Tag: visitors

The one thing you should never say to a gym returnee

This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.

 

 

#3 in 2011: Dear Church,

I’m taking a break from my blog between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m re-posting a couple of your favorites (based on clicks) and a couple of my own favorite posts from 2011. I hope you enjoy! I’ll be interacting in the comments section, so if you comment, I’ll respond. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

image via iStock photo user Anthia Cumming

 

Dear local church,

You do weird things. And please don’t tell me you have no idea what I’m talking about.

  • You eat tiny crackers and drink tiny glasses of grape juice.
  • You sing. Loudly and passionately. And it’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Seriously, who sings, out loud, where others can hear them before 9:00?
  • You ask people to come down front. Nobody at my son’s baseball game has ever asked me to make a big life decision right in front of the whole stadium.
  • You tell me I need to go somewhere else, into someone else’s home, to really connect.
  • You pass a bucket for me to put money in. Do I have to pay to worship here?
  • You lay hands on people to pray for them. Never seen that one done in a helpful way in a PTA meeting. Never.
  • You preach from the Bible, and keep referring to it as an authority in your life, but I don’t see it like that. It’s a bit strange that you would put such weight into such an old document.

I’m not saying that these things are wrong. They’re just weird to me. I need you to help me understand why I need to do them. Why they’re important. Why you do them every week. Why I need to join in. Why I feel like such an outsider when I’m there.

I don’t want to be an outsider. Nobody does. I’d like to feel like I’m a part of you guys…but I need you to be patient. Walk me through understanding and doing. It took you lots of years to get where you are…help me get there. But don’t assume that, after 2 weeks, I’m going to “get” it.

Because when you don’t help me understand, you push me away…and it seems you don’t care that I come back.

Signed,

 

-Church visitors

 

* image via iStock photo user Anthia Cumming 

 

Let’s speak Gibberish

My wife and I recently went to the beach, and saw a strange sight.

There were four ladies standing in a circle, obviously together and doing something.  We, not being nosey, passed on by.

It’s blurred…don’t judge me for taking a “curious” pic

But I couldn’t help overhearing them talking.  And I couldn’t help noticing that it was another language, one that I didn’t understand.  I didn’t think anything about it.  My wife and I moseyed on, looking for sea glass as the sun rose.  But then I heard a little English.

Oh, look who’s here!  It’s _____.  Yeaaaaaaaah! (*said very loudly)

So apparently _____ is a popular person.  Then I heard this little diddy drop:

You guys ready?  Let’s speak some gibberish!

So…I figured out what that “foreign” language was that the ladies were speaking.  Gibberish.  Nonsense.  Unintelligible words.  They would speak this gibberish, and, from a distance, appeared to be having a perfectly normal conversation.  Then they would force laughter (it wasn’t natural…just trust me on that) that was heard all the way across the beach.

And you know when you hear people laughing, and it makes you want to laugh, too?  Yeah, this wasn’t that kind of laughter.  It was just weird.

Confession: I don’t know what they were doing.  They may have been practicing for improv.  They may have been just purely being silly.  They may be a strange cult.  I don’t know.  But as an outsider, it was strange.  Borderline creepy.

And I think that this is how many people view our local churches.  And when we don’t keep them in mind when we structure our Sunday morning experiences, we keep them at the edge.  Here’s what I was thinking when I saw the women, and what I believe outsiders think of our local churches.

Local Churches & The Gibberish People

The closer I get the weirder they’ll be.

I heard enough to know that I didn’t want to get any closer to this group.  Offer new folks the chance to see your church at a snapshot.  Make it easy for them to try community out.  Easy to serve.  Easy to test the waters.  You know that if they experience community, they’ll want more.  So make it easier to get close.

They’re really speaking another language I don’t understand.

In our churches, we have to be careful with the language we use.  Loading our services with “churchy” talk just makes people feel like we’re speaking another language.  Using normal, everyday language communicates that we value “outsiders.”

They don’t want me or need me.

This group was completely self-sufficient and satisfied without me.  Don’t let your church convey the same thing.  Having a system in place for them to plug into healthy community and service is huge.  Expose the holes you have on Sunday mornings.  Expose the holes you have in accomplishing your vision to reach your community.  And ask people to help plug in.  Most people want to know that they bring something to the table and can contribute.

I don’t have a need for that silliness.

Churches should be careful to articulate why we do what we do.  Cast the vision regularly for why you do small groups, take up the offering, serve your community, and sing songs.  Don’t leave it up to people’s imagination.  Help them understand why you do what you do.

They just care about themselves.

May this never be an attitude of our churches.  Ever.  We don’t exist for ourselves.  (Philippians 2:4)

It’s not wrong for these women to do what they were doing.  But it may be wrong for churches to adopt some of their practices.

Do you consciously think about “outsiders” when you enter the building on Sunday mornings?

How are you intentionally structuring things so that everyone feels welcomed?

 

 

Excluding visitors from small groups?

Michael McKinley wrote this on the 9Marks Blog:

So in our church, non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the public services of the church.  We are happy to have them in our Sunday morning gathering, our Sunday evening gathering, and our fellowship meals.

But we don’t let people attend small groups…until they are members.

 

This statement shocks me, and runs countercultural to what we, as a church are trying to accomplish.  We never want to exclude new folks from being a part of our small groups, because we believe that the best way to get connected, grow in your faith, and become a disciple of Christ is in the context of small groups.

If we were to exclude visitors from linking up with small groups, we would, in effect, be saying that we value church membership over discipleship.

I’m not ready to make a statement like that.

Discipleship doesn’t start when you become a church member.

But maybe I’m wrong.

What do you think?

Should visitors be excluded from small groups, until they become members?

 

The “visitor” treatment

I read this on a sign at an O’Charley’s restaurant I visited in Nashville:

At our place, everybody’s a regular.

What a powerful statement, especially to me on my first time in the restaurant.  That sign told me that I was being viewe a regular customer, even though it was my first time to ever step foot into the place.  I knew none of the waiters or waitresses.  I didn’t have my “special” seat.  The waiter didn’t know my name or what I “always ordered.”  Yet from the moment I stepped foot into the restaurant, I felt valued.

And the service I received backed that up.

I felt like an honored guest.  My waiter went out of his way to make sure I was served well.  He was skilled at his job, and was great at making our table feel served and appreciated.  I really did feel like I was a regular there.  The service was beyond my expectations…especially because there were 40 people in our group.  My tea was always full.  He made sure I was satisfied with each course of food.  He made sure my son was happy.  And he never seemed frustrated that my son was roaming throughout our section (for the record, he doesn’t normally do that, but he was in a foul mood because he was sick, so we let him roam a bit).

Yeah, our service was top notch.

This principle holds true in churches as well.

The way you treat visitors at your church says much about what you, as a church, value.  If you treat them as honored guests, you are saying:

1. We love you, even though we don’t know your story.

2. God loves you, and He does know your story.

3. We love others because God loves us…not because a person is an “insider.”

4. It’s ok to “come as you are.”  Questions, mess, and all.

5. God’s big enough to handle your junk.

Can it be said of a typical Sunday morning at your local church, “At our place, everybody’s a regular.”?

When was the last time you thought, “What impact will this have on first time guests?” as you were planning a Sunday morning environment?

Have you ever tried putting yourself in the shoes of a first-timer, trying to see and experience what they do, from the parking lot to the worship service and the children’s environments?

 

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