Recently I was worshiping with a church that still uses the “forced meet and greet” where everyone is supposed cheerfully to greet other attendees. Never mind that multiple studies have shown that guest, and many members, hate this part of the service. It ranks right up there with those country churches where the pastor tell guest to “stand up and introduce yourself to us.” Well, at this particular urban church, the Minister who welcomed everyone literally said, “Visitors, we want to make you feel welcome!” I could barely believe my ears. First, he used that world that ministers should never use, “visitors.” This is clear language to tell guest that “you” are not one of “us.”
Second, along with using the “visitor” term, he actually said that the membership “wants to make you feel welcome.” You simply cannot “make” someone feel welcome,
- especially after the guest walked across the parking lot without anyone speaking to him.
- especially after the guest walked into the building and past the greeters who was so busy talker to each other that they neglected all guest who came to worship.
- especially after the guest had to hunt for an order of service, because the greeters did not hand him or her one, and God forbid that the guest has to go to the greeter and ask for an order of service.
- especially after the guest had walked into the sanctuary without anyone speaking to him or her.
- especially after the guest had sat in a pew for ten minutes before the service started and nobody spoke to him or her.
With such an experience, how can the church now, through a forced meet and greet, make these neglected guests suddenly feel welcome. Come on church, you can do better than this and our Lord’s guests deserve better from us!
The truth is that most of the older traditional urban churches are closed and unfriendly. Long-term members rush to visit with other members and greeters do not greet, because they too are talking to other members. Sadly, most pastors do not know this, because they think there congregation is friendly, and it is to the pastor. I suggest to pastor’s that they have “secret worshipers” come over a period of 4-6 weeks and then report back; in fact, some denominations will provide this service. I know that the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, North Carolina provides this service for pastors and churches.
My normal greeting when worshiper at a new church goes something like this, “I am so excited that you and I get to worship Jesus together today!” Recently during a “forced meet and greets,” I said that to a woman, and she smiled at me and said, “That’s the nicest greeting.” I’m not trying to get accolades here, but I am trying to cheerfully redirect attention away from the awkward, forced, and despised “meet and greets” and back to the reason we show up in the first place – to worship the Lord!
What is your favorite greeting to use when attending an unfamiliar church for worship? Please share it.