I would like to first of all ask you to kindly take some time at end of this post, to share your pleasant or not so pleasant experiences – church hunting or just visiting for the first time.
As a pastor, I don’t get the chance to visit other churches. Simply because I have to attend and lead mine every Sunday.
But from time to time, when I’m away church traveling, I put it on the top of my list.
It is at this time that I feel how uncomfortable it is for people looking for a new church or just visiting one.
To say the least, my last two visits were really bad. I was in Nashville, Tennessee visiting a church and almost felt invisible. It wasn’t that people weren’t talking among themselves, it seemed like they were too focused on who they knew.
I stood alone for about 15 minutes just next to the pastor who briefly looked at me, than turned away and continue talking with this group of five guys.
After Church, I sat for a few minutes hoping some would at least personally ask me my name, where I was from and if they could help me get connected to their community.
To be honest, at one point during the service, I was given a lot of info about how to connect. Even though, I had already made up my mind that this was a church I would never visit again, I was still hopeful that wasn’t going to lunch all by myself. So I sat there waiting for an invitation. But it never came.
What if churches intentionally created a culture of hospitality, and environment that made visitors feel welcome?
What if, as Church members, we made it our duty to step outside our clicks and infinity groups and actually welcome new people into your circles?
Southwest airline was in the news lately. According to Forks Magazine, a ton of people are celebrating and sharing their enthusiasm flying with Southwest.
For Southwest, this is not happening by chance. It is happening because the company has taken the time to instilled in every employee three values:
a warrior spirit
a servant’s heart
a fun-loving attitude (the way Southwest spells “love”)
What if churches, churches leaders, congregants had a warrior spirit – not afraid or shy to step across the room and make someone feel welcome and comfortable in church.
What if churches, churches leaders, congregants had Servants’ heart that did everything to put others first? What if they had deep empathy – not that fake smile that strangers usually give as they walk past other strangers?
What if churches, churches leaders, congregants had a fun-loving attitude that didn’t take themselves too seriously?
What if churches, church leaders, congregants had genuine and authentic love and friendship? What if they were Christ centered, gospel oriented and Holy Spirit empowered?
I think we will all have phenomenal churches. What about you? Unfortunately, only a few churches are doing exceptionally well in this area.
If Southwest can do it, I don’t understand why every church is not doing it. This stuff originates with us. We are the role model.
I value your opinion.
Thanks for the feedback!
From Walter with luv…
I am so guilty of what you said–talking to the people I already know at church. Ironically it was that “clique-ish” feel that used to turn me off of one church after another. Thanks for posting this; I will try to be so much more welcoming from here on out!
Hey Toni, aren’t we all guilty of this? May the Lord help us all to do better.
Thanks for the comment, stay blessed!
I have visited 3 churches in the last year. The first one was huge, I was shown to my seat in a 3/4 full overflow room with a screen and band – directed to a table filled with ministry information. The service began with news – the upcoming $1400 creationist geology trip for youth so they could counter the anti-creation sentiments of their peers and teachers. 15 minutes in, still no Christ, no words friendly to a seeking outsider. Church #2 – Directed to sanctuary by friendly smile, distant eyes. Youth pastor spoke first and had the manner of old time televangelist – big wide smile, pacing, overly charming humor – I felt SOLD, schmoozed, entertained, not invited by the calm, clear spirit that is personally attractive to me – maybe just my cultural preference. Both churches I was so uncomfortable, I left. I probably shouldn’t reply here since I didn’t give them a “good try.” Final church, I was invited by a new friend to a women’s function; the speaker was lovely and passionate about God’s goodness in her pastor’s wife life, adoption, moves; the ladies at my table, aside from my friend, were distant, talking to one another. A couple responded warmly when I spoke to them – mostly inviting me to future events at the church. Not their fault it’s hard to get beyond small talk. Politeness vs genuine loving respect for a stranger. The woman who invited me was warm, real, genuinely welcoming. I suggest that for those truly resting in Christ, spirit will answer to spirit as naturally as one’s next breath, no one will feel left out, and no one has to try harder.
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Wow! Diane your comment is very precious and uplifting. Thanks for sharing your experience and your insight. The suggestion is spot on and I think it’s exactly what the precious Holy Spirit would say those struggling to find a place to meet with the Father and be a part of His family.
“spirit will call to spirit as naturally as one’s next breath, no one will feel left out and no one has to try harder.”
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I was a fairly new Christian when I decided I would visit my mother’s small pentecostal church with her. I wore pants and my hair was short at the time. I’m quite certain I was the only new person visiting that day because I was the only one with short hair and dressed in pants. The other women had long hair and all wore dresses per the doctrine of that particular church. The person speaking that day was not the pastor just one of the members filling in for him. He started off okay with his lesson, but then got off on a tangent, completely unrelated to the sermon, condemning women with short hair. It was extremely judgmental, and there was no doubt at all that it was directed at me as I was the only one sitting there with short hair and wearing pants! I tried not to take it personal but this guy just kept going on an on making it clear that I was being judged on my appearance and not what was/is in my heart. Even my mother, who has a tendency to whitewash the negative, was appalled at what he was saying. I walked out in the middle of the service.
Another unfavorable experience didn’t actually involve church hunting (although, I guess in a way it did) or visiting for the first time. I had attend a particular church for a short period of time, and then, for various reasons, I stopped going. About three months later, I received a call from someone working in the office of the church asking if I would like to donate money to help buy a van for the pastor and his large family. In the three months or so since attending that church, I had not received a single call from anyone at that church to check on me to see why I hadn’t been to church or if I was okay. But when I did finally receive a call it was to ask me for money. Unbelievable.
I’m not a very outgoing person to begin with and my husband is not a Christian. So I attend church alone, and visiting a new church is not exactly fun for me when it comes to meeting people. I very much dislike the meet and greet portion of services because typically only a couple people sitting near me will turn and shake my hand, and beyond that I feel like I’m pretty much ignored. (Maybe because I don’t have my husband with me???) The last church I attended I actually joined one of their Bible study groups looking for fellowship as well as the opportunity to delve into the Word of God with what I hoped were like-minded people. Only one woman actually made any attempt to befriend me and when I tried to talk to a couple of the others I felt like I was the unpopular girl trying to be apart of the “in crowd.” Or their little clique. Pretty much ignored.
So, I do not attend any church at the moment. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I should try harder. But I’m not very motivated.
It breaks my heart when I hear stories like yours. Nobody should ever have to go through this kind of of stuff, and nobody has to work that hard to find a church. Please don’t blame yourself. I pray that you can find the motivation to make one more visit – God has a special place for you. Please let me know when you make that move.
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I absolutely think that a church much welcome (genuinely) new people with open arms. Not a fake smile as they wait for someone more interesting to come past but a genuine interest and happiness that you have arrived. Nothing is more off putting than feeling that you have entered- uninvited- a club or a clique. I was so lucky that the first church I ever visited (and barely ever attend now to be honest) had several people greet me on my first visit. I was terrified (the atheist enters the church!) but I felt so welcomed. It was only a small congregation but I really felt as if I belonged straight away.