the sunday lunch crowd

my final (i promise) rant about infuriating practices undertaken by this infernal subculture we call “the church.”  i’ve written about christian motorcycle clubs, church softball teams, and today…

the sunday lunch crowd.

four words that strike fear into the hearts of food service people everywhere.  it’s really not fair because it’s not just us…not everybody who goes out to lunch on sunday is a church person, and some non-church people are jerks, too.  most of the problems, though, can be traced directly to awful behavior by you and your friends.  and me.

i don’t know what comes over us.  maybe it’s because we’re dressed up (like rich people), or maybe it’s because our pastor preached too long and severe hunger has overridden our sense of decency.  but when we swarm our local eateries shortly after noon on sundays, we create an instant traffic jam at the front door.  and in the kitchen.  and in the food prep area.  and at the cash register.  still, we cannot imagine why we were not seated immediately and treated with deference (after all, not twenty minutes ago our pastor reminded us that we are king’s kids…more than conquerors…overcomers…the head and not the tail…a royal priesthood).  we believe that somehow our food should magically arrive when we order, if not shortly before.  and even though the waiters and waitresses are obviously busy, we are offended when our water (for which there is no charge) approaches empty.  when we have finished our meal, we think nothing of holding our table (usually several pushed together) hostage while we enjoy a season of fellowship with our good friends.  or bad friends.  it doesn’t seem to bother us that there is a line of people at the front door glaring at us, nor that the waitstaff only get paid as new parties are seated.  as the only source of salt and light for our community, though, we are entitled.

worst of all, though, is that we apparently do not understand the concept of tipping.  waiters/waitresses do not make minimum wage, they make far less.  they are single moms and graduate students and out-of-work engineers and they are trying to feed their families.  they work their butts off to give us good service in the hope that we will acknowledge their service and express our gratitude with a gratuity  (“a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip”).  I hear it over and over again (in fact, my son worked as a waiter while in college so i have first-hand information), church people are the world’s worst tippers.

like it or not, the sunday lunch crowd has done immense damage to the testimony of christ.

i don’t know if we can ever redeem our reputation (and, by association, the good name of our lord and savior jesus christ), but i have a couple of suggestions.  1.) be nice.  jesus plainly says that we should rejoice when people persecute us (and i’m pretty sure that poor service and bad food rises to the level of persecution), so we have no reason to be unkind–much less rude–to the people who prepare and serve our meals.  2.)  be patient.  almost nothing demonstrates the character of christ more than waiting patiently, and almost nothing is more self-centered than impatience (especially loud impatience).  your food will be along.  the waitress has not conspired with the other waitresses to ignore you.  and if you don’t have time to wait patiently, then go home and eat a sandwich.  3.) be generous.  we all know that the lord loves cheerful, lavish givers.  look at tipping as giving “to one of the least of these” (matthew 25:40) and start tipping as though jesus were waiting on you.  if you can’t afford to tip generously, go home and eat a sandwich. (NOTE: some say, “i shouldn’t be required to tip if the service was substandard” and i disagree.  because you have been identified as a christ-follower, you can/should expect to be held to a higher standard of behavior.  we must do all we can to repair the damage to our (the church’s) reputation.  tip like you give…generously.)

what might happen if the sunday lunch crowd suddenly started showering their hometown restaurants with love and joy and goodwill?  what if they put personal comfort/concern aside and, with deep humility, demonstrated greater concern for others than self (philippians 2:3)?  what if we earned such a reputation for generosity that waiters and waitresses fought over the opportunity to serve us?  i see a couple of options…

either the restaurants would all have to close because of the massive number of foodservice employees falling over with heart attacks, or christ-follower would begin to be seen as lovable and approachable, rather than self-absorbed and hypocritical.

and a waitperson or two might change their opinion of jesus and the gospel.

