Sometimes the small things matter more than we think

Our car has been coming up on needing a new tyre for a little while now. Yesterday, I went out to sort it. There’s a place I usually go to get it done, but thought I would try a place nearer to home. I pulled in, had a chat with the guy, he quoted a price and away they went. All that was absolutely fine.

Anyway, as he was getting near to finishing, I asked (fully expecting the answer to be ‘yes’) if they were alright with cards. I should have learnt by now that it pays to ask in Oldham! We have kicked against the goads for years and refused to be dragged into the 1970s with new fangled card machines like they have in that Manchester! One of the unforeseen benefits of coronavirus is that it has forced quite a lot of otherwise luddite local businesses to start accepting cards. Alas, this place still has not gotten the message. ‘Don’t worry’, the guy said, ‘I don’t mind if you drive off and come back with the cash.’ Oh don’t you!

That led to a harried rush down to the nearest cashpoint (that is not that near). I had to park in our precinct area on market day, which made finding a space difficult. When I finally managed to park, I went to the nearest cash machine. As you can tell from how this is going so far, you’ll be entirely unsurprised to hear that it wasn’t working. Off I trek to the next nearest one, that also isn’t very near. I queue, use it, head back to the car and then back up to the tyre place to pay my dues. As I go in, I say to the guy, ‘you really need to get a card machine. If you get one, I’ll come back.’ He just laughs and off I go. What should have been a 15 or 20 minute job, turned into an hour trip all because of lack of a card machine.

The point I am reeling round to is this: all that hassle could have been easily avoided with something extremely cheap and simple from the vendor. For lack of a fairly basic and rudimentary piece of kit that exists in almost every other shop, I am quite sure that business will lose customers. I know, for instance, next time I go, I will ask and if they don’t have one, I will go somewhere that does. Now, I appreciate my blog posts do have a tendency to drift into general consumer advice. But, of course, I’m not really here to rage against the lack of card machines in Oldham (a perennial problem that, much like the poor, I suspect will always be with us!) I was struck by how this same issue applies to us in the church.

I know the church is not about ‘customers’ and seeking ‘repeat business’. But we (presumably) are keen to welcome new people and want them to come back. Whilst most of what we do is not geared up specifically for visitors, we do at least have an eye on them. We do, in the end, want them to come back. We do want them to engage with what is going on so that they might stick around and continue to hear the gospel. And the lesson we can learn from my local tyre place is this: sometimes it’s the little things that really matter.

Your church may have the soundest preaching and the best music. It may have the best evangelistic programme under the sun. It may have a fantastic set of children’s works. But if you don’t have an up to date website that works; if all your graphics look extremely poor and dated; if you fail to welcome somebody when they first arrive; if there is no signage telling them where to go; if nobody speaks to them before or after the service; even though the big things are great, those apparently smaller things may well stop them coming back. The small things may not take much to fix, and we may not value them as longstanding members of the church, but they may also prove to be the very things that stop people staying with us.

Sometimes, the small things matter a lot more than we might think.