Replanting a Church: But We Had a Meet and Greet! Part 2

The comments on the previous post were extraordinary! I just want to add a couple of thoughts.

First, there is no such thing as a truly effective greeting ministry that’s a church program or that’s undertaken by the paid staff. People are smart and see through that immediately.

That’s not to say that a formal greeting program is bad. It’s not. These programs give visitors tacit permission to ask the greeters for directions or such without feeling that they’re imposing. Greeter programs are nothing but good. They just aren’t nearly adequate.

The only thing that really works is a congregation that loves visitors. A story might help make the point.

We recently had a couple visit with a family who’ve been members for a long time. This couple had been visiting many churches in the community looking for a church home. And they are were astonished at how welcoming our congregation is. (I had no idea that we are unusual. How else would Christians act?)

They later told me that at other churches they might be greeted by the preacher or designated greeters, but were generally not well received by those lacking a title. And so they distrusted their initial impression. To test us, they visited later without coming with their friends. They thought perhaps our friendliness was associated with being with people the church already knew. They were pleased to find themselves greeted just as warmly without their friends as with.

Now, when people place membership at our church, they meet with some of the elders, who ask why they chose to join us. And it’s fairly routine for the new members to mention our friendliness. But I’d never realized until speaking with this couple that we were in any sense unusual. I guess we are. And that disappoints me — not that we’re friendly, but that it’s unusual to be friendly.

My second point is in response to two of the questions I posed in the last post: “What is the underlying assumption behind that comment? What attitude does the preacher’s wife (and the congregation) have toward visitors?”

This didn’t occur to me until after I’d posted the question and read the comments, but I think the underlying assumption behind “But we had a meet and greet!” is “the church serves me,” rather than “I serve the church.” Or maybe “Jesus saved me so I’d have a church that provides me with friends and services” rather than “Jesus saved me so I’d be a friend to the friendless and serve those whom no one else will serve.” Something like that.

Sometimes we think the church exists to meet our needs, and we pay for that service by doing a few tasks the elders ask of us. Thus, if we aren’t on official church duty, it’s our time to enjoy what we really joined the church for in the first place: having our own needs met. Thus, we are glad to do the meet and greet thing, but it’s not from the heart. It’s an obligation that earns our “me” time with friends.

The American church is eaten up with selfishness. We see it in the worship wars (“Why won’t they serve me by singing my favorite songs?!”) and in the challenge of finding nursery volunteers (“I come to church to get a break from my kids, not to help others with their kids!” or “It’s time for the younger people to take their turn!”). It’s the consumer culture that we feed through recruiting members by promising great relationships and great youth programs, rather than calling our members into a great mission.

A church that’s focused on serving others will be a friendly church because a church that serves others has learned to love others. And no program or sermon series will replace that.

And here’s the end of it all. True joy comes when our time spent in serving others is our favorite time of the week. When my “me” time becomes service time, then I’ve truly become filled with the Spirit.

(2 Cor 5:17)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

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4 Responses

  1. Being friendly is catching.

    Greeting people in a friendly manner must not be a WORK of the church.

    Those that appreciate others being friendly to them must see how good it makes them feel and do the same for others.

    It is more blessed to give than receive sure applies here!

  2. I visited a church in Dallas many years ago. They were having a “Friendship Evangelism” seminar. No one spoke to any of us.

  3. John,

    Amen!

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