Preaching Christ Church's lead Pastor Chad Roberts said the church has launched a website to let area restaurant servers share their horror stories about waiting on the 'Sunday church crowd.' Photo by Ned Jilton II.
Last February, Pastor Alois Bell set off an Internet debate of biblical proportions. Unhappy about being forced to pay an automatic gratuity of 18 percent because she was dining with a party of 10 at an Applebee’s restaurant in St. Louis, Mo., Bell declined to leave a tip and instead left her two cents behind in ink: “I give God ten percent, why do you get 18,” she scrawled on her receipt.
Preaching Christ Church’s lead Pastor Chad Roberts was on his way to a conference in Atlanta, Ga., with two other staff members from the downtown Kingsport church when news of the tipping scandal went viral and their idea for the church’s “Sundays are the Worst” campaign was born.
“We were sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings saying, what could we do for the serving community to show them that the church cares about them and that we’re not judgmental? What if there was a website where servers could just sound off, they could just vent, and then the church say, it’s OK, we get it, we understand?
“I think everyone knows there’s a disconnect between the serving community and what’s quote unquote the Sunday church crowd. Mainly when we saw the comments that people were making about (the situation in St. Louis), that’s when we knew we needed to address this issue.
“Our first attempt was to put up a Facebook page, but restaurants have a social media policy so servers could lose their jobs for going on there, so we had to go back to the drawing board. We said, OK, let’s just create a website where servers can log on anonymously and share their experience. We have the ability to edit, but the way we feel, the story is going to be what it is. If they drop the F-bomb, curse, it is what it is, but if a server puts their name or a restaurant name or a customer name, we will take that out. We want to protect the servers and we want to protect the restaurant owners. We’re not going to allow restaurants to be bashed on there.”
Beginning yesterday and continuing for the next eight weeks, area restaurant servers are invited to share their horror stories about waiting on the “Sunday church crowd” at www.sundaysarethe worst.com? .
The site, which also features several “faith” questions and videos of PCC’s house band and student ministries, is already populated with several such tales, including one from a waitress who said she was belittled by a group of women from a church she was considering attending.
“For me, what made the experience so bad wasn’t just the rude behavior from these adult women, or the cheapness of stiffing me on the tip, or the sneakiness of leaving fake money on the table, or the assumption that I was beneath them because I didn’t discuss my beliefs with them, or any of the other things that added up into that experience,” she wrote. “What really got me was that I was in a place, that very day, where I was considering going to church. A friend of mine had just committed suicide, and that very church had been recommended to me for grief counseling. I never went, I worked through it on my own, but the point is, those rude, presumptuous, and honestly mean women were the ONLY thing standing between me and the church that it was so important to them that I attend.
“Now on Sunday mornings, I sleep in, and that works nicely for me.”
Such stories amaze and sadden Roberts, who said he doesn’t think Christians realize just how condescending they can come across sometimes.
“That’s the purpose of this campaign, to cause them to realize that their attitude matters and it affects those around them,” he said.
Each week during the campaign, Preaching Christ Church will randomly choose a server who has shared his or her story on the website to receive a Food City gift card that can be redeemed for groceries or gas. Every server who contributes will receive a written, emailed apology from the church.
“It’s a way for our church to tell the serving community that we’re sorry for what you have to go through on Sundays and that we really do appreciate you and what you do for our community,” he said.
The campaign will wrap up on Easter Sunday — a day when local restaurants likely will be filled with church-going customers. Roberts said he encourages Christians who dine out that day to double their tip and tell their server they’re doing it because they appreciate them and because of “Sundays are the Worst . ”
“The two goals we have with this are number one, that Christians would begin to realize that their attitude really matters when they go to eat,” Roberts said. “The second goal is that particularly unchurched servers would understand that not all Christians are rude, impatient, lousy tippers. That’s what we want to communicate . For us, another win is going to be families who are thinking about trying church, we hope they’ll see this and go, now that sounds like a church we’d love to check out.”
If all goes well and the website takes off, Roberts said PCC plans to continue the campaign again next year, but expand it to include other retail establishments whose employees work on Sundays.
“The church does so many things that are counterproductive to our message,” he said. “So we try to be intentional, we try to be strategic, we try to think through everything we do: Does this advance the cause of Christ? Does it advance the Gospel, and does it help people? We want it to be practical.”