A Pastoral Word
Recently, I have become fascinated with a show that comes on the British Broadcast Channel called “Kitchen Nightmares.” In the show, a famous chef travels to different restaurants that are in trouble and in danger of going of out business. The chef spends the first day observing the service and the kitchen and samples the food. And then, after a while, this chef will share his observations and then works with the owners, the servers, the cooks to help correct the problems that are plaguing the restaurant.
I don’t know why I am fascinated by this show. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but it is, especially when you get a very “colorful” chef telling it like it is to the owners of the restaurant. All I know is that on Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m., I am watching this show. I can’t tear myself away from the television set or should I say, “telly” in true British style.
For most of these restaurants, their downfall comes down to just four things that are missing or overlooked. With these four key “ingredients” missing, the restaurants begin to suffer. The first item that is usually always missing in these dying restaurants is passion. No one cares! The owners have given up hope. The chefs have lost their creative drive in the kitchen and simply go through the motions of making the meals, usually using frozen or already prepared food. They just simply heat it up either by throwing the food in the microwave or the deep fryer! The servers don’t care because they know that they will get all the blame for the miserable reputation of the restaurant. From the top to the bottom in these restaurants, no one cares and it shows, especially in the actual restaurant itself!! Usually the dining rooms are in need of repair or falling apart. The kitchens are gross and in need of a good cleaning. All because of lack of passion and enjoyment of what they are doing.
The second thing that seems to quicken the demise of the restaurants is a lack of knowing who they are and what are their “signature” dishes. It seems as if every one of the restaurants has an extensive 50 item or more menu. And the reason why is always: “Well, things started to go bad so we were trying everything just to get people into the door.” So these restaurants have menus that include Chinese food, Italian food, “pub” items, Mediterranean items, all jumbled into one restaurant. And unfortunately, the food suffers. Nothing is prepared really well. The cooks just can’t keep up with this extensive and elaborate menu. So these restaurants get caught up in the chaos, constantly trying new things and getting the same results: Empty tables and a dying restaurant.
The third thing that seems to help bring about the downfall of these restaurants is lack of proper equipment. It is hard to prepare meals when the ovens don’t work. It is also hard to prepare meals when the cooks don’t have enough bowls and cooking utensils to prepare meals for a large group. It is hard to be an actual restaurant that serves food without the proper equipment.
And the last ingredient that seems to be missing in all these restaurants is communication. Owners don’t talk to chefs. Managers don’t talk to servers. Servers don’t talk to the chefs. And no one knows what is going on! The communication break down hurts the restaurant and customers don’t return.
As I watch this show each week, I find myself comparing these suffering restaurants with many churches nowadays. It is a new world for churches today. In the past, everything came pretty easy to churches because everyone went to church because that is what you did. And now, here are so many more choices for Sunday morning.
Many churches today try to be everything to everyone and have forgotten what makes them unique. Their “menu” is so extensive that it is sometimes hard to do their mission as the church really well. And so many people who attend churches lack the proper “tools” to help them grow on their journeys of faith. I have heard so many people say that they find it hard to talk about their faith because they just don’t have the “right” language or terms for their faith. And it is hard to be creative about your “service” of sharing the Gospel without the right tools.
All of this leads to a lack of passion in the church. Members dread coming to church on Sunday mornings. Staff get burned out because they have lost their connection with God. Visitors don’t want to return. Creative “juices” are squashed.
These lessons of key ingredients in a restaurant are a good reminder for us as a church as we continue to go through the visioning and transformation process. We have taken a look at our “menu” of ministry and realized that we do “welcoming” really well. It is our “signature” dish. It is the dish that has our visitors coming back for more.
We are still working on the other key ingredients as we continue to strengthen our church. We are working on “restocking our faith kitchen” with the right tools through Sunday School and other educational opportunities so that we can confidently share our signature dish of welcome.
We are also working on communication as a church. How do we share our dish of “welcome” with our surrounding community? And all of this revamping of our “faith kitchens” has sparked our passions as people of faith.
We are a journey church. We are a searching church. We are church that is embracing our signature dish of Welcome. We are a church that is inviting people to come and eat at God’s Table, the best “restaurant” in town!