It’s a common first job for teenagers, working the cash register or the “floor” at a restaurant or store.
Most people hope to move on from their first retail job as soon as possible, but it’s a valuable experience involving much more than handling money.
What can young Christians learn from a job in retail?
There are many practical lessons to be learned from working in customer service, but here are a few of the most important.
1. How to Put Others Before Self
Working in customer service means paying constant attention to the needs of strangers.
For most people, it’s a struggle at first.
Humans are naturally “lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2). We tend to focus on our own needs and desires rather than those of others.
It’s easier to understand the reasoning behind our actions than others’ actions and it can be hard to shift that mindset when working with customers.
Customers in any restaurant or store might seem demanding, rude, or pushy — until we understand their needs.
The woman who brings back a fully decorated cake and wants a replacement? Maybe she got it for a friend’s birthday and wants to make sure it’s just perfect.
The family who takes forever to order in the restaurant? Maybe they don’t eat out very much and want to take their time enjoying the experience.
The boy who tries on shirt after shirt and still can’t decide after an hour? Maybe he’s going on a first date tonight and wants to look extra special.
A Christian who works in retail has the chance to understand people’s needs and meet them with love. “In humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), God tells His people, and customer service is a perfect opportunity to practice this command.
Even when a retail worker is exhausted and in need of a break, he or she can put others first and continue serving customers.
2. How to Talk to People
Why is it important for Christians to know how to talk to people?
Conversation opens the door for relationships, even with customers who are only in a store or restaurant for a brief time. Regular patrons often come back again and again just because of the conversations and relationships they have with the employees!
The Christian who learns how to make good conversation, even in a short period of time, becomes more prepared for any opportunity to pursue deeper discussion in everyday life.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
Working in customer service involves talking to a wide variety of people every day, which equips the Christian for sharing their faith in different contexts.
During His time on earth, Jesus demonstrated how important it is to know how to talk to all kinds of people. He had conversations with religious leaders, beggars, fishermen, prostitutes, and soldiers, and He never drew back from engaging anyone.
The Christian who works in retail has the opportunity to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Retail workers can talk to bankers, construction workers, stay-at-home mothers, and innumerable other kinds of people. For the Christian, it’s a chance to learn how to talk about their faith to each of these different people.
3. How to Be Dependable
Retail jobs are often overlooked in “the grand scheme of things,” but they’re incredibly important on a national level and a personal one.
Millions of people in America work in retail and customer service, impacting the economy and the everyday lives of people across the country. Yet it can often be a thankless profession.
No matter how small a retail job may seem, it impacts dozens, if not hundreds, of people each day. The Christian who works in retail understands this and learns to go to work faithfully and complete their tasks diligently.
Retail workers, like all work groups, depend on each other for support, and an employee who proves their dependability over and over quickly becomes a valued member of the team. It’s an opportunity to let others lean on you!
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). A customer service job is an opportunity to learn how to be faithful and dependable in pursuit of Christ’s commendation.
So, the next time you go to your retail job (or encounter a retail worker), pray that you can apply these lessons! And whether you’re an employee or a customer, put others first.