You never know what will strike a nerve in the blogosphere. A blog post I wrote Saturday went viral, and the comments, discussion, and debate are still taking place at that post.
It was really a simple article. I did a Twitter poll (not scientific, I assure you) asking first-time church guests what factors made them decide not to return. I listed the top ten in order of frequency.
The surprise factor was the number one issue. Many first-time guests really don’t like the time of stand and greet one another that some churches have. According to the Twitter responses and comments on the post, many guests really don’t like it, so much so that they will not return.
So what is it about this stand and greet time that many guests don’t like? Here are the seven most common responses, again listed in order of frequency.
- Many guests are introverts. “I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time.”
- Some guests perceive that the members are not sincere during the time of greeting. “In most of the churches it should be called a stand and fake it time. The members weren’t friendly at all except for ninety seconds.”
- Many guests don’t like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time. “Look, I’m not a germaphobe, but that guy wiped his nose right before he shook my hand.”
- Many times the members only greet other members. “I went to one church where no one spoke to me the entire time of greeting. I could tell they were speaking to people they already knew.”
- Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise is awkward. “Nowhere except churches do we have times that are so awkward and artificial. If members are going to be friendly, they would be friendly at other times as well. They’re not.”
- In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another. “So the pastor told us to tell someone near us that they are good looking. I couldn’t find anyone who fit that description, so I left and didn’t go back.”
- Not only do some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members. “I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us liked.”
There are some pretty strong comments at the other post, and not all of them are negative about a stand and greet time. But apparently many guests really don’t like the exercise.
Should churches that have a stand and greet time continue to do so? Is it more negative than positive, or vice versa? Does your church have this activity? How do you feel about it? I look forward to your responses.
Posted on November 3, 2014
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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At our church, the greeting time is a core value and an important part of our service. Several years ago, the church actually decided to remove some seating to better facilitate people’s circulation through the sanctuary at greeting time! It is not just a “greet those around you” time. It is a full five minutes of moving through the sanctuary and greeting in the name of Christ. Members of the worship team come down off the stage while the pianist remains and plays (and people always come up to greet her, too, while she’s playing). The pastor, all of the kids, and everyone in between joins in this time of fellowship.
One of the most remarkable things about our greeting time is observing how new attenders engage in it. At their first service, they usually stand in place while others come to greet them. Within a few Sundays, they are greeting those around them. Soon, they are fully engaged in walking through the sanctuary, and we know they are feeling connected and a part of the congregation.
I do agree that the greeting time would not be as successful if visitors were not also given a warm welcome when they enter the church and another when they leave. We have greeters before the service who are welcoming without being too “in your face” and the pastor and his wife stand at the door to say good-bye following the service as well.
This past week we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. So I asked our church family to focus on welcoming the LORD into this service rather than ‘welcome’ one another. I reminded them of the reverence for which we were preparing ourselves. Can you guess what happened after the opening prayer? Some of our congregants either were not listening to this pastor’s plea or they were going to welcome one another either way. It is sometimes difficult to get disciples to filter out all the religious and rote activities from their lives and worship as we strive to get them to devote themselves to the LORD first and foremost.
When as a lost person I visited a church I felt really welcomed when people would come introduce themselves and shake my hand and welcome me to church. I visited two churches and the first one did it but no one really seemed very welcoming when they did it and the second one did. I got saved at the second church and have been a member ever since. We recently stopped doing it for some unknown reason and I miss it. I feel a personal connection is a very good way to show the love of Christ.
That’s helpful. Thanks, Vickie.
So how do we do the right thing. I read all these comments and each appears to have merits and issues. No matter what we do we will make some happy and welcome….others alienated. One gets saved….another never comes back. Maybe the overall “personality” of the congregation determines it.
For me, this is the least uplifting part of the church service (well, maybe the announcements are there too, especially if these are anywhere but the end of the service). If it is absolutely necessary, do it at the very beginning of the service as the band/pianist/organist/whatever musicians starts to play. The service host/worship leader can say something along the lines of “As we begin our time of worship, if you haven’t already done so take a moment to greet those around you.” The meet-and-greet after a song or two disrupts the hard work the worship leader has to do to set the table for the message and get the congregation’s hearts and minds on God. Just my 2 cents (from a former worship leader/executive pastor).
