He gave her instructions on how to cook the special-recipe burgers (always on a flat top, never on a grill, since the magical ingredients would fall apart that way), and – get this – he refused to let her pay for them.

A few days later, we had a burger feast for the ages right in the comfort of our North Carolina living room. And you’d better believe when we went home for Christmas, we stopped by to say thanks.

If you’re a church leader, you have the opportunity every weekend to communicate the fact that your guests matter. True, you may not send them home with raw hamburger meat (I can’t even think of a scenario where that would be okay), but you can seize the moments to serve people generously and connect with them in a way that screams “you matter.”

What are some of your “wow!” moments, either that you’ve given or received? I’d love to hear ’em. Comment below.

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