Public Restrooms and the Church

Posted by on March 10, 2009
Sign that reads "No Public Restroom (Customers Only)"

On a recent coffee run I saw a sign at a local restaurant located near a major freeway.   “No Public Restroom (Customers Only),” it read.

The sign was posted on the front door where everyone would see it – in fact, that and the hours were the only things posted there.  It reminded me of a church I interviewed with years ago.  The church was having trouble reaching out to younger people, but when teens started hanging around outside the church so they had posted “no skateboarding” signs all over.  “They chip the steps,” I was told.  “Couldn’t you put a concrete repair line item in the budget and welcome them in?”  I asked.  Needless to say, I was not invited to pastor that church.

Isn’t there a way that the restaurant with the “no public restroom” sign could use the traffic to their advantage?

I’ve written previously about some issues we face again and again in the church I pastor.  One of them is a concern about the cost of food and drinks after worship.  “Can’t they eat at home?” some ask.  “What’s wrong with asking for a small donation for food – for those who really want to eat?”

We’ve found that when we don’t charge for things like coffee, snacks, paperback Bibles, devotional books and  sermon CDs, people feel welcomed and loved.  And they come back!  Our family grows and our financial needs are met.

Some time ago, I visited another restaurant – a Round Table Pizza – when I was on the freeway with a child whose bladder was about to explode.  They had a sign that said, “Our restrooms are for everyone.  If you’re not a customer on this visit, we hope that one day you will be.”

  • Which sign had more impact?  (Note that I remember that Round Table Pizza restaurant and its sign years later.)
  • Who made better use of their chance to interact with the public?
  • What model is a better one for Christ’s church to emulate?
  • What opportunities might we be missing right now???
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