Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I realize this is a delayed and quickly put-together Thursday blog post, but it has just been one of those weeks!

But I do have one small morsel of food for thought (it's a quick but insightful read) for y'all from a minister who works for the Disciples' Church Extension office in Indianapolis.  The post is about experiencing church from a visitor's perspective (h/t to Claire, a seminary classmate of mine and my predecessor in the student associate position at First Christian Church in Concord).

The longer we go to church--and the longer we attend a particular church--the proportionally easier it becomes for us to forget how overwhelming it can actually be to visit our church for the first time.  The majesty of our buildings can become intimidating, the ritual of "will the visitors please stand up?" can seem trite at best and exclusionary at worst, and well-intentioned members may gang up on a family of visitors like sharks smelling chum in the water.

But, we've all been to church for the first time at some point in our lives, and we've all been to our particular parish for the first time at some point as well.

Just like it can be easy to forget all those times you've needed help when someone asks you for a hand or a favor, so too can it be easy to forget those times when you didn't know where the restrooms were, either, or didn't know when to sit, stand, or kneel.

I feel very fortunate to pastor a congregation that knows how to pull off community, fellowship, and hospitality well, because to be completely honest, it isn't always my forte.  I am good at answering peoples' questions, but not necessarily at anticipating the questions (you'd be surprised how many times we pastors are caught completely off-guard, even though many of us would probably never admit it), and that small bit can make a world of difference.

What have been your favorite or least favorite experiences when visiting a church for the first time?  What has worked for you and what hasn't?  What do you wish your church would do (or not do!) in welcoming visitors?

Yours in Christ,

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