Over the last few months, while on maternity leave, I've had occasion to visit a number of churches. It's been interesting since I haven't been church (s)hopping in 12 years (and then I was single with no kids). My intent hasn't been to critique churches, but I can't help but notice certain things along the way. I offer these reflections as a note to myself for future ministry and for whatever it might be worth to those who work/volunteer in the church.
When I was in college, I began attending the campus Intervarsity group. I started going to worship mid-week and when I first showed up, I met one of the key leaders. He was very friendly, "Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?" So I told him my name and that it was nice to meet him.
The next week I went back. Again, he approached me, "Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?" I figured, well, it is only my second time here, it's OK. I liked the worship and the teaching and so I went back again. Week 3, the same thing, "Hi, I"m Jarrod, what's your name?" Not even a glimpse of recognition. It was a decent size group of students, but not enormous and I had met him EVERY week. So it was odd that he didn't even have a minimal memory. I get not everyone does names, but not even a "I think I should know you're name, but I'm not good at remembering."
I really was trying to be part of a faith community and did like the worship, so I went back, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 times. And do you know what happened every time?
"Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?"
Every. single. week. for 10 weeks. After that I started a Bible study with IV and Jarrod still never learned my name. He grew to know my face, but never my name.
Now, I'd grown up in the church, so I cared more about worship and study than my interaction with one guy. But, it was significant that I, seemingly, wasn't memorable (at all) to a key leader. So significant that I remember the story and his name 17 years later...
It is interesting when we visit a church who (if anyone) greets us, and then who (if anyone) remembers us when we go back.
I know church folk can be pretty overwhelming in their effort to greet the newcomer, but in trying to avoid that tendency it seems like of folks have fallen off the opposite edge.
In our recent visits, the church who has done the best at welcoming and remembering us is Pacific Palisades Community Church. We had 5 or 6 people greet us on our first visit, and a good number who remembered us when we came back the following week.
We want to be noticed and welcomed (as opposed to ignored) but we don't want to stick out like a sore thumb. And it is nice when people pay enough attention to remember us when we go back