Great Expectations

As a transplant to Atlanta, I enjoy visiting the different “touristy” spots to learn more about the city. ¬†Historical sites in particular catch my attention. ¬†At one of the first museums I visited, I took the chance to watch the “feature film”. ¬†(Yep. I”m the guy who watches those 20 minute black-and-white documentaries with voiceovers by actors only your grandmother has heard of.) ¬†Before playing the movie, the museum attendant hinted at the torn seats, worn out carpet, and outdated drapes in the theater. ¬†She went on to say that, “This decor is a part of what we call, “managing customer expectations.”” ¬†In a slightly witty way, she clued us in on the fact that the film was not going to have the latest special effects, wowing action, or an incredible soundtrack. ¬†Compared to the latest blockbusters, this one would be considered a flop. ¬†Rather than presenting the movie as something it is not, she emphasized its strength: the historical information about an event that significantly impacted our city.
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On regular occasion, every church is faced with the opportunity to manage (or mismanage) “customer” expectations. ¬†I fear that too often we forsake our strengths and misrepresent ourselves based on a self-imposed standard of what our church experience is “supposed” to be like.
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//”Relevant churches have rock music, so we need to put a picture of a guitar on our website.”
When in reality, it”s not even turned up in the sound mix.
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//”Seeker-sensitive churches dress casually, so we must tell people to ‘come as they are’.”
When in reality, everyone wears full suits and dresses.
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//”Relational churches have small groups, so we have to present our Sunday School classes as highly conversational.”
When in reality, most teachers are lecturing with a podium and PowerPoint.
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The problem with sending a message different from reality is that we create a set of expectations that we are unequipped to meet. ¬†Those unmet expectations quickly lead to disappointment. ¬†(I”ve heard plenty of stories from individuals who received one impression from a church’s website, only to be let-down by a visit to a service.) ¬†Rather than trying to sell what we are not, we need to identify our strengths and communicate the true value we offer to Christ’s seekers and followers. ¬†Maybe it”s not rock music, but a choir that embodies communal worship. ¬†Maybe not casual dress, but people who genuinely enjoy taking a guest out to lunch. ¬†Maybe not small groups, but unmatched learning opportunities that enrich personal conversations.
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Because of a transparent museum attendant, I hung on to every word of an otherwise terrible film and gained a whole new perspective on my city. ¬†Communicating realistic expectations does not reduce your marketability; it points people”s attention to your most marketable traits. ¬†Whatever your church”s strengths, identify and present them. ¬†Create expectations for the experiences that you can deliver every time with life-changing quality.
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If you’re looking to identify your organization’s strengths, Will Mancini’s,¬†
Church Unique¬†outlines an incredible discovery and development process for any leadership team. ¬†Having recently read it, I”ll be sharing my personal highlights here on Friday…
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Ryan Stigile

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