What can the church learn from Gordon Ramsay?

Gordon Ramsay is the kind of guy that polarises people. People either love him or they hate him. If you’re not familiar with this fiery scotsman he’s a world renowned chef with a penchant for the F-word who not only runs his own empire of restaurants, but goes around fixing restaurants around the place and broadcasts it to the world through a reality TV series called Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The man is a machine.

I love him. For a man that looks like he got hit by a truck and who swears like a sailor…he is an oddly magnetic character. It took me a bit to figure out why I like him, but I finally nailed it down. I like stong personalities. People with passion and enthusiasm. People who literally cannot sit still because they are so into what they love to do in life. Gordon is the kind of guy that is REAL. What you see is what you get. You always know where you stand with him. It could also be that he’s a scotsman …. I’m kind of partial to them (I’m married to one LOL). Gordon Ramsay is the antithesis of everything that turns me off about certain people…we all know them..the vanilla flavoured, moth-brown people that go through life like zombies, hiding their emotions and barely saying “boo” to anyone…people who do what they have to do to blend into the crowd, to fit the corporate mould. Life is too short to go through it being apathetic. BOOORING!

So what on earth does this have to do with the church? I’m glad you asked 🙂

I am fascinated by the concept of arbitrage. Originally the term related to financial information and transactions, but these days it has been appropriated and applied to a whole range of other fields. Essentially arbitrage is all about taking knowledge from one field of learning and applying it to something completely different. It’s all about applying principles and learning and growing constantly. I’m a huge fan of continuous improvement in my life and in the processes that I am involved in, and arbitrage is one of the tools that lets me keep moving forward.

One of the things I love about Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is the way he gets in there and makes things happen..he has the ability to cut to the chase and inspire people. There might be some short term pain, but his eye is on the end point, and the restaraunteurs, by the end of the time he’s there, are switched on and ready to move forward in a way that ultimately grows their business and more often than not improves their private lives too. I think there’s a lot to be learned from this guy.

Here are five things that churches (and individuals) can learn from Gordon Ramsay and his Kitchen Nightmares:

1. He makes a realistic assessment of his surroundings

In figuring out how to help the restaurants that he visits, Gordon always takes a wander around the neighbourhood to check out what’s going on. What sort of people hang out there, what sort of traffic is passing by, and what other restaurants are already in the area. He uses this information to help the restaurant find it’s niche so that they are not competing unnecessarily.

For churches trying to figure out what programs to run or how to best reach out to their communities, it pays to take a look at what other churches in the area are doing. Being a church in a community is not all about who has the biggest congregation or who puts on the best Christmas concert, it’s about meeting the needs of the people we are sent to serve, so competing with other churches in the area is a huge waste of time and resources. Find the gaps in what is being done to meet your community’s needs, find where your church’s strengths lie and marry the two to decide how best to meet the needs of the people around you.

2. He sets a vision and goals and communicates them to everyone involved

Once Gordon has figured out the direction the restaurant needs to take, he takes the time to tell ALL of the staff about the vision he has for the restaurant. He makes sure the key players have a good grasp on the vision so that they can keep reinforcing it and encouraging the staff to stay on target. He communicates in (rather colourful) plain english what the restaurant is going to look like in 12 months time and sets some milestones along the way so that they can measure their success and stay motivated. Because everyone that is a part of the restaurant knows the end point, they can all contribute and they have a degree of ownership in the success or failure of the restaurant. He lays out the boundaries for them to operate within to maximise their potential. He brings focus.

I believe churches are the same. God gave all Christians the command to get off their butts and go tell everyone about the good news. But for a church to be effective in doing that as an entity they need to be able to narrow the scope of the task and tailor it to the particular people that surround them. This takes a localised vision and specific goals to get the congregation motivated and energised. I have noticed that people will willingly commit time and money resources to something that has a concrete endpoint and where they can formulate the required steps to get to that endpoint. However, people tend not to commit time and money to a bottomless pit or a journey that seems to never end. People like boundaries.

3. He is real

As I mentioned earlier, Gordon is the kind of guy that calls a spade a spade. He doesn’t try to be something he’s not just because he’s on telly. Now, just to be clear, I am not advocating that you go around talking like he does or that you start being that blunt and obnoxious with people. What I am saying is that as a church we need to get REAL. Nothing turns people off God faster than a church full of people who are fake…who are pretending that everything is OK all of the time and who are acting like they think they should because they have walked through the doors of a church building. Non-Christians have very finely tuned BS-metres, and they can spot it a mile away if you’re not living your life in line with the words that are coming out of your mouth. If we want to make an impact on the people around us, we have got to stop playing at being “Christians” and get real about living lives that are completely devoted to doing what we’re told to in the Bible, and letting people see how it works. Bottom line, people.

4. He’s passionate

Have you ever watched Gordon when he’s in the kitchen? He doesn’t stand still…even when he looks like he might stop for a bit, he’s still bouncing. He’s so passionate about what he does that you can see it…it’s unmistakable. That’s how we should be about God! He’s better than cooking, yeah? 🙂

5. Simplify simplify simplify

These days there seems to be a culture of busy-ness = value. That is…the busier you are the better you are…you are being effective as an organisation if you have lots going on. I think the opposite is true. Time and time again Gordon goes into these restaurants and simplifies their menus and their kitchen processes and shifts the emphasis to doing a few things exceptionally well, rather than doing a lot of things poorly.

Most churches don’t have a lot of resources to play with, and yet they continue to try and be all things to all people, spreading themselves so thin that they don’t always hit the mark with what they are trying to do as a whole. And the general public perception that the church is a stingy, second-rate version of real life is perpetuated. A more targeted, concentrated approach would allow more time and effort to be put into the execution of well considered programs or events and have a far greater impact.

So there you have it. Do you love Gordon? Do you hate Gordon? Do you think it’s valid to learn for us to learn from a man who has a penchant for the F-word?

Let’s hear it.


2 responses to “What can the church learn from Gordon Ramsay?

  1. Brilliant article Michelle, every word is spot on!

    Regardless of personal views on Ramsay you cant deny that the Church needs to get its act together and focus its resources to doing a few things with excellence rather than try to do everything poorly.

    God is a God of action, planning and strategy… why is it then that His Church bucks so hard against good planning, good strategy and then getting on with doing things?

    I pray God will kick our butts and wake us from our slumber to see that the time is NOW to get out there and spread the gospel message effectively and with influence!

  2. Yep, I agree with Eddy here…..great article, Mick. I have to admit that I am certainly not a fan of Ramsay, and he certainly does not show his face on our tv in our home!!! But I do like your comparison, Mick, in how we should be as God’s “church”. I agree that a “church” needs to be adaptable, and cater for the needs of the lost in their area. In a church we attended before we moved house, they held fortnightly open-air outreaches, during the local market days. It was highly effective, and reached alot of lost souls. The “church” was excellent in that way, and had a very effective, ambitious, pro-active and energised gospel outreach…I really admired that! And I think thats how we need to be in our own lives too….to allow God to use us in each and every situation possible, allowing the Holy Spirit to manipualte and use us, for the varying needs of the unsaved. Great article Mick….really got me thinking, thanks!


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