Yea, but will you give up your pew for me?

All churches think themselves to be friendly. Just ask them and they will tell you! But being friendly to each other is not the same thing as being friendly to guests and newcomers.

Last year my family and I stopped to worship with a church while on vacation. The foyer was abuzz with activity, warm greetings, handshakes and hugs- except for us. There we stood and for quite some time- me, my wife, our two kids (both under four) and my mother-in-law. No one- not exaggerating here- even acknowledged our presence. Finally I grabbed a guy by the arm and asked where our kids should attend Bible class- and he did not know! Yet, if I were to ask someone from this church if they were a friendly bunch the answer would be in the affirmative.

Then there was this church my sister visited with her husband in their community. They approached a glass door which to them seemed to be the main entrance, but it was locked. They knocked and saw people turn to see them through the door, but no one came. They knocked again and were about to search out another entrance when finally someone- with great effort- came and unlocked the door. The first words from this person were not of welcome. My sister and her husband were asked why they tried to come in that door since it was never used. Do you think they ever returned there?

I have a friendlness test for churches- Will members give up their favorite pew for a guest? Once while being the guest speaker at a church, I was actually asked to get up because I was sitting in someone’s spot on the pew!

When guests come into our midst we should never assume they know anything about our church culture and where they need to be and when. We should be extremely sensitive to their needs and help make their worship experience as easy and stress-free as possible from the moment they park their car until the last “amen” is said.

I already know the answer if I were to ask your church if it is friendly. What I really want to know is- will you give up your pew for me?

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19 Responses to Yea, but will you give up your pew for me?

  1. TCS says:

    we don’t have pews. So there!

  2. Donna says:

    I think I already did…

  3. That Girl says:

    Well… I don’t have a pew in the new place! I think I like it that way!

    I visited a “friendly” church and no one spoke until finally a man walking very quickly by us, talking on his cell phone, pointed at another door which led us to the auditorium… hey, thanks buddy!

  4. Larry says:

    “will you give up your pew for me?”

    Surely you jest! I get to the building early so no one beats me to my pew. 🙂

    Unfortunately there are a lot of unfriendly churches around. The singles especially receive little attention when they are visiting.

    There are a lot of cliques in some churches that don’t associate too far outside their little group, and that includes welcoming guests.

  5. We do have pews … unfortunately. Thank you for your call to become a “warmer” place for people to come to. We do need to look and see if we are really sinner (or simply people) friendly.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  6. dannydodd says:

    Over the last couple of years I have participated in a workshop in a church in California and they use chairs in a marvelously designed multi-purpose auditorium. I love it! But boy do they have to move chairs around all the time.

    Thanks for all your comments.

    Bobby mentioned being “sinner friendly”. Interesting choice of words to illustrate this concept- puts another spin on this for me.

  7. Steve Lavin says:

    The effect of a unfriendly church, and conversely, a friendly church can not be overstated. My wife and I visited a cold church before she became a Christian. We did not attempt visiting another church for several months. It took a couple of years, a forgiving spirit and a warm welcome at another church to overcome a bad first impression.

    After visiting a church where we were warmly and immediately greeted, introduced to several people our age, escorted to the nursery for our daughter, then to our own class and told “wait here after class and I will be back to get you.” Sure enough, immediately after class our ‘personal escort’ was waiting for us where he took us back to the nursery and then to the auditorium all while continuing to introduce us to more people. My wife became a Christian within 10 days of visiting that church. I learned that Christians don’t necessarily have to travel outside their own walls to win converts for Christ. I thank God for one very special ‘greeter’ who never suspected the impact that they made that day on a young couples life or the kingdom of God.

  8. dannydodd says:

    Wow! What a vivid illustration, Steve. It says it all.

    Hey, I really would like to give that greeter a hug for helping Michelle become my sister!

  9. Donna says:

    That is great Steve. I was going to add to what Larry said that it is harder when you are by yourself (which is another form of single) it is almost like people don’t want to approach you when you are by yourself.

    But we need to ready to do our part when we see someone standing or sitting alone…

  10. dannydodd says:

    Larry and Donna make an excellent point. I once witnessed a single mom actually get up and leave after her and her young child were ignored by all the people laughing and visiting around her. I literally had to chase her down the hall. She had the deer in the headlights look. It had taken all the courage she had just to come and no one had extended her a welcome.

    It wasn’t that the people at that church intentionally had ignored her. They were great folks, but just not sensitive enough on that day.

    Donna said it, “we need to do our part when we see someone standing or sitting alone.”

  11. teresa lewis says:

    Here in Wichita the local newspaper sends out a “mystery visitor” to a different church every week and then posts the results in the paper.

    Talk about a wake-up call!

  12. dannydodd says:

    Hey Teresa, I like that paper. That would keep us all on our toes- especially if we viewed every guest as the “mystery visitor.”

    Have they visited with your church yet?

  13. Matt Dabbs says:

    I was once at church and some guys in their early 20s came in with earrings and not dressed up. One elder went up to them and told them they needed to leave. Maybe he knew or saw something I didn’t but it shocked me.

    Thanks for the thoughts. John Dobbs pointed me your way and I look forward to reading more. Gateway is a good church. We used to go to the Fricker (sp?) center to work with the kids. Now we are just down the coast in St. Pete. God bless

  14. Karen says:

    We’re in the midst of a search for a new church. One thing we’ve noticed out here in Cali-foreign-ia is how prevalent the lack of welcome and hospitality is in most places we’ve visited. Very few people in the churches we’ve visited have recognized us as newcomers/visitors and stopped to speak to us. Until the place we are currently visiting, that is. We’ve had several folks stop to talk to us for more than 5 seconds. No invites for lunch out after church yet, but I’m thinking that’s just this part of the world, too.

    Do Joe and Sandy Renshaw still attend Gateway? Joe was one of our shepherds when we lived in Ft. Walton Beach.

  15. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for stopping by Matt- and welcome. Glad our pal JD directed you my way. Your input will always be welcome. Strange about that elder asking those guys to leave.

    Hi to you too, Karen. Thanks for your post too. The only church I have attended in the big CA is in Fresno and they were super-friendly, but that may have been because I was a guest speaker.

    The Renshaws do not attend Gateway and as well as I can remember I have not met them, but I will ask around.

  16. […] Friendly Churches … Via Dodd […]

  17. Trey Morgan says:

    Great thought. Great test for any church. I’m sure there would be a few who would never give up their pews here. One who has been asked to be buried with their pew.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  18. dannydodd says:

    LOL Trey! Being buried with a pew- that is a commentary on something for sure.

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