Ministry and Dentistry: No-Shows and Late Cancellations
October 20, 2020
by Steve Cartin, MDiv
My friend, Will Gunnels, former CMDA Southern Regional Director, coined the phrase in my mind – “ministry and dentistry”. When you focus on ministry, the world of dentistry provides a multitude of illustrations of and opportunities for ministry. One of the matters which has come up with dentists everywhere I go is how to reduce no-shows and late cancellations. I wonder if the same thing might be on the Lord’s mind as portrayed in Larnelle Harris’ song, I Miss My Time with You.
I miss my time with you / Those moments together
I need to be with you each day / And it hurts Me when you say
You’re too busy / Busy trying to serve Me
But how can you serve Me / When your spirit’s empty
There’s a longing in My heart / Wanting more than just a part of you
It’s true, I miss My time with you.1
Vicki Sanco, Founder of Journey Management Group, taught me to reduce no-shows and late cancellations by getting three critical matters right from the start and to get them in the appropriate order. Otherwise, who knows what will happen. These principles stand guard over the most important page in a practice – today’s schedule. And they will guard you and me from turning aside from the most important matter in life.
The Clinical “Yes”. First things first. If a patient is going to accept treatment and move toward improved oral health, there must be a desire on his or her part for what the problem is, what’s needed and who can fix it. “Steve, now that I’ve answered your questions, is this the treatment you would like for me to provide” begins the journey to a better, more functional smile. Until the patient wants it, the cost is irrelevant and the schedule won’t matter.
The Greek word for confession is homologeo. Homo, the same. Logeo, to speak. I need to say the same thing about my sin that God says about it. Until I do, all the spiritual exercises in the world will not amount to anything in time or eternity. First, I need to deal with the clinical matters, the sin-sickness in my soul. When you or I are ready to do that, we have taken the first step. But there’s more.
The Financial “Yes”. Aside from grace, nothing in life is free. Grace came at a tremendous cost to our Savior but for us, it’s free. That alone suffices for describing what is so amazing about grace. But the grace that saves us teaches “…us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2.12).
There is a cost for going on in grace, for doing what the Apostle Paul described as one result of grace in our lives, being “created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph 2.10). What are we willing to deny ourselves? What are we willing to remove from life in order that we might make room for God and a work of His Spirit?
The Scheduling “Yes”. Once my patient has decided he needs and wants the treatment I can provide, and once he has come to terms with the necessary financial arrangements – what it will cost; now — and only now — does it make any sense to reserve a spot for him on the practice schedule. Anything less becomes suspect at best, doubtful at worst.
“Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1.35, NIV).3
How much more do I need this? Where my treasure is, there is my heart (Matt 6.21). I have made the decision. I have counted the cost. I have rearranged whatever was needed in my life to move forward with healthy spiritual growth.
Avoiding no-shows and late cancellations in dentistry make everyone happier – the patient, the team and certainly the dentist. Likewise, when I no-show with God or jump at a last-minute or seemingly urgent opportunity to do something else, it creates a state of dis-ease in my own soul, dis-ease which radiates to those around me and must be disappointing with God.
Next time a patient or two or three drops off the schedule, maybe we should ask ourselves, “How consistently am I showing up with God?”
Next time we send a postcard, text or email saying, “We missed you for your appointment”, we might reflect on whether our Lord is saying, “I miss my time with you.”
1 All scripture quotations, New King James Version (NKJV)
2 Larnelle Harris and Phil McHugh. I Miss My Time with You. © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management, 1987.
3 New International Version of Holy Scripture (NIV)