We preacher types see parallels in everything. I once did an article for this website saying “what preachers can learn from funeral directors.” It honored my favorite mortician and was well received. So, since I’m in the middle of trying to sell the house where we have lived for more than two decades, parallels with our realtor come to mind.
What churches could learn from realtors. You’ll think of other things, but these come to mind….
When buyers come looking at a house, we’re told that the owners should be gone. Why? Because the prospective buyer needs to be able to criticize freely, words that might hurt the feelings of the owner who presumably loves this house and is attached to everything about it.
When people come looking for a church home, maybe the membership should leave and let them have the space to criticize. “This carpet is ugly.” “Whoever does the bulletin has a lot to learn.” “I hate the color of the choir robes.” That sort of thing.
I’m teasing. But it does make a point.
Maybe we shouldn’t take the critique of the first-time visitor too harshly. They should have the liberty to think what they will. After all, no church is going to reach every visitor, nor should they expect to. God has many congregations throughout your area, and they’re all different.
A prayer throughout my forty-two years of pastoring: “Dear Lord, send only the people to this church that You will; Keep away any who should not be here; And if you have any who are presently in this church who need to leave, call them away, please.”
I recommend that prayer highly.
In preparation for showing the house, the homeowner is instructed to declutter it. That appears to mean pulling out everything you wouldn’t find in a Holiday Inn Express room. Clutter makes the rooms seem smaller, we’re told. Open spaces make them seem larger.
Churches I’ve served have occasionally designated “work days” in which we went through closets and threw out clutter. These have been similar to archaeological digs in more than one church, as we dug through old Sunday School records from decades previously, photos and correspondence files from half a century ago, and furniture that should have been donated to the local landfill.
Realtors have their multiple listing services so each one can see all the houses on the market. When Realtor A sells a house which has been listed by Realtor B, they split the commission. They know going in that this is how things are done. While a sales agent would love to have the entire commission, it rarely happens. He/she is going to be needing the help of other agents. It’s how things are done.
Churches would do well to cooperate when new families move to town. “Hey, Bob–we visited a new family in your neighborhood last night. And even though we’d love to have them in our church, I’m thinking they would love yours. Here’s their address….”
When I was pastoring, on several occasions, I would make evangelistic/prospect visits with a neighboring pastor. People who were accustomed to churches competing with each other to gain new members were stunned to see pastors working together.
Why should that be a revolutionary concept to the disciples of the Man of Galilee who told us to love one another, encourage one another, and build up one another? (One wonders if we think He meant only the members of our particular little congregation?)
Four. Tell the truth.
When you sign the papers to engage a particular realtor, you agree to tell the truth, to misrepresent nothing, and to hide nothing.
In my case, I walked around the house showing what I perceive as flaws to the agent. In some cases he agreed and we talked about what to do. Other times, he said, “A good coat of paint will take care of that.” I trusted him.
Churches are notorious for misrepresenting themselves to prospective pastors. And for many of them, for good reason! Some churches have such a reputation for internal fighting, for being run by a few bosses, and for dismissing pastors without cause, if the truth were known, no one would want to come there. But even so, if they would tell the truth, they might get just the preacher God is sending, one who can help to make it a healthy congregation. Same with prospective members. Tell the truth. Sugar-coat nothing.
Five. Fix up around the place.
Now, a realtor is great at suggesting what needs to be done and what would be best to leave to the next homeowner. I was willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a new flood for the kitchen/den, but several people I consulted advised against it. “Drop the price by that amount and let the next homeowner put the kind of floor in it he wants.” But in the case of the heating/air-conditioning unit outside, I made the call.
The a/c man said that unit was installed over 16 years ago. “Its life expectancy is 15,” he said. “So, you’re living on borrowed time.” I said, “Put a new one in.” Some said I should not have shelled out nearly $4,000 for something unnecessary. “The old one was working fine?” “It was.” “Man, you’re throwing away good money!” No, I was being responsible.
I want to walk away knowing I did the right thing. Some years back, we donated a four-year-old car to an organization that provides transportation for furloughing missionaries. But before signing it over, I had four new tires put on it. The recipient seemed surprised. “Most people don’t do that,” he said.
We want to do the right thing. That’s why a faithful church will engage landscape people to make the outside of their facility beautiful, and will enlist volunteers from the congregation to keep it that way. Same with the bathrooms and other facilities inside the church.
Six. Get advice.
My realtor walked through my house giving advice: Take down all the family photos and store them. Move this larger painting into this room, and take that one down. Put these pieces of furniture in the garage. Paint this room. Cut the low-lying limbs on your tree. Replace the burned out bulbs. Let’s plant some flowers in the yard.
Churches would do well to have an outsider (not just any outsider, but not necessarily a paid expert; just someone knowledgeable about these things) to walk through their campus giving advice. A trusted and capable advisor can do you more good in one hour than a building and grounds committee could do in a year of meetings.
I pray for my realtor. He is so wonderful and hard-working. He has the finest attitude and doesn’t mind working. He’s a godly young man from a wonderful family in our church. So, when I pray for “the right buyer,” I also pray the Lord will bless him and encourage him by making this a great experience for him.
I pray for the buyer. Now, in the one week since we’ve posted the signs in my yard, I suppose we’ve had a dozen people through the house. Two came the first day, one the next day, six or eight came through during the open house, and another comes this afternoon. But I’m praying only for one. The one God has chosen. So every day, when I talk to the Father, I ask Him to bless the one whom He has chosen to buy this house which has blessed our family over the last 22 years. ‘Wherever they are and whatever they’re dealing with, lead them, Father. Show them Thy will.”
“Thy will be done, Father. Here in my house as it is in Heaven. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
That’s always the right thing to pray.