Angela and I are waiting for our shuttle to pick us up in Seattle to take us to our Alaskian Cruise, this will be our fifth cruise.  Cruising started as a celebration of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and has become a priority in our lives, or an obsession, depending on your perspective.

This year during a time of reflection I wondered what kept us coming back each year and if there were any lessons for our churches.

Smiles are contagious: Every time you pass a crew member they smile and ask about your day. Not some times but every time. If they are doing something they stop and smile. If they are talking to another crew member they stop and smile. And it’s not creepy it’s just friendly.
How are your guests greeted and treated at your church? Are your regulars so busy doing stuff and visiting with one another that they don’t have the time or inclination to affirm the value of guests?

Safety is paramount: From constant admonitions about keeping your hands washed to warning signs about wet decks and the ever present steadying hand the cruise lines are serious about their guest’s safety.
Are we serious about the safety of those who worship with us?  From taking care of slippery surfaces, fixing the loose step out front and taking care of all the necessary child protection precautions?

You can’t please everyone: The company we cruise with has a reputation for catering to a younger clientele in a more casual atmosphere. And that doesn’t appeal to everyone. But it is what it is.
Sometimes in our attempt to please everyone in the church we become as bland as hospital food.
It is a reality that in order to effectively reach a certain group of people others will choose to not attend our church.

Nobody has to go away hungry: If cruises are known for one thing it is the food. There is something for everyone and anyone who leaves a meal hungry has done so by choice not necessity.
We’ve all heard of people who leave a church because they weren’t being fed. That may be their excuse but it should never be a valid reason.
As pastors we have a calling and an obligation to feed our people spiritual meals that are not only healthy and nutritious but also tasty and appealing.

They Take Pride in Their Vessel.  Everywhere you look someone is cleaning this or polishing that. When the ship is in port people are painting and washing windows.
I get so frustrated with dirty unkempt church facilities. Stained carpets, dirty windows and stinky washrooms say a lot about how we view our church.
If people just don’t care about the church building there is probably a reason.
Every cruise line understands that if people don’t return they won’t survive and instead of blaming the fickleness of customers or complaining about the way other cruise lines do things, they do everything in their power to attract and keep people coming back.

And that is a lesson to be learned.

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