Friday, August 28, 2009


There is a small bakery near our house. I don't think it will be there much longer.

You see, this bakery has strange operating hours (at least to me). It is open only Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.

Seem like normal business hours right? False. If you have a specialized service such as a bakery, and you are only open during the times when your customer are going to be at work at their own jobs, you will probably not have very many customers.

I've been to plenty of bakeries, but never between the hours of 8am-5pm. Just for a little research on this to make sure I wasn't crazy and remembering things falsely, I looked up the hours of a few dozen bakeries (including some I remember going to in FL & NY). Sure enough, the hours were as I expected. For the most part, they're open 7 days a week (some 6) and from about 5/6/7am to 6/7/8pm. Up to and including 15 hours a day!

Now granted, these bakeries are 'successful' and the bakery near my house will probably soon be 'closed.' But do they have such long hours because they're successful? Or are they successful because they have the long hours? Are they doing great business because they recognize the lifestyle and availability of their target customer base? I think so.

Unless you're buying for your company, running errands on work time, or just plain not working, people will go visit a bakery either before 8am or after 5pm. Not in between. So not catering to those hours (and being closed on weekends for crying out loud) is really shooting your own business plan in the foot.

Sometimes people don't realize how self sabotaging they are. How we have created systems and methods that stop people from doing the very thing we want them to do (in this case, patron our bakery!)

But think of how often this exact same thing happens in our churches.
  • The 9am weekday Bible studies
  • The 2pm weekday Bible studies
  • Potluck or fundraiser dinner that begin at 5pm, so that anyone with a regular job will be significantly late and certainly never able to help set it up
  • The early Sunday morning church service (newsflash, visitors aren't getting up that early, this is a service designed only for church people who'd be there anyway, don't fool yourself)
  • The Sunday afternoon church service (come on guys, it's Football season!)
  • Scheduling important things to occur Sunday afternoon, people just left church...they don't want to have to come back in 2 or 3 hours.
  • etc
With many many activities, we are deliberately sabotaging ourselves from succeeding. We wonder why people don't come to activities that we schedule during times that they are physically incapable of attending.

Many people's days are 3 hours long. That's it, 3 hours. We get off work at 5, and our kids are in bed by 8 or shortly thereafter save for special occasions. We can't leave after the kids are asleep. Many people have to be at their job all day, whether they're doing something important or not, so the majority of "the day" hardly counts as one. We get 3 hours. Plus weekends. So our church 'hours of operation' must be scheduled accordingly.

In college, our church was open 24/7. Quite literally. We held our services in the basement of a 3 story house where the minister and students lived in apartments above. We had a prayer chapel on the first floor that was always open. The doors to the house itself were unlocked. We had a study room, we had open shared living spaces, kitchens, laundry facilities, public bathroom/shower. People who did not live there could come and go as they pleased, and you would be hard-pressed to not run into 5-10 college students at any given time of the day. There were always these 'student ministers' present; though many of us would hardly have viewed ourselves in this way, it was the reality of the situation.

Every evening of the week we had some scheduled activity, be it a variety of Bible studies some evenings at different times, worship services at 9 on Weds and 7 on Fri, prayer meetings at 10pm every night (or was it 11, I can't remember), dinners, sports nights, game nights, meetings, music practices, covenant groups, etc.

All these things happened at night. But during the day? Next to nothing. Granted, people were there...we lived there...and there was an 'open lunch' kind of setup in the basement but nothing compared to the evenings. Why? Because college students are in class during the day. It would have been ridiculous to have things during the times when people can't come.

But we do that exact thing all the time. We schedule our activities like the bakery, we make our ministries available when it is convenient for us to do so. Too often we look at our own needs and availability and expect those who we are trying to reach to cater to our schedule as opposed to the other way around.