Wikipedia provides a simple working definition for efficiency: “Efficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, it is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.”
So, if I am a guest to your church, can I do it efficiently? Can I be a guest efficiently, i.e., from my perspective? Or will I consider the exercise an inordinate and excessive drain on my resources of time, energy, and money...too much for the return on my investment?
First Impressions matter. If a church is leaving an impression with visitors that their time and energy and money are unimportant, the church is making a serious miscalculation. Guests will be put off by a church’s apparent disregard of things that matter to the guest.
We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Think only of the last time that you stood in an excessively long checkout line at a retail store while all the other registers were unopened and store personnel were milling around doing other things that ignored the customers in the line. Did you like it? I suspect not. Did you think something like, “they don’t appreciate my business?” Did you even mumble under your breath, “I am not coming back.” Hmm!
Churches can ill-afford to underestimate the importance of properly esteeming the resources of the guests that are visiting with them. In every scenario in which a guest encounters your church, they are expending valuable personal resources. The question is whether they are doing it, by their own estimation, efficiently.
Think about these applications of guest efficiency at your church:
Weekday: Sunday isn't the only day of the week for guests. E.g., if I want to ask a question or communicate with someone at the church on a weekday (e.g., to inquire about a church activity), how easily and quickly will that occur? Will the doors be open at the church? Will someone answer the phone appropriately? Will someone return a phone call the same day? Will church leadership be accessible? Question: if I need an answer from your church before Sunday, will I get it with minimal effort on my part?
Website: You get about 8 seconds to be efficient here. Web users are notoriously quick in making judgments. If they cannot find what they are looking for almost immediately they will bounce right off the site. That indicates that churches must have an eye-catching and obvious something for guests if they want to keep their web attention. Question: if I look at your website in a hurry-up fashion on Saturday night, deciding where/if I will attend church the next day, will I readily find something to capture my attention as a potential guest or will I have to dig out (viz., pick and shovel) what I need?
Sunday: There are lots of efficiency issues here. I will name just a few: Can I find the church or will I spend 10 extra minutes looking for it because of a lack of an online map or directions? When I find the church, will I be directed into the parking lot or will I have to make an extra loop around the block? Once inside the building, will I find signage to the restroom (and childcare, info booth, worship area) or will I have to wander the building to find it? Am I really having to stand in line for the coffee to brew? Must I stand in another long line to register my grandchild or is there not a more efficient system for safety and security? Does the worship time avoid unnecessary redundancy (e.g., announcements on the screen, in the bulletin, AND from the platform)? Is the preaching/teaching time appropriately used? How long will this worship service be, after all? An hour? Two hours? I would like to know before I sit down. My time is important. Question: if I visit your church on Sunday morning, will I walk away thinking to myself that my time and energy were well spent? Or undervalued?
Follow-up: It is a bit difficult to comprehend but I have filled out guest registration in churches and then NEVER heard another word. (Ahem, more than a few times) Efficient? No! Annoying? Yes! Question: if I take the time to complete guest registration per the church’s request, does the church have a sure-fire system to communicate with me in a timely, meaningful, and appropriate fashion?
There you go. Those are real issues affecting efficiency from the perspective of a guests.
There are others.
Some might be thinking, “well, guests just need to suck it up.” But that is a dead-end road. Guests that are making decisions about your church sense no such obligation relative to churches they visit. The obligation resides with the church:
to appreciate and demonstrate the valued resources of each guest
to respond with courtesy, hospitality, compassion, and care
to powerfully convey the Good News of Jesus in word AND deed
This best occurs when your guests are not taken for granted and can sense that their time, energy, and resources are well spent when engaging with your church.
Don’t give them reason to think otherwise. Insure guest efficiency with those that invest their personal resources at your church.
Roger Graves is a 35 plus year veteran of church ministry. It has been his passion and life calling. He has worked hand in hand with churches in Texas, Colorado, and Iowa, serving in church staff roles, pastoring and planting churches, and directing the work of two Associations of churches within the Baptist Convention of Iowa while serving as a Missionary of the North American Mission Board as a Church Planting Catalyst.