Last Sunday, while on vacation, Josh, the kids, and myself visited a church. A few things stuck out. Now let me start with a disclaimer that I am very judgemental of churches that I visit; knowing that the first impression of a church is huge to draw people into the family of God, or create another bad experience that echos what they already believe about church.
Two things really stuck out to me…
1. After we arrived at the service and the greeter said hello and pointed us in the general direction of the Children’s Ministry it took about 10 minutes for someone to genuinely greet us and say hello. This is surprising because we had already signed in both Gavin and Ava and the teachers were not welcoming or helpful in getting the kids nametags etc. The perception was that we and our kids were not wanted or valued in their community.
2. About halfway through the service I needed to feed Ashton some banana and cereal and I thought that it would be too distracting to feed him in the service. So I walked out onto a breezeway and got to the business of feeding him, so as to not bother the service. While feeding him and sitting there I noticed 5 ladies in my general area. One lady was walking up and down the hall trying to get her infant baby to sleep, one lady was sitting quietly with her son trying to glean what she could from the service, and 3 other women were huddled together talking in hushed exaggerated tones. When I had walked into the breezeway the “3 ladies” looked up, but did not invite me to join them or even smile at me. This rubbed me the wrong way… not only because I felt rejected, but also because they seemed to have nothing better to do then talk about so and so and their situation, all the while sending a message to myself and I assume the other women there that we were not to be included in their group. The sad thing was that the women with the son, I found out later, had only been attending for a month and is new to San Diego. I am sure that she is looking for some other moms who are in her stage of life.
An observer’s PERCEPTION, whether true or not, dictates his/her reality.
How are you perceived when you go to church. Do you go to catch up with your friends, but neglect the people who may have stepped into a church for the first time, or for the first time in a long time? Do you have time to show people the God that you follow, or are you to preoccupied with making your time at church all about you and your friends, in essence a Christian country club.
A Challenge: My heart has recently has been opened to how available I am to people before and after the service. Trying to balance where my kids are at and what needs to be cleaned up; I try to make myself available to people. I am also learning that I may need to schedule another time with people that I already know, so that I can reach out to those who I don’t know. It can be hard to do that. *Try to engage someone you don’t know in a conversation this week.* Try to have 3 – 5 questions ready to ask in case you need to carry the conversation. Don’t give up after the first question, try to stick it out and let the person you are talking to know that you are there and you care about them. Good luck. I would love to hear any stories of reaching out. Was it hard not talking to your friends? Let me know.