Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What might keep guests from returning?

Yesterday I mentioned that my wife and I had been on vacation at Panama City Beach.  While staying at a motel we've stayed at numerous times before I began to notice some issues that are often found in churches.  Some of these issues are likely to go unnoticed by regular members of the church, but guests to the church will notice them and can deter them from returning to the church.  I want to look at some of those issues in today's post.

If I could describe the motel in one word it would be "tired."  Several years ago a major hurricane damaged many of the building on the beach front, so there have been a number of new high rise motels and condominimuns built to replace the ones that were damaged.  Compared to those new structures the motel where we stayed just looked tired.  It needed fresh paint.  The rail on our balcony had large areas of rust and needed painting.  The pool had a different color of paint around its edge, and there were places where the paint had chipped away.  Many of the signs around the pool were faded and difficult to read.

The legs on the stove in our room had large rust places that had eaten away at the enamel.  The mitred corners on one picture frame in the living room had come apart and needed to be reglued.  While our room was comfortable, it too looked a little tired.  I really believe that if someone came to PCB and was looking for a place to stay based on the appearance of the property, most would pass by the motel where I stayed for one that looked fresher and more modern.

As one who is in a lot of churches in a year's time I can say that some of them look tired as well.  A fresh coat of paint, maybe some new carpet, and some quality landscaping would do wonders for many church properties.  When churches are allowed to look tired it sends a message to outsiders that says the people lack pride in their facilities and just don't care any more.  If the members don't care, why should the non-members?

A second frustration we had was with the maid service.  Quite frankly, we need little in the way of maid service.  Our rooms are usually as clean when we leave as when we arrive.  All the maids have to do in make the bed, empty trash, and replace towels and coffee.  That seemed to be a challenge.  Only one day the entire week did we have our coffee service replaced.  (That wasn't all bad because the coffee they use isn't that great anyway, but it's the principle.)  Only one day were all three trash cans emptied.  Every other day one trash can was left full.

One of the top things first time guests at a church check is the cleanliness of the facility.  They will notice the cobwebs in the corner that the church members never see.  They will see the overflowing trash cans in the bathrooms or the lack of towels to dry their hands.  They will wonder why anyone would purchase toilet paper that is only two inches wide and so thin you can see through.  If the church isn't clean it again sends negative signals to guests that this church doesn't care.

The last thing I'll mention in today's post concerns the free breakfast.  Most motels offer similar free breakfasts, but this one didn't even meet the minimum standards found in most motels.  Their offering consisted of yogurt, bagel, and two types of muffin, coffee, and juice.  It never changed all week.  They also posted a notice that each resident was to only take one serving of breakfast.

Your church may or may not offer refreshments before or after the worship services, but if you do go beyond the minimum.  Serve good coffee, not the mud found in most motels.  Don't cut up your donuts into fourths, and fire the donut police.  Who cares if someone takes three?   Offer healthy choices as well.  Have fruit or fat-free yogurt as alternate choices.  Here is one area where it really does cost just a little more to go first class, so don't scrimp.  Either offer refreshments with excellence or don't offer them at all.

I'm sorry I have not touched on anything very spiritual here, but these are the kinds of things that determine if first-time guests return or not, and that decision is made within minutes of driving on the church property.  Before the choir sings or the minister preaches, most first-time guests have already decided if they will return or not, and that decision is based on things such as the appearance of the facility and the hospitality they find once they arrive.  Tomorrow we'll look at a couple more issues.

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