Observations Made From Inside My Vehicle
You could say I am new to blogging about my church visitations; however, I am not new to visiting churches. Despite being a regular church-hopper, each time I visit a new church, I get a bit nervous. I pull into the church parking lot and look around. I see visitor parking, but I am apprehensive about parking there, but in order to be an active participant, I choose to set my "New Kid" anxiety off to the side and park in the designated visitor parking. Usually I find myself sitting in my car and watching as the regular church-goers enter. This tells me three things right off the bat: 1). Which door should I go through? 2). Am I overdressed? Underdressed? and 3). Should I leave my Bible in the car, or take it in?
Now, to non-church hopping church goers, this information seems almost comical. They may think "Well, isn't it obvious which door to go through?", "God doesn't care what you wear, He just wants you here!", "When in doubt, bring you Bible in". But, to church-hoppers, or those looking for a church home, these questions do matter and can be crucial to the visitor's overall church going experience.
Finding the right door, is important. First time visitors want to know where to go, but how the regulars respond to lost visitors within their church is important to retaining these potential members. I have been to churches where I have mistakenly gone through the wrong door and a church member immediately greeted me with a smile and shown me the way, and I have been to churches where I have wandered a bit turning corners and eventually found my way to the sanctuary for service. Which church are you? Are you the church that seeks out visitors who are turned around, or are you the church that bypasses visitors without even realizing they are new? Signs help visitors in determining where they are going, but greeters are more personal.
Side Topic: GREETERS. Through church-hopping I have met a wide variety of greeters. You have a few types: 1) the greeters who immediately recognize you as new and make you feel welcome, ask you where you live, invite you to their Bible study groups and walk you to the sanctuary, 2) The greeters who look at you with a crooked head almost as if to say "who's that" but never say a word 3). The passive greeters, who hand you a bulletin, say good morning and you walk in- never acknowledging that you are new 4). The greeters who are engaged in conversation with one another and do not ever realize you have walked past them into the sanctuary and 5). The church without greeters. Now, I am not here to judge, but I will say that I have felt the most welcome at churches that have greeters, even if the greeters are members of the church's youth group.
It's 2018, so before attending any church I naturally scope out the church's website. Do they specifically touch on the topic of what to wear? No, I can't find it on this website. Well, surely there are photos that someone uploaded. I can't tell.. is that a photo of the congregation, or is that a stock photo? -- Sitting in my car, I see a 20-something in jeans, a polo and a pair of Nikes. I panic. Am I overdressed? A few moments later, I see a woman in a floral blouse and maroon slacks, which perfectly match the petals of her top. She is well groomed and has a pair of closed-toed black ballet flats. I myself have a floral dress and a pair of close toed block heels. Phew, I think I am adequately dressed.
I bring in my Bible to the church and someone walks up to the podium and says "Today's reading comes from Acts chapter 2 verse 17-21". I begin to turn to Acts, but as I am flipping, the speaker immediately begins reading the words that Peter spoke:
17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
I look around, all eyes are staring at a screen with the scripture written on it. For only a moment, I feel like a fool - out of place. The only one in the room who is scrambling to find the verse. Slowly, I close the book. The speaker is done reading, I didn't really catch any of the reading.
Silly, I know. but these are the novelties that go through the minds of your visitors.