Today’s post is part 1 of a two-part series on things guests wish we knew about them. It’s tough being the outsider looking to connect to a new church and a new Bible study group (many of you have done just that). It’s not easy. In fact, if you’ve been a member of a church and/or a Bible study group for a few years, you’ve most likely forgotten how hard it is to find a church home and a Bible study group to belong to.
Let’s think like a guest. Here are 5 things that guests wished we knew about them and their search for a church home. In my next blog post, I’ll finish this list with 5 more things guests wished we knew about them. If guests could be totally honest, they’d want to say:
1.We are anxious. Visiting a new church can be a harrowing experience. It’s hard to know how to dress (do I dress up or down?), where to park, and which door to enter. Chances are I won’t know your songs of worship, nor will I be as familiar with the Bible as you are. And it seems like everyone in your Bible study group is a Bible expert compared to me.
2.We evaluate everything. The moment we come onto your church campus, we are in “evaluation mode.” Nothing escapes our scrutiny, because little things tell us a lot about you and your congregation. Was there a directional sign pointing me to guest parking? Did a parking lot greeter help me out of the car and into the right building? Was the bathroom clean? Are the preschool classrooms equipped with proper toys and learning aids? Were there enough volunteers? Did things seem chaotic or did the church’s lay leaders know what they were doing? Was there dust on the leaves of that ficus tree in the corner?
3.We feel like outsiders. As friendly as you try to be to me, I’m still the outsider. You have your friendships – it’s apparent because you talk with your friends much more than you do me. I wish I knew your inside jokes – I’d laugh along, too (but for now I’ll just have to listen in). It’s been three minutes since I’ve sat down in the classroom, and so far no one’s introduced themselves. You’re studying what? I don’t have one of those books that your group members seem to have. Ooops – I dressed up and it looks like you’re a pretty casual church. Great.
4.We are hopeful. The reason I’m visiting your church is because I want to connect with you. I need friends. I want a place where I can belong. I even believe I have some gifts and abilities that God might want to use at your church – I hope there’s a place for me to serve. I really want to like your pastor, your people, and your programs.
5.We don’t want to be identified. The one thing you will do to make me feel really uncomfortable is to make me identify myself before I’m ready. Don’t ask me to stand, and don’t ask your congregation to stand while I remain seated – that’s nice, but it’s just awkward. I want to let you know who I am at my own pace. It may take me weeks of visiting your church before I’m ready to give you any of my personal contact information.