1.16.2013

Viewing Your Church Leaders as More than the Customer Service Department

We live in a consumer culture which, among other things, means that we are constantly buying things, using them up, and then buying more. In a consumer culture, the idea of customer satisfaction and the practice of customer service is incredibly important—if you want customers to purchase and consume your product or use your service instead of those of your competitors, then you either have to focus on having a better or cheaper product/service than they do, or treating your customers better than they do (or, ideally, both!).
As a consumer, I value customer service highly. I’ve mentioned before about how I love Amazon because of their outstanding customer service. They make it easy (and usually free) to return items and they’ve even paid the shipping before for me to return items even when it was my fault. 

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

The problem though, is that we take our consumer mindset and try to apply it to church as well. You see this all the time: when looking for a new congregation to be a part of, families “shop” around for a church and compare different congregations like they would products in a store. 

And to a degree, that’s a necessary thing—when looking for a church, you need to find one you agree with theologically, and you need to find a community of believers where you can fit in and form relationships. But it can also be a dangerous thing, I think, when churches are evaluated only from the perspective of what they have to offer you (as a consumer), rather than you asking yourself how your gifts and talents could be added to make the work of a particular congregation more effective (to paraphrase JFK: “Ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church.”).

Another part of this consumer mindset in the church is that it basically turns church leadership into the customer service department.

In his book, A Church That Flies: A New Call to Restoration in the Churches of Christ, Tim Woodroof says something that I think is incredibly important (even though it’s not at all the focus of the book). Basically he says that it’s amazing how many church members are willing to voice their opinions and complain to their elders* but are very reluctant to listen and learn from them. In my experience, this is absolutely true—church members are very quick to run to elders with their complaints, but very slow to seek their counsel and advice. And that’s a shame.

We have four elders at Farmington, and I know all of them well. None of them are perfect, and they all have flaws (as they would freely admit). But all of them are good, mature Christian men who deeply care about the spiritual well-being of the flock they oversee. As a group, they complement one another well, and would be a valuable resource to any church member who is struggling.

And probably the same could be said for the leadership at your church, which means they deserve more than to be treated like the church customer service department. Think about that the next time you have a complaint.

*One of the distinctive marks of churches of Christ is that we seek to follow a model of church leadership, found in the New Testament, where each congregation or church is autonomous and led by a group of men known as elders (or shepherds, or bishops, or overseers).

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2 comments:

Marion Bailey 1/18/13, 5:13 PM  

Luke, thanks for your thoughts and kind words.

Luke Dockery 1/21/13, 3:28 PM  

Marion,

Sure thing. Thanks for all you do for me and the church at Farmington.

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