I wonder whether we are framing the question such that “stand and greet time” is seen as something cultural rather than liturgical. That might be an extreme of terminology, but how many times does Paul close his letters by telling the readers to greet people? We do not go to church in isolation, we go WITH our local gathering of believers. Certainly, people will greet their friends automatically when they see them, but there’s something about greeting the people who aren’t necessarily in your social circle but who ARE gathered with you for corporate worship.
On the other hand, I wonder if “stand and greet time” has become a watered down version of “passing the peace,” leading to its losing its liturgical/spiritual meaning.
Good question, Eric.
Interesting point John. From reading the post and the comments, I see two needs that are perhaps being conflated with each other. One is to greet visitors and make them feel welcome in ways that are not overbearing. The other is to include in the liturgy/worship service a way to communicate that we need to be reconciled with each other and with God. I am not sure the “meet and greet” during the service necessarily accomplishes the latter. I experienced one variation on this in an Orthodox church that was very powerful. At the time of the peace, the priest came down from the altar and greeted the first person in each row with a ritualized exchange (in this case, a kiss on each cheek and a greeting of peace) and then that person turned and “passed the peace” to the person next to them. To me this symbolized that the peace comes from the altar and is intentional that it is a part of the service.
We don’t have a “stand and greet time”, or a greeter, but when we enter the sanctuary, each of us walk around and greet our members. New members are also mentioned by the pastor. Its an option.
I never tire of saying, “May Christ’s Peace be with you!” When the reply comes, “and, with you”, it brings joy. Christ is here with us, He is the one doing the blessing.
And also: Christ is born! Glorify Him! or Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Liturgical greetings are lovely. I started doing liturgical greetings even when I was Evangelical because it just seemed to make more sense in the context of a church service than “how’s is going?” “Going alright.”
Because this poll was conducted on your twitter account, I assume that most respondents are “churched” people. I wonder if they are a little more critical of churches because they are familiar with them. Someone who isn’t quite so familiar with church might not be as opinionated about what happens during a service. I’m not sure. Either way, I’m curious what you would advise a church of our size to do. We have about 100 people on Sunday mornings and we are a pretty close body of believers. Our greeting time isn’t just a thirty second handshake with those on either side of you. People actually walk around the room to shake hands with as many people as they can – and those who are especially comfortable with each other will hug. I believe that many of the people in our congregation are sincerely kind and genuinely care about one another and our visitors. Many go out of their way to welcome guests. I guess my question is – do we get rid of the greeting time just in case we have a visitor show up who is uncomfortable with it? Or keep it because those that are members of our body love the opportunity to hug and greet one another – like a normal family does after not seeing each other for several days? Even if a visitor doesn’t care for it, doesn’t it still communicate to them that we are a group of people that love each other? (I suppose it depends what the greeting time looks like. In our church it does not look like what many of your poll responders described). We have visitors every week so it’s important to me that we are doing everything we can to connect with them.
The respondents were pretty evenly divided between Christians and non-Christians.
I always conveniently walk out for five minutes during handshake time. I was unable to do that today, stuck in between two ladies. I noticed after we shook hands, the lady next to me put on hand sanitizer, so I did too, then the other lady did too. My mom calls it hypocrisy, but no, it’s just courtesy, how can you tell people no I don’t do handshakes at church, it wouldn’t make sense.
Our church greet time was 10 timed minutes of walking around and shaking hands with the admonishment from the pulpit to “shake hands because you are friendly.” This greeting time replaced the old prayer and praise time in which people would share their prayer requests or give a praise report of answered prayer. During flu season my husband and I were particularly stressed out over this lengthy greeting time and finally decided to quietly ask people who came over to just nod their head in greeting. We even shared our main concern. Our daughter was on chemo. We were suppose to isolate ourselves and her from germs for months at a time. Yet we felt the need for the spiritual strength received at church so we would leave her home and go to church. We did not walk around but if someone came to greet us we told them the above as kindly as possible trying not to hurt their feelings yet fully expecting them to understand our situation and our hesitancy at shaking hands, or hugging and kissing. Each person we spoke to was mad or offended. Some told us off and accused us of being unchristian. After this experience I view this practice as a just habit by parishioners and a time filler by the pastor.
I’ve served in churches over the years where the order of service is rather different in arrangement. One of the things I noticed is the break in the worship set for “meet and greet” is also the same place where other churches do public Scripture reading and pastoral prayer.
I would be interested in knowing if churches who do “meet and greet” in their services also set aside time for Scripture reading and corporate prayer. I don’t want to add fuel to the argument, but I would make a case that Scripture reading and pastoral prayer are more biblically faithful in liturgy and can also appeal to new people.
