Customer Service in Youth Ministry

This past Christmas, our family enjoyed some time down south with my parents and my wifes parents, plus many of our brothers, sisters, and extended family. And you know the holidays  staying up late, sleeping in, snacking, visiting friends and family, playing with the kids  we all had a blast!

Of course, coming back home was a lot harder than going. As if luggage wasn't already enough when youre traveling with four kids for a week, we had the extra loot Santa brought everybody. And I dont mean earrings. No, we were toting things like a telescope, a pretend make-up carrying case, baby dolls  we looked like a band of gypsies hunting for a place to settle.

I'll never forget boarding our last flight home. It was late, and our kids were tired. You know what that means, right? Daddy, could you carry me, too, along with my life-size gorilla that makes the burping noises and my remote control tractor trailer? As I walked onto the airplane, a flight attendant glared at me, no doubt thinking, Where do you think youre gonna put all that stuff?

Feeling as though as I was about to drop more than just the replica of the Hubbell telescope, I asked the gazing attendant politely, while extending one of my belongings, Maam, is there somewhere you could place this while I get everything else sorted? I've really got a handful at the moment. Without moving, she responded unemotionally, You can find some space above your seat.

Fighting the temptation to speak other not-so-polite words, I wondered what seminar she attended to learn that customer service technique. Without saying a word, I moved on, swiping several hairdos along the way, only to plop down in a little seat somewhere in the back. Julie, my wife, followed,  with almost as much baggage, and for the next ten minutes we stored the  non-breathing items in the bins and buckled anything breathing in a seat.

As I reflected on that experience the next day, I realized the flight attendant had the power to change my whole perception of that flight and her airline with only a few simple actions. However, she chose not to take any, leaving a customer (me!) with a bad taste in his mouth.

Then it hit me  how many perceptions could I change with only a few simple actions. While the church may not dub it customer service, ministers do hold a responsibility to leave proper impressions with those that either visit or attend the churchs services. And when it comes to visitors, better customer service could easily make all the difference in the world.

Here are six suggestions for better customer service in ministry gleaned from a simple flight home:

  1. Look for areas/signs of need with which you can help, dont stare at obvious problems of which you are afraid.

  2. Initiate, but dont intimidate. Your position can be intimidating, but your personal words are not. Start the conversation with a smile.

  3. Be the first to speak, not the last to reply. Break the ice and begin talking. Youll only feel uncomfortable for a moment. Silence, though, will leave you awkward a lot longer.

  4. Ask if you can help, dont assume you cant. Better for them to tell a caring person No thank you than to leave wondering if anybody cared at all.

  5. Offer several alternatives, not a canned answer. Policies are made so people will fit into our world; but servanthood is all about trying to fit into their world. Make it clear youre there for them, not the other way around.

  6. Help with the noticeable first, the move on from there. Are children present? Are they carrying lots of stuff? Do they look lost? Do you know names? Where are they from? These are things you can almost always address off the bat without a lot of prior knowledge, plus it breeds further conversation.

  7. Todd

    This was originally published by in LeadershipLINK and is used by permission. LeadershipLINK is published by Youth Leader Connection of Ankeny, Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help revitalize youth ministries through Scripture, structure, and support.  Copyright 2000 Youth Leader Connection.

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