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About haircuts and hospitality

TAMARA WILLIAMS
Albion District Superintendent

On Friday, I wanted to get a haircut–one with style, not just a trim–so I looked online for nearby hair salons that had good recommendations. I found one I liked. Looked on their website, chose a stylist based on her bio, called and made an appointment for 11 am.

Arrived a few minutes early, walked up to the stylish young woman at the shiny reception desk and told her my name. She said, “please have a seat, Kathryn will be with you shortly.” So I found my way to the waiting area and began to wait. And wait. And wait. The receptionist was not more than ten feet away from me, facing me, but she never told me why I was waiting so long.

She was too engrossed in gossip with another stylist. They were talking (loud enough that I could hear it) about whether or not they really believed that so-and-so was having an affair. Seriously?? I finally gave up. I went to the receptionist and kindly said, “I’m sorry, but I’m tired of having to wait. Would you please let Kathryn know I’m cancelling my appointment?”

As I returned to my car, I realized that I’d misspoken: having to wait was not the real issue. No, it was having to wait in an atmosphere where a customer (and a new one at that!) was allowed to feel ignored and invisible. I didn’t like being in that “culture” where the employees I interacted with were far more interested in themselves and each other–and the employee I was scheduled to see never even saw or spoke with me. I other words, I really didn’t matter.

There’s a lesson here for us to consider as Christians and as congregations. How do new poeple feel when they show up to our church, whether for worship or a meal or a wedding or any other event? Do we notice them? Do they matter to us? Do we interact with them in ways that let them know we believe they matter to God, and obviously they matter to us as well?

Or do we say hello and then ignore them? Do we allow them to feel invisible because we are far more interested in ourselves and our friends? Very important for us to consider these questions.

Now for the rest of the story. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just get these strong feelings that I can only interpret as promptings of God’s Spirit. As I was driving home from my non-haircut, I felt prompted to turn left, off my regular route out of town. I turned left and a couple of blocks later saw a corner hair salon. On the spur of the moment, I decided to see if they had room for a walk-in. What a difference!

Upon entering, two employees–who had been talking to each other–turned to me, genuinely smiled and welcomed me. One of them came over to me, asked me if I had an appointment, and then walked with me to where I needed to go to make one. The receptionist was friendly, helpful, and offered me coffee, brewed fresh from the coffee bar next door–awesome!

I was told that Sarah had an opening in 30 minutes, so I settled in to sip my coffee and read. Not five minutes later, a friendly young woman was introducing herself to me as Sarah, and would I follow her to her station? Surprised, I told her that I’d expected to wait another 25 minutes. She said, “I was on my way down the street to the bank. The receptionist texted me that you were here, so I decided to come right back. I can go to the bank later.”

Ignored? Invisible? Not this time!

The contrast between the two salon experiences was profound. I will be going back to have Sarah cut my hair again. In fact, I believe with all my heart that Christ wants me to develop a good relationship with her over time, so that I will be able to witness to her about Christ’s amazing love for her, and the awesome joy of discipleship.

But my real question for you is this: when new people come to your church, regardless of the reason, which “salon experience” are they more likely to have?

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