For example, we read from Scripture out of the same “pew Bible” guests have in front of them. We invite them to use it, telling them what page number it is on (in case they have never opened a Bible). We also tell them that if they don’t have a Bible of their own, we would gladly request that they take the Bible home and make it their own as a gift from our church. From the consistent re-ordering of Bibles, it seems to be appealing to non-Christians and new people who attend our services.
We do have an informal “meet and greet” after the services in two locations for new people to connect with us, but we use what I call a “velcro team” to help make that happen. Velcro helps things stick, and a velcro team is a group of volunteers who are assigned first-time guests that day (rather covertly) and are stationed where they can naturally make contact with a guest after the service and walk with them to the connection centers, help them find a small group, pray with them, meet a pastor, etc. The velcro team has proven to be one of the most important and ministerially impactful group of volunteers on the “front lines” of caring for new people in a respectful and yet hospitable way.
Thanks, Tim. I would live to hear a discussion on your comments. Great information!
Insightful comments & great ideas, Tim.
From one who is in search of a new church, due to a move, this visiting thing is right in my face! I love this Velcro idea! It is greeting but unobtrusively. I am a Christian but I LOVE the idea of encouraging those that don’t have a bible to take one!!!! I do find the meet and greet time uncomfortable and I’ve been in church for years! After 30 seconds or so you find yourself standing there alone, awkwardly, while church members wander all over the church.
Thanks for that perspective, Debbie.
Tim, we do all 3 of those elements in the service. Corporate prayer has also been put on the chopping block in some quarters because “guests won’t know what to do” during those times. As with the turn and greet time. . I think it’s better to just show guests “what we do” in those cases and invite them into what we’re already doing.
It is true that there’s a lack of depth in the shorter greet time. But, we’re not really going for alot of depth there. We’re sharing “the peace of Christ” with the person next to us, and that it all for that moment in the service. Like I said earlier, some folks haven’t been touched, physically, all week, and haven’t had anyone say “hi” to them. Certainly many of us have not had anyone share “Christ’s peace” with us in a given week. I think it’s a good idea if you have a greet time without all of the cheesy set ups and relativizing of an important liturgical moment.
Tim, thanks so much for these insights. I am a brand new youth minister at my church (as of June 2014), and I am wondering if you had any insights into scaling something like what your church does down to a church that hovers around 200 or less on Sunday morning, and there are a lot of related people in it. I do find our meet and greet time super awkward, but then again, I always have at every church I’ve attended in the past. Right now, we don’t have a small group ministry going on, which I think would be great to have, but since I’m the youth/children guy, and I’m also brand new to this whole thing, so any suggestions and insights would be welcomed! Thank you.
Our church is actually about the same size as yours (depending on the season). I’m assuming you are referring to how I set up the velcro team? If so, here’s how I do it in case you want to give it a try.
Because I know our membership and regular attenders, I can spot first-time guests relatively easily. I try to roam the sanctuary for 10 minutes prior to the service just to hug necks, small chat, and make sure the ushers and what have you are in place. By the time the service starts, I already have a good idea who is new.
Our seating is fanned out. We have six sections of seating. So I created a chart of the seating, noting where all the guests are seated with a brief annotation for each guest(s) (e.g., section 2, back row, family of 4). Once I have completed the notes/annotations, I take a picture of my chart and text it to our velcro team leader who “dispatches” our velcro team members to the assigned guests, also via text.
Texting is not exactly the best way I suppose of doing this, but it is discreet and our team knows to expect to receive their assignment by the time of preaching starts.
The team members (and their family sometimes) will make it their goal to connect with the guest assigned to them while in the sanctuary, politely engage them, and ask if they could assist them in getting connected to our church. They even help fill out the connection card (sometimes folks handwriting it too poor to make out their info).
Granted, there are guests who simply want to slip in and slip out with no desire to talk to anyone, and we do not try to force it. But there are others who are either introverted, shy, or just new to a church environment and don’t know what to do or where to go if they have questions or need help. We make it our point to eliminate that awkwardness and uneasiness by going to them in natural ways and creating easy pathways to next steps (meet a pastor, get info on a small group, pray with them, follow up with the message, counsel if there is a need, lead them to Christ, etc.).
FWIW, we typically average 10-20 first-time guests a Sunday with 50-80 regular attenders (not members) in morning service. I have 8-10 Velcro team members who help us with this.
I hope that helps a little in seeing how I set that up.
