This past Saturday evening, Valentine’s Eve, Jon and I ended up at Applebee’s for dinner. We were headed home after teaching at a retreat Friday night and Saturday. Tired, hungry, anxious to see our kids, we hoped that an 8:30 p.m. dinner meant no waiting. Ha! Not on Valentine’s Eve. Five minutes into our wait, the hostess announced there were seats at the bar- no waiting… I looked at Jon. He looked at me. We’re walking in grace, right? We took the seats.
Now while I don’t recommend bar-hopping as a way to learn how to minister more effectively, we did take away a few lessons.
Greeting – We were immediately greeted and welcomed by the bartender and the guys sitting around us. It didn’t matter that we weren’t drinkers.
When newcomers drop in our churches, we need to do our best to make them feel comfortable and connected even if they are not participating in our primary function, that is, even if they aren’t believers. Sometimes what happens, though, is we are so excited to have visitors we can’t help but act weird, and we end up making them feel uncomfortable.
Jargon – There is a lingo that allows a bartender and a patron to communicate. It’s almost like a code. And we have a tremendous body of jargon in the church. It leaves outsiders firmly planted there on the outside.
Cliques – We listened to the guys and the bartender talk about what was going on with some of the other regulars. We had no idea who they were talking about, and it highlighted our status as visitors.
Giving – Both guys had sizable bar tabs- considerably more than our dinners cost, but they each left 40% tips! Do we blow our visitors away with our generosity?
Boldness – We walked back into the bar like we belonged, blessed our food just like we always do. Don’t be surprised when our visitors don’t immediately convert and start doing things our way. They are going to do what makes them most comfortable. We need to be accommodating so that visitors can become regulars.