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10 thoughts on “the sunday lunch crowd

  1. i pretty much paid for my last year of undergraduate by waiting tables. i never liked working the sunday lunch crowd, despite the fact they were all “like me” and christian. you’re right about the horrible tips and large groups who sit forever.

    but you missed the fact that these families generally make no attempt to clean up after their kids. i’ve even heard some christian families say, “if i wanted to clean up after my kids, we’d have eaten at home.” i’m not saying they need to bus the table for me or wash the dishes. but at least pick up the hundreds of pieces of crayon their kids smashed with salt shakers and the like. they could move some of the easier-to-pick-up leftover food from the table to a plate. or they could use a napkin in an attempt to (begin to) clean ketchup off the wall.

    waiting tables was the catalyst for me to reevaluate my christian witness through tipping. and just in case anyone is still wondering, leaving a tract is not an acceptable substitute for tipping.

    the best tippers were big groups of drinkers and college girls with their dad’s credit cards. next were my regulars, also those whom I enjoyed serving the most — real conversation and real appreciation… and sometimes leftover portions of dessert (probably illegal for me to eat?).

    i said the “best” tippers above; i should have said “some of the best” — because the best tippers (far and away) are always other waiters. i would double my tips on a friday or saturday night with one 8-top if the waitstaff from the restaurant next door came in after work for drinks. there’s a lot to be said for empathy; when you understand someone else’s situation, you’re much more likely to respond properly.

    maybe the church should require mandatory service waiting tables in the restaurant industry. funny, isn’t it, that it’s almost impossible to see most of our church members humbly fulfilling that service position. if we’re not willing to wait tables, we’re for sure not willing to wash feet.

  2. I cringe when I hear about the Sunday church crowd. It is almost like they think they have a reason to say “we are privileged here.” We have the right to stay as long as we want in our booth, being as loud as we want, as messy as want, and be as cheap as want when we leave. I knew a couple who refused to leave any tip because “they chose that job not us.” Yeah, they called themselves Christians. My arguments did nothing to change their mind. As for me: I leave 20% good or bad but leave extra if they are extra good…Sunday or Monday through Saturday.

    • I am with you on the tipping, Bill.. it drives my wife crazy when I tip well even though the service has been bad. I try to remind her that the waiter or waitress is not always in control of the whole service aspect and they do have ‘bad’ days.

      Our generosity may be a way to turn their day around.

  3. My family does go out to eat from time-to-time on Sunday out of the convenience of it. But I am less likely to go out as a group of Christians because of the bad witness aspect. It would make me grumpy when my fellow brother or sister in Christ would behave in way that was not flattering to Christ. Whether it was acting like a glutton (I have pretty much cut all smorgasborgs from my list of places to go with groups and seldom go as a family), or poor tipping, or treating the help staff like servants…. it just drove me crazy. The part that always made me laugh was when someone wanted to share a tract with the waiter or waitress and invite them to church on Sunday.

    I liked to point out that it was pretty difficult to invite someone to visit your church if you were the reason that they had to work on Sunday.

    I taught a bible fellowship class on Sunday mornings at one time and I would encourage the group to do carry-ins once a month in order to do the fellowship aspect. It was a great way to have a meal and get to know each member of the class and their families. It was also great because we each got to serve each other through setting up and cleaning up and cooking for each other.

    On off weeks, we would sometimes visit each other in our homes. I found these times more edifying than running to a restaurant and trying to remain a good witness.

    By the way.. I will confess that I am one of those restaurant goers that hates to have an empty glass of water or tea. I have learned that if I use some charm and consideration at the beginning of service to let the staff know that I am thirsty person, they will do a super job of keeping my glass filled. AND .. I follow that up with a good tip.

    Great post, Randy..

  4. hope it’s alright, randy… i linked to this post from my blog, and also kind of stole your topic and ran with it a little myself. you just got me kind of riled up, thinking about my days of waiting tables.

    • i am humbled and honored, oh ye of “freshly pressed” renown.

      and by the way, the bible says, “be ye not riled up.”

  5. Pingback: waiting tables, washing feet: a lesson in gratuities « aliens and strangers

  6. Pingback: waiting tables, washing feet: a gratuities tutorial | aliens and strangers

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