Gordon Ramsay and Worship


Ramsay’s Best Restaurant

I’m a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay.  He’s a great chef who exudes passion.  While I’ll admit that I found Hell’s Kitchen a bit difficult to watch at times as it bordered on exploitative (taking untrained emotionally unstable ‘chefs’ – many of them had no business being on the show or on tv – and then belittling them for the sake of entertainment), I totally fell in love with the show Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, and basically watched the entire series in two days of the Christmas break.

The premise of the show is that Gordon is on the hunt to find the best restaurant in UK, and each episode he pits two great restaurants against each other to see which will advance to the next round.  It’s got everything you want in a reality tv cooking show – competition, great food, feel good character stories (there’s definitely a David. vs. Goliath thread that runs through the show as the family restaurants seem to topple the larger big budget restaurants quite a bit), and a charismatic and passionate star – Gordon Ramsay himself.

But the thing I love most about the show, especially having worked for 6 years in the restaurant industry, is that Ramsay focuses not only on the chefs and their food, but also on the front of house staff – the hosts, waiters and bartenders.  A truly great restaurant can’t have great food and lousy service…it’s just not enough…it takes a healthy relationship between front and back of house for the restaurant to truly succeed.  Time and time again on the show Ramsay will bring in secret diners who reveal that while the food has been prepared flawlessly, the service is so lacking that it is actually keeping people from returning.

God’s Best Church

What message does that have for the church? What can we learn about ministry from a Brit who loves to drop the f-bomb every chance he gets?  Here are a few ideas:

1. Worship is more than a band and a preacher – For Ramsay to vote a restaurant as the top in the UK, it needed to have a strong front of house and back of house staff.  Passionate people serving the food and dedicated people making the food.  It was an entire team pulling together for a common goal.  If we think of what happens on the platform as the spiritual food, then for the church to be its best, we need a passionate and dedicated ‘front of house’ team to help people receive it.  It’s not enough to have a great band and preacher if no one is there to shake hands and help someone find childcare, or if people give new guests a cold shoulder because they’d rather talk to their friends than reach out. Bright, energetic greeters and hospitality team, smiling parking lot helpers, easy to spot clear signage that tell new guests where to drop off their kids or find the sanctuary, and a safe, clean, and well-maintained facility to worship in all make a HUGE difference.  Within the first 10 seconds of walking in to a church, before the band has ever tuned up, new-comers have already received a lot of information about who you are and what your values are as a community.  They know intuitively if they are welcomed and loved…and that takes a lot more than a band and a preacher.

2. A few passionate people can change lives – As I said earlier, in much of the competition, it was small family restaurants who took down much larger and flashier restaurants.  A mother and daughter-in-law in the kitchen and a single son in the front of the house consistently did more to give people an amazing dining experience than a waitstaff of 30-40.  A few passionate people can make a big difference.  It doesn’t matter if your worshiping community is made up of 25, 250, or 2500 – it’s all about the number of people with a heart for being the church and welcoming those who are new to Christ.  That’s incredibly empowering!

3. Be aware of what a first time guest experiences – During the show, Gordon Ramsay would send in secret diners to eat at each restaurant and review their food and service.  Sometimes it would be a great experience – sometimes it would not.  I remember one episode where the waiter was on facebook instead of getting the customer the wine he had ordered.  What!?! So often in the church, I worry that we forget what it’s like to arrive at a church to worship for the first time.  I mean – it takes a lot of guts just to show up.  You don’t know if you’re going to be asked to stand up and be singled out as a newcomer, if you’re going to be asked to sit quietly or jump up and down…it’s tough!  But thinking through what a new guest experiences from start to finish in a worship experience is a healthy practice for an entire team to do together.  How will a visitor feel the moment they drive in to the parking lot and step out of their car?  Will they know they are welcome to your community when communion happens and they’re not sure if they’re allowed to participate or not?  Will they know what to do when the service ends and some people head to another room and others just kind of leave?  What would it look like for the church to have ‘secret shoppers’ who come in and give constructive feedback to communities on what they could do to welcome in others more effectively?



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