For example, I once worked with a seminarian who was constantly explaining things to me like “There’s this amazing scholar named Walter Brueggemann“) as if I not been quoting Brueggemann for 20 years in my sermons. It was a sign to me that she hadn’t noticed who I already was and what I already knew.
In relationships, though, we often need to teach our beloveds how to care for us – even though we wish they could read our minds and just know. Early on in marriage, HH and I had this exchange at the end of a long work day:
Me: What a crappy day. Ugh – traffic, mean people, no break for lunch.
HH: You need to (fill in the blank with a litany of helpful things)
Me: No. This is the moment when you are supposed to say, “Everything’s going to be alright.”
HH: Everything’s going to be alright.
Me: You are the Best HH Ever.
So, here’s the deal:
At the risk of offending all our “friendly congregations” we need to teach people what they are supposed to say when they see another human being at a church event – especially a person they don’t already know.
First you say, “Hi.” You could say, “Hi, my name is ___.” Or you could say, “I’m not sure we’ve met before, but my name is _____.” And then . . .
- Remember their name and introduce them to one of your friends (not to ditch this person, but to genuinely connect him/her to another)
- Ask a real question or make a real comment (“I love your sweater” – if you do; “Have you been part of this church for a long time?”)
- Walk. With. The. Person. To. Coffee. Hour.
- Find out three things about this person. Look the person in the eye and remember.
- (If you are really interested in connecting) Invite the person to join you for something to eat. Maybe a few of you already have plans. But especially if you are going out for brunch, pizza, more coffee, invite this new person.
Our Presbytery Staff is reading Jim & Casper Go To Church which tells the story of Jim Henderson (a Christian) and Matt Casper (an atheist) visiting ten churches during which Matt gives his take on what that congregation seems to be about. One of their top observances is that almost nobody talks to them.
For churches that universally consider themselves to be both “friendly” and “interested in growth” this is a totally strange phenomenon. And I can’t help but agree.
In the past three weeks, I have worshiped with five church communities – most of which I’d never visited before. My communication with most of those I met involved mime:
- Someone silently handed me a bulletin.
- Someone pointed to where I could sit.
- Someone opened an interior door and looked annoyed that I was late.
Nice but no cigar. I am a Myers Briggs Introvert, but I can put myself out there and talk to people. I’m happy to do this, but honestly, it would be great for all our congregations to learn how to greet someone they don’t know. All our congregations need some in-service training on this. Really. “First, look the person in the eye and say, ‘Hi.'”