Churches, Bars, and Coffee Shops…Do you really know my name?
Everyone wants to belong – to be recognized – for someone to know his or her name – to be understood. From 1982-1993 there was a popular sitcom called Cheers and the words to the theme song were not only catchy but insightful.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
your name. 1
These words reverberated in my head as I sat in a coffee shop three mornings in a row this week. I watched the steady stream of people coming in eager to be recognized. Some began calling the baristas’ name before the doors closed behind them. Others waited, hoping to hear their name called in advance of having to identify themselves (again) before asking for their “usual” or “call-ahead” mobile order.
The “name thing” is important. One young man stood in front of his “call-ahead” order of a triple hot, double-shot, one pump, caramel, low-fat, something, something…for almost 5 minutes waiting on the barista to pick it up, say his name and hand it to him. I watched as each patron made small talk, told some tidbit about their life from the previous day or their upcoming schedule, and then they were gone.
Now back to the sitcom song. At the risk of spiritualizing a sitcom jingle, I think the church can learn several valuable lessons from these melodious lines plus my observations in the coffee shop this week. The church of all places should be the absolute best at demonstrating a caring spirit and meeting needs. It should be:
- A Place of Safety – “…Getting away…” – Everybody today is looking for a “safe place,” a place to drop their guard and relax. A place where they do not have to be afraid for a few minutes. If they can find this place at a bar or coffee shop then they definitely should be able to find it at our church. Our church needs to be the ultimate “safe place!”
- A Place of Identity – “…Everybody knows your name…” – Obviously everybody in the bar or coffee shop do not know their name but somebody does! Do people come to our churches week after week and feel invisible? Or worse, are they greeted week after week by the same people having to ask their name again because it is a formality and not relational?
- A Place of Connectivity – “…Always glad you came…” – Do people feel welcome at your church? Are they invited into the groups or left to feel like they are an outsider? If our churches were as engaging as most bars and coffee shops, more of your friends and neighbors might attend.
- A Place of Authenticity – “…You can see our troubles are all the same…” – The reality is that the church consists of broken people saved by grace. When we try to hide our wrinkles and warts, we are as foolish as a child who ate the chocolate chip cookies and forgot to wash his hands and face. People are looking for authenticity.
It’s as simple as knowing a person’s name? I am not sure for everyone. I remember an incident that changed the way I thought about this concept. I asked several questions of a young girl in a student ministry where I once was visiting. The conversation went like this:
MC: Does your family attend here?
MC: How did you find this church?
Girl: A friend told me about it.
MC: Did you ever visit any other churches?
Girl: Yes, several!
MC: Why did you decide on this church?
Girl: Because they remembered my name! I had never attended a church two weeks in a row where they actually called me by name on the second week. They did that here, so I decided to make this my church.
This is a true story. This church shared the Gospel with the young girl and she came to Christ. So…, are names important?
1 Source: Lyrics on Demand