When I go to church, I am looking at it from the perspective of a new person entering the church. I have a bunch of people in my life that I’d like to invite to church one day. Even as a believer, though, there are times in every church service that are completely awkward.
The few minutes before service. I like to walk in, find a seat, and make myself comfortable. I usually don’t partake in the coffee/tea/snacks because I want to find my seat and get ready for service. Inevitably, someone asks me if I’m new. I find that disconcerting, and frankly a bit annoying. I understand that people are friendly, and I appreciate that. However, labeling someone “new” makes that person feel “new.” Is that really the goal of our gatherings?
The “get up and greet your neighbor” time between the music and the offering/message. If we cut out this awkwardness, we could save 10-15 minutes of time. Let’s be honest. Most people have no boundaries. You may tell the collective us that we have two minutes, but it usually lasts more like 10 minutes. I don’t high-five people; I don’t want to talk. I’m not really a hugger. What I really want is to take the attitude of worship forward into the message that is about to be given. It takes time to mentally prepare to talk to people and then to recover from that meet and greet time.
The “church is over and now what?” time after service. Noone really wants to be the first person to leave an event. Let people know what is going on. “Feel free to grab a cup of coffee. Feel free to leave. If you’re feeling adventurous, fold some chairs.”
I understand that church is a social event. I get it. However, I only have so many free hours in a week. Please value those few hours by streamlining service. Competition is stiff. There are a bunch of churches in the neighborhood that would love to have a new person to pick up some of the work that 20% of their congregation is doing would celebrate a new person joining their congregation.
Instead of doing what we find comfortable as church-goers, we should be thinking about the people who may be entering our churches who don’t know the culture. Our culture is completely inefficient and awkward. If I’m uncomfortable, I can’t imagine how non-believers must feel.