Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lessons from the doctor’s office as they apply to the church.

It has been a while since my last post. I have been having the “joy” of going to the doctor to find out if there is anything wrong with my heart or lungs. No word yet—which is probably a good thing.

I have learned several lessons from the past week’s experiences that apply to the church and its ministry. Here they are…

  • One person can ruin the experience: Those familiar with the PCUSA medical insurance are familiar with CareAllies (formerly Intracorp), the group that must pre-approve outpatient tests such as imaging (excluding x-rays and ultrasound), nuclear stress tests, hospital admissions, etc. One person in the “back room” of the cardiologist’s office was positive that the procedures the doctor wanted done would be approved and that I should go and have them done. At the same time CareAllies was telling me that the doctor’s office had to call them to get the procedures pre-approved. The person in the doctor’s office would not talk to me and still has not called CareAllies. The doctor and her medical staff are exceptional—one or two office persons have made it such a nightmare that I will not go back to that practice after this episode is completed. One or two persons in the office have ruined the experience. For a church, one person can ruin the church “experience” for a newcomer/visitor. Likewise, one person can make the experience fantastic. We cannot “control” what our regular attendees say and do at church—we can encourage them be caring, positive, uplifting, thoughtful, etc. One person griping or complaining could “turn off” a visitor. However, one or two persons who go out of their way to welcome and befriend a visitor can have a profound impact on the visitor. Every church should have a person or two who intentionally watch for visitors and strive to make the visitor’s time at the church as good as possible.
  • Though we speak the same language we don’t speak the same language: Some office staff in the doctor’s office don’t seem to know the difference between a “referral” and “pre-approval.” I cannot believe that our insurance is the only one that requires pre-approval of certain procedures. They kept saying, “You don’t need a referral for this test.” I would answer, “I know I don’t need a referral for the test—I need it to be pre-approved by my insurance company.” And they would answer, “You don’t need a referral.” There are many “languages” involved in every church and all of the people do not speak the same “language.” I am convince that communication is a huge issue for most churches: not everyone understands Presbyterian lingo, there are different meanings for the same term, there are generational/technological differences in communication. Text messaging is great but only a few people at the church over the age of 20 text message. E-mail is useful—if people regularly check their e-mail and if the message wasn’t lost in cyberspace (still, we have many people who will never but a personal computer). Our church newsletter is great but we have found that less than 40% of the congregation actually reads the whole thing. Announcements in the bulletin are helpful but almost nobody reads them. Do you get the picture? Communication is a HUGE issue for most churches.
  • Don’t judge by the needle marks in the arm: I am not an abuser of hard drugs that need to be injected into the veins! Do I have “needle marks”? You bet! It seems as though every test I am given requires that something is either put into, or taken out of, the veins in my arms. I imagine that I am running a little low on blood and that I glow in the dark! I digress—my arms look like I am a drug abuser. We need to be careful about making judgments about people based on outward appearances. Remember, the best Christmas present doesn’t always come in the prettiest box! Appearances can be deceiving.
  • There are lots of doctors to choose from: I do not “have” to go to any particular doctor. There are a lot of churches out there—people have a choice. Why should people go to your church or my church? Maybe a better way of saying this would be, “Why should God lead a person to your church or my church”? Have you thought of that? I have been spending a fair amount of time thinking about that very thing. God will be brutally honest with you—so, don’t think about it unless you are ready to hear the truth from God.

I will get back to "The Church has Left the Building" tomorrow.


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