What a great observation, Tim! Not to sound pious nor to encourage spiritual arrogance of any kind, but I personally feel a strong sense of conviction that Scripture and prayer ferry more value to the hearts and souls of both the lost AND the found in corporate worship.
With that in mind, I concur with the suggestion to encourage churches to substitute Scripture reading in place of their unstructured greeting time. Everyone should be encouraged (with practiced excellence; no awkward game show improvisations, please) to read aloud, whether they believe, or not. The power of the Spirit to soften hearts through the words of Scripture can’t be overestimated when compared to the extremely minimal and random effect of verbalizing Christ’s peace, albeit a great encouragement between disciples.
Wow, that to me is a great effort at servanthood by your church. I’ve always enjoyed feeding kids before church, especially bus riders who may not have anything at home. Your bible program is a great way to provide for newcomers (spiritually feeding) AND I’m sure is seen as genuinely generous.
I was pondering a casual greeting time before or after the service, and how much more comfortable and genuine that may be for a newcomer (also it’s not OBLIGATORY on their part), when I stumbled upon your post.
I personally don’t care for “meet and greet” during the service. It’s so awkward, and I have never made long term relationships through that time, either as a member or a newcomer.
thank you for that post Tim. I think a good Twitter poll would be SBC pastors have you ever heard of the regulative principle of worship?
I am not saying shaking hands greeting can’t fit within a regulative principle view but I don’t think many give any thought to it.
I also struggle with seeing what takes place of scripture reading and prayer in many instances. I have been in churches were there was regular public reading of the word apart from sermon yet when there is special children’s music or a testimony or some other special time I then notice that the scripture reading has been dropped to fit it in presumably.
My guess that the meet and greet was included as an attempt to create a formal way of doing greetings in services. As Dr. Rainer mentioned, I do think they probably present more problems than they do solve the need to for hospitality.
If there is a gospel culture in the church, a generous and gracious disposition will be present informally among the members. I think that is the better way than the somewhat coerced “meet and greet.” If members are taught to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom 15:7), then the hospitality and fellowship will simply be the outworking or overflow of people who are living in the good of the gospel. In other words, treating new people will be an intentional way of commending the gospel as those who have been accepted by God. The most qualified people to engage first-time visitors are not necessarily the most outgoing or gregarious but rather who are experiencing and enjoying grace. After all, I think that is what beat-down sinners and worn-out legalists need the most.
Good thoughts from everyone … I think the “meet and greet” time can be effective if placed properly. For example, Tim, your connection time after service.
We open our services with a few announcements, followed by a time of greeting each other before we head into our first song. We do have Scripture reading and corporate prayer in the service.
I also think each church has a personality, and it matters what you do based on the personality of your church. The church I pastor is small and familial, and we have visitors almost every Sunday who, from the moment they enter the door, are greeted warmly and welcomed/ushered to the right SS class or talked to as they find a seat for the service.
The personality of our church is warm, friendly, and familial. The “meet and greet” time is really just an extension of this. It’s already happening.
I’ve had feedback from visitors (comment cards and letters sent), and the overwhelming response has been “Thank you for making us feel so welcome!”
At Shiloh, we talk, plan, and pray around personal relationship. Our goal is to provide a place of Welcome (The Door of Welcome) as the first step into our cycle of Discipleship.
It works for us, because we are cultivating our personality. Instead of pushing people to a fake 30 seconds with visitors, we are building on the warmth and vitality that really is already the foundation of our relationship with our community.
I really thought it was only me who felt stand and greet was awkward. I’m a student pastor and by the time the service starts I’ve already had an opportunity to greet guests and talk with them. I wonder if stand and greet has become an easy answer for churches looking to be “friendly” instead of it happening outside service times. I’m sure there are many churches that are genuine in it, but I would be curious what most churches do outside of this time to connect with guests.
That’s a good question, Paul.
Paul . . . Even as a very small church, we have greeters at the door to welcome people when they arrive & ensure they get a bulletin (which has the order of service on the front & an invitation to join us for a time of fellowship immediately following the service in the rear of our meeting hall; a “word” from the Pastor inside; along with the weekly ministry activities & opportunities & the prayer list on the back) . . . I also try to greet to every guest prior to the service briefly & tell them I hope they’ll be able to stay for our fellowship time following the service so I can get to know them a little better & answer any questions they have . . . Following the service we ask guests to fill out a guest card so we can have a record of their time with us . . . We use that information to have someone in the congregation send a personal hand written note thanking them for choosing to worship with us & inviting them to join us again . . .
