The first book that I am reading is from the Leader to Leader Institute. It is entitled, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization. I believe it is important for the Church to ask pertinent questions of itself just as businesses do. I am not saying that we are to completely run a Church as a business, but there are certain business practices that can enhance the pastoral ministry component without a doubt. Asking relevant questions can help determine the direction to go. The five questions outlined by the authors of this book are straightforward and simple. The answers may be a little more complex and difficult to ascertain.
1. What is our mission?
2.Who is our customer?
3. What does the customer want?
4. What are our results?
5. What is our plan?
As the authors break down the questions in detail it is easy to see why so many businesses, nonprofits, churches, and other organizations struggle with being successful or effective. It takes intentional effort and planning to explicitly fulfill the mission of the organization. Proclaiming the Gospel message is the mission of the Church. The methods in which we do that are many and varied. We have the sacramental life of the Church. We have the preaching, teaching, and healing ministry of the Church. We have charitable works to give direct assistance to those who are hurting. We have advocacy endeavors in which we strive to change the systemic structures of injustice. When we start delineating each of these endeavors more fully the questions are numerous.
Think about the liturgical experience of parishioners and consider all of the factors that play into that experience. Was the environment welcoming? This includes, but is not limited, the decorations, the temperature in the building, handicap accessible or not, good signage pointing to restrooms, classrooms, or other important venues, and well-groomed and pleasant greeters at the door.
Once the liturgy begins another set of questions come into play. Are the ministers prepared? Is the music relevant, uplifting, and done well so as to engage the people in the pews to join in the singing? Are the readers clear as they proclaim the Word of God? Is the sound system working properly? Is the preaching effective and "cutting to the heart?"
After the liturgy ends are the bulletins handed out with a smile? Is there any type of organized hospitality after the service? Is the parking lot cleared of snow, ice, and well-lit? These are just a few of the questions pertaining to the "how" of fulfilling the mission in just one small area.
After I nearly finished that book this evening I began a second one. It is by Bruce Loeffler and Brian T. Church. The title is, THE EXPERIENCE (The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence). I have never been to a Disney Theme Park but I know that Disney has long been setting a standard for customer service. I am hoping to garner a few helpful hints in the book as to how I can function more effectively as a minister in the Church. Once again, I believe there are practices in the secular world from which we in the Church can learn. I am only 40 pages into it at this point, but it is looking like it will be well worth my time.
This reading has taken me away from reading as much political news this evening. That serves as a good distraction because the political news just generally makes me angry or depressed. One of the last videos I watched today was from NEWSBUSTED. Jodi Miller said that "Michelle Obama didn't know what to get the president for Christmas. After all, Paul Ryan had just given him everything he wanted." That summed it up for me and I could move onto other things.
As we inch closer to Christmas Day I want to focus on the blessings of life. Today I am giving thanks for the ability to read and comprehend. Also, I am giving thanks that I have been blessed with the opportunity to get a good education. Furthermore, I continue to be blessed with opportunities to learn and grow. This is no small matter. I can take classes; I can check out books from the local library; I can enhance my opportunities in life because I have access to these things. Not everyone in our world is as fortunate.
Our world has its problems. Indeed, our own country has its problems. There are times when it feels like we should just throw up our hands and give up. I know that we cannot in good conscience do that. We must be a beacon of light in a world enveloped in darkness. We don't do this on our own. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords has come to earth. He is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. When we were baptized we received the Light of Christ. We are to always walk as children of the Light. Let your Light shine!