I fly a lot. Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, I used to predominately fly USAir, as Charlotte is their primary hub. Most anywhere I want to go is a direct flight. They have a significant number of flights every day to most of the destinations that I fly to. Most of the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is designed to cater to them and their clientele.

So, why do I almost exclusively fly Delta Airlines? Why would I subject myself to having to fly through another port—unless I am specifically flying to Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, NYC or Minneapolis?

Let me share some of the reasons why I fly Delta and then we will look at how this applies to the story our church facilities tell:

  1. About 80% of my travel is paid for by the clients I serve as part of reimbursable expenses. In light of that, I am constantly looking for the best value I can find for our clients … helping them be good stewards. Seeing that I generally have to subject myself to a “two-legger” (meaning a connection flight to get to the destination), the flights are less expensive than the equivalent direct flight with USAir. Seeing that stewardship is important to me, it influences my buying and partnering decisions.
  2. With the exception of their small CRJ 100/200 planes, every flight has WiFi. If you know me, you know I love my email and connectivity … so I do not mind sitting on a second flight if I can be productive. Our family recently took a vacation that required a 3+ hour flight each direction. We flew USAir, as I had significant miles accumulated, and we used them for the trip. We flew a 767 going and a transatlantic 757 on the return. Neither plan had internet service.  Grrr! While I was glad not to be “working,” I still wanted intent access for other things like social media, videos, cloud accounts, etc. My expectations were grossly unmet. I was frustrated and very disappointed.
  3. For the most part, the Delta fleet is newer and better maintained … or at least they appear to be for the areas of the planes that I see (i.e. the cabins, seats, flooring, etc). The flights I mentioned on USAir were older planes … old decor … straight out of the 1970′s. The seat upholstery was frayed and the carpet worn out. They had old seat controls and retrofitted video monitors. There were in-flight entertainment systems that did not work or were not activated. The condition of the planes I submit my physical life and safety to are important! If they are not taking care of the areas where paying customers sit for hours, what else are they not maintaining?  Hmm …
  4. On the flights our family recently took, we received a single beverage in coach … and no snack … on a 3+ hour flight. Really! The stinginess influenced me in a significant way.
  5. Flying can be stressful … especially for the infrequent flyer … like my wife and kids … and the majority of the people on a vacation destination flight. So the attitudes, outgoing personalities, approachability, and over all demeanor of the crew, gate agents, and flight attendants is critical. Again, poor marks for our recent experience. Lisa and I were sitting in first class on the way home. Still, below average customer service compared to what I expected and what I am used to experiencing. It was clear that the first class flight attendant was not invested in her role on this flight. Personal interactions are a direct reflection on the culture, DNA and attitudes of an organization. This spoke volumes to me.

I could share more about the airline industry pros and cons, but that is not really my point. The point is, that the experiences people have as a guest at your church (or any organization) will impact them and can play a significant role in determining if they return (become a patron, enthusiastic customer and ultimately a raving fan) as they find their way on their spiritual journey.

First impressions are critical. They tell a story, whether we intend to or not. This is a real life example of how this is played out in an everyday occurrence.

Does your church offer a wow experience? Does it tell a story that is congruent with your mission, vision and ministry objectives? If not, you may be missing an incredible opportunity to meet the needs (especially spiritual) of those in your community.