I’m a big proponent of this time in the service. Historically, it was known as the “passing of the peace”, so we “greet one another with the peace of Christ, or in the peace of Christ”.
I think, liturgically, it’s significant if we set it up that way and not in a cheesy way.
But, also, . . I’ve heard the arguments from introverts, etc. . (I am one), and I”ve just seen the other side. Most of the time when someone has a good comment about church welcomeness, or “I met someone”, it comes from this time. Some people who live alone or in a senior center may not have been touched all week in a warm way. This might be the first time in the week anyone has said “hi” to them. We had some homeless folks that were in this position. As a worship leader, you would also notice the marked difference in singing and engagement after this time. It’s kind of like it gave everyone an excuse to talk to each other for a moment 🙂 and then inhibitions came down. I think the benefits outweigh the risks of awkwardness.
Thanks for the perspective, Aaron.
If the person does not like a small class should we only have large classes?
If the person want the pastor wearing a tie / not wearing a tie, do we change?
Yes it is important to make church comfortable for the visitor or the lost… we need to make them welcomed the best we can. But it will never be easy, just like walking into the first grade room for the first time… Church is different than the world and becoming more different each day. Not because the church is changing so much but because the world is pulling further and further away. Sadly many think the worship service should mirror the world, but isn’t that wrong, isn’t the church different than the world. The hungry are coming to church for something they can not get in the world, the church being the fellowship of followers of Christ… Just think we need to be careful of changing something everything someone says ouch. By the way, meet and greet times are tough for me, I have had to learn to step out of my comfort zone. It has helped me meet new friends, seeking those who seem uncomfortable and making them welcomed…. maybe we should teach our people to be seekers?
Aaron & Reginald . . . Both insightful . . . We are a very small church & we stand & greet each Sunday . . . As the pastor I set the stage & the tone for that time of greeting by what is said immediately before it . . . It is a great opportunity to remind people of the need for community & relationship; that we have not gathered for an insulated & isolated individual experience but a collective connection with God & each other as the Body of Christ . . . Having been criticized for both wearing a coat & tie & not wearing a coat & tie I have become a firm proponent of not trying to meet every personal agenda that people come through the door with, in order to avoid being considered “offensive” . . . In this age of seemingly “perpetual offense” we must be careful that our decisions don’t encourage people to hold onto their narcissistic preferences to the detriment of the whole, rather than encouraging them to “prefer others better than themselves” . . .
Having or not having a “stand and greet time” has nothing to do with mirroring the world or preparing people for worship or compromising the Bible, as if doing away with it somehow gives Satan a foothold in the church. It is not a doctrinal issue, it is simply about personal preference. Personaly, I could take it or leave it. I shake plenty of hands and greet plenty of people before and after the service. However, in this era of people looking for authenticity in the church, telling people from the pulpit to “stand and greet” is anything but authentic.
I don’t believe people respond well to being “told” to do any activity in church services… i.e. stand and greet, tell the person next to you “_______,” now clap, give the Lord a “clap offering,” and the list goes on and on. The feeling is on of manipulation. Spontaneous responses are compelling and obvious – they touch the heart and say inside that “Wow, look what God is doing.” Manipulated or coerced actions can be more for the benefit of those leading and wanting to see a visual response. I think the leaders usually have good intention and motives… however, more is often lost than gained. I think this is even more true for men… women may take it all in stride or enjoy it… but men?!? Could this be part of the reason many men don’t like to go to church? By the way, I have been in ministry over 25 years in Baptist settings where all of these things have been experienced… and usually done away with over time. Why not simply encourage leaders (and yourself as a pastor) to spend time before and after the service meandering, visiting, “touching,” hugging, laughing, praying for others, etc.
I used to be an introvert but knowing that we have that time of greeting old friends and new / first timers, I’ve become more outgoing and has led me to be more bold in sharing my faith outside the church. David F. Scholl
I agree with Aaron. It’s NOT just a “stand up and greet” time, although that’s what it has become in most churches. I think we need to talk about the role this part plays theologically and liturgically and reframe it to (possibly) what its original intents might have been.
