Considering Greetings

I’ll admit it…I tend to be an overthinker. One of my latest overthinking moments had to do with greetings.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve really been wrestling with greetings. What is the typical greeting in certain situations and what is the most effective/best greeting?

For many years, we have focused on radical welcoming at church, and I think many times we do a great job with that. A friend of mine visited our church for the first time recently and she commented about how welcoming everyone was to her. It makes my heart happy that someone walks through the church doors and with every encounter they feel incredibly welcomed. We’ve had lots of new visitors lately, and I’d like to believe that they’ve each been met with this same radical welcome that she experienced. I sure hope so.

And this is where the overthinking begins…

People come to visit a new church for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of a move/relocation, maybe a new life stage (new baby), maybe a death/loss/divorce, maybe a new diagnosis, maybe a new-found interest in discipleship/faith journey, etc. Lately, we have had several people visiting our church because their churches have voted to disaffiliate. So, knowing that the reasons people come to visit a church are not all positive, I started to wonder how that should impact the greeting they are met with during a radical welcome.

For example, if someone is visiting our church for the first time because their church is disaffiliating, that person MAY be holding feelings of sadness and grief about that. When we give our enthusiastic “It’s so wonderful to have you here!” greeting, I wonder if that’s a bit much for them. That greeting may not be meeting them where they are emotionally.  That greeting may not create space for them to share their story of why they are there (assuming they want to).  In the past I’ve made the assumption that the main emotions someone might walk into a new church with are feelings of anxiety about not knowing how things work in the new church, or maybe feelings of worry about belonging and meeting new people, or feelings of excitement to try something new/start a new journey. After thinking a bit deeper about the bigger spectrum of feelings that people might be walking in with as first-time visitors, I’m going to shift my radical welcome greeting from an overly enthusiastic welcome to a bit more of an even-toned Holy Listening Welcome. I’m imagining that I’ll begin saying something like, “Good morning! Welcome. What brings you to church this morning?”, and then I’m going to create space to listen in case they choose to begin to share part of their story.

Maybe everyone else has already thought about these things before and maybe I’m late to the game here with this. However, this realization I’ve had recently has helped me understand that the grief and sadness and big feelings that first-time visitors may be carrying may be from last Sunday at a different church, last year, or even many years ago as a child. And I do realize that not everyone shows up to a new church with past hurts or grief or sadness, but I wonder if more people are carrying these feelings when they first walk in the door than we realize. The song lyrics from the Semisonic’s “Closing Time” song say, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” which reminds me that someone’s first time at FUMC Hurst, could very well also mark someone grieving their last time at their previous church.

I wonder if I’ve instigated any overthinking in you.

What greeting are you most likely to offer to someone on their first visit to church?

  • The radical welcoming greeting:
    • Good morning! I’m so excited to see you this morning and have you here with us. Welcome!
  • The listening opportunity greeting:
    • Good morning! Welcome. What brings you to church this morning?

And maybe it’s a combination of both.

I also wonder…

Could we begin to get to know each other’s stories a bit more?

Let’s begin asking each other “What first brought you to this church?”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s