Monday, February 27, 2012

Are there any friendly churches out there?

After resigning my church back in November, I have accumulated a modest three months of being a church visitor. I’ve been to a number of churches since then - some once, some twice, one three times. 

I know that there are professional church visitors but hope my dear readers will be patient while an amateur shares his experiences.

The only church that I would really consider to have been friendly was the church where my wife was invited to fill in for the pianist. Since we arrived thirty minutes before worship time and the music minister was expecting her, we received lots of attention but I suspect this church would have been about as friendly if we just showed up on a Sunday. We will go back.

While all the churches had a greeting time, the old adage is true that it doesn’t count if you wait until that time to meet a guest, introduce yourself, and start a casual conversation. No one said, “I guess I’m supposed to say ‘Hi’ to you now, so ‘Hi’ but that’s the way it comes across.

Here's something that puzzled me. We sat in a church we had attended before, a church where I know a few people, a church that is extremely informal, This is a church where members do a lot of smiling, hugging, and chatting before worship. I watch them an think, 'This is a bunch of people who enjoy being around each other.'

However...we get ignored there except during the canned greeting time. And I am certain that many of the members, even if they don’t know me by name, at least recognize that I’ve been there before.

So, why would we be ignored? 

What appeared to be said out of that was, “We love each other and are so happy to be together…but we could care less whether you’re here or not.” I know there are some good folks in this church. It’s a good church and I know the pastor but if I were a stranger and visited there I would not go back.

In each of the churches we have visited, save for one, the pastor or a staff member knew who we were. While I have no high expectations of follow-up, I am surprised that not once has anyone made a phone call to say, ‘Glad you were present Sunday.’

Don’t churches do that anymore?

Guess I have a few things to learn about visiting churches.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, what you are saying is so true.

I keep in touch with my children's friends, all young adults. I have always tried to encourage them to stay involved in church and have tried to steer them to churches where who may have ministries to young professionals. After they attend services (by themselves) and report to me that NO ONE SAID A WORD TO THEM. Not even the pastor. They are not looking for a traditional or non traditional church, calvinist or arminian. They are looking for a church where someone will talk to them and make them feel welcome.

To recap: A young professional walks into church, unaccompanied by friends, and does not know anyone else in the building. No one says a word to them. Not one person.

No wonder we are losing our young people.

Anonymous said...

Yes and no.
Yes, there are probably a few, possibly including some of those you have visited. I think our canned "welcome" may even be prohibitive to churches really welcoming people to the church. The church I currently pastor would "welcome" for 30 minutes if I would let them. This isn't a welcome but rather an opportunity to check on Sis Callie's ailing kittens.

No, your not welcome in many of the rural churches I have been in, including the one I currently pastor, there is a fear that the person in attendance may disrupt the status quo. As a former pastor you may be perceived as a threat, or in the very least as one who would have an opinion.

I reminded our church a few weeks ago that if we grew numerically we would eventually replace some of the people in their current positions in the church. That isn't always a comforting thought. We want people to cut the grass but we don't need a different teacher.

By the way, as of last Saturday, Jesus Loves You double cheeseburger, was still on display.


Ronnie Reid said...

Great post! What an eye opener to those of us raised in the church. Published link to this on my Twitter feed and have had great comments. Blessings to you!