Saturday, June 05, 2010

Is Your Church Friendly? Better Question: Are YOU Friendly?

My husband recently completed a ten-week sabbatical. "Sabbatical" here not meaning vacation, but working at something other than his regular pastor job/calling. In his case he worked on a bachelor's degree in Christian Education. For a guy who's dyslexic, this was quite a feat, but he did it, and managed to rest a bit, work on his GTO a bit, and even do a 2-day getaway with me. Nice!

During his time away from our church, he visited other churches in the area. Because he's worked at an area mega-church, as well as launched an area youth center, many people around here know him on sight. When he visited other churches, though, he did so with the express intent of not drawing attention to himself, but rather just seeing what the Body of Christ, as represented in different area churches, had going on. He was trying to get a feel for what it's like to walk into a church and not know anyone.

Every Sunday he'd come home with stories for me. Some good, some bad.

At one church, the only person who talked to him was another "new guy". At another church, people were polite but cold, as in they did the drive-by "Hi" and quickly moved along without talking to him. There are other instances I could recount, but you get the idea. He gleaned much in terms of how we can increase the warmth/friendliness factor at our own church. Here's what we want to do, and to teach others to do:

1. When you see someone you don't know, or even someone you might have seen before at church but who's standing along, walk up to them and introduce yourself, ask them where they're from, and how long they've been coming to the church. If it's their first time, say, "Terrific! Would you like to sit with me/us during the service?" Someone did this for my husband, and it left such a wonderfully positive impression on him.

2. Friendliness isn't just for extroverts. Realize that even extroverts are intimidated at times, but they push through and are friendly.

3. Use stock questions: Where are you from? What do you do for a living? How long have you lived in this area? Then continue along those lines to get to know the person a little better.

4. Smile. Yes, smile. Make eye contact.

5. Don't just gravitate to your friends at church. Remember what it was like when you were the new person, or the shy person.

6. If you have an after-service coffee/snack time or meal, make it a point to stand or sit by someone who is alone. I have often seen families sitting alone at tables during our after-service lunch. One of those families knew my husband, and said to him, "Yeah, the meal is nice, but we felt like we were at a party and weren't invited." How sad is that?

"But I'm an Introvert!" you say. Well, so am I. People are surprised to find that out about me because I am boisterous and humorous in public. I consider myself an introvert because being alone and in a quiet place recharges my soul. I do like people, and I like being with them, but I can only swing it for a few hours before I crave a little alone time. I used to be embarrassed by this, after all, a pastor's wife who doesn't like to be around people all the time? I'm not embarrassed anymore, but rather have learned how to know when it's time for me to bow out of group settings gracefully.

I remember five years ago when my husband, my five children and I walked up the steps to the new church to which my husband was called as the solo pastor. Four out of five of my kids had tears running down their cheeks, and my husband and I were so worried that they'd hate the church (as a whole), hate God, hate us for moving them. I remember that pit in my stomach as I walked around and met new people. It was very difficult. I try to keep that feeling in mind whenever I see new people at church.

All this to say, if you want your church to be friendly, don't count on it coming from the greeter ministry alone. YOU be friendly. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you folks who need to see a friendly face. Show them around the place, sit by them, answer any questions they may have. Don't wait for "leadership" to do this - it's not their job, it's your privilege to show the love of Christ to others, and an easy way to do this is to yourself be friendly.

1 comment:

  1. Hey MX5, Did I tell you that I was glad you are back blogging again? I passed this post on to some folks from my church. One gentleman told me how helpful this was. Thanks for your insight!