Thanks to these posters–I find this thread of comments helpful. As member or regular attender of several churches in different cities for a few years apiece, I have long loathed the seemingly universal “stand and greet” portion of services. Too short to have a meaningful exchange, and very disruptive of whatever engagement with music/scripture/sermon had been taking place. The result has always felt very contrived, and generally made me feel less connected to the people sitting around me than I otherwise would. If I know them well, then cramming a forced acknowledgement into a 3-minute (or is it going to be 5 minutes? Should I go ahead and ask how their mother is?) window feels like practice for interacting in a controlled, structured, shallow way. If I don’t know them well, or at all, then any warmth that might be conveyed from a handshake and hello is robbed of genuineness by the mutual knowledge that “the pastor made me do it.” That said, I think there would be value, in a liturgical/theological sense, in sort of ritually linking ourselves so that we can worship and engage with God corporately–something akin to the lighting of candles that takes place during many Christmas services, or holding hands while singing the benediction. I think what makes those things good to me is that they are not at all about engaging with one another, but about joining together to engage with God. So, in conclusion, I think stand-and-greet is a terrible and counter-productive way to try to build community, or sow the seeds of meaningful relationships, but there might be a (less faux-personal and interactive) way to do it that would actually enhance worship.
Very good insights Jordan. Meaningful connection pointed in the right direction.
My Episcopalian church doesn’t exactly a stand and greet time. That has spontaneously evolved into a stand, walk around for five minutes, and greet everyone in the nave, both sides, from front to back time. And I, an introvert, love it. I think we do a good job of including strangers; I can see how it might be too much contact for a few people. It is certainly not “controlled, structured.” If anything, it may be a little too chaotic, but we’re working as a parish on embracing the messiness of life.
I notice that some of these objections are contradictory: one the one hand some people feel they as visitors were left out, but on the other some visitors who didn’t want so much contact were put off.
I agree it is a time where others in the Church can reach out welcoming them and letting them know they are wanted.
I agree with Aaron. I am a relatively new pastor (6 months), and the meet and greet time has been a very helpful tool for learning names and making connections.
That said, I think our church would benefit from understanding the liturgical/worship component more clearly. We don’t do meet and greet simply to be nice, though that is important, but to remind ourselves that one of the central tasks of the church is fellowship and community. In other words, meet and greet isn’t simply hang out time, it’s teaching time (teaching by doing). But the teaching component of meet and greet would be more effective if we occasionally reminded our congregation of why we do it.
You do that before and after worship — not DURING worship ! Worship is for God – that is why you are there !!!
EXACTLY! Make it a priority to have a solid greeting program and to have lots of opportunities for fellowship before and after the service! Not DURING worship.
Why don’t you take the time and find out who your registered bretheran are and make an appt. to go around the neighborhoods where they live and introduce yourself? Our priest; yrs. back; many more congregants then, did that!
God rest his soul; no one has done it since and now, there is a shortage of Catholic priests and we have 1 young priest for 2 Catholic Churches.
Too bad they don’t import/invite some English speaking Fillipino priests into these dioceases where the priests are needed.
The way you describe it and the way it is done in many non-liturgical fellowships is REALLY different. We are told, “Turn around and greet someone you don’t know,” and that is like a bad ice breaking activity. Given a piece of liturgy to make the service more interactive is different.
As far as greeting homeless people or other newcomers, I think it is more effective to have a “meet and greet” team or some such group of people who have a desire to welcome total strangers. There are also other methods that I have seen churches instigate that have drawn newcomers in, but I have yet to hear of anyone giving a testimony that they were drawn to a fellowship with a mindless handshake from a total stranger. Being asked who they are during the coffee hour though . . . .
I have never been drawn by the meet and greet time, especially when urged to by a song leader or other person up on the stage. It makes one feel like a kindergarten kid in a room full of adults. Social times and fellowship should not be forced on strangers as there are always those among us who will take advantage of meeting and talking at the appropriate time, not coerced. The former is genuine while the latter seems phony.
Most churches are a social event anyway. People chat before and after the service and sometimes during. Why do you need even more?
Thanks, Mark for the input.
Thom, interesting article. Thank you.
We stopped this activity years ago for a lot of those reasons mentioned. Plus we wanted our focus to remain on worshipping God, and this was just a lot of distraction. We didn’t announce we were removing it, and no one mentioned missing it.
In the Episcopal and other Catholic churches its referred to as exchanging the sign of peace. It is a beautiful gesture but it is not required. People get over yourselves. If it bothers you just don’t do it.
There is a big difference between passing the peace and the “stand and greet” practiced in Protestant Churches. The practice mentioned in this post refers to saying hello and having conversation with the people around you after worship has begun. It’s like bringing the idle conversation from the Narthex before service into the midst of a worship service.
No, it’s really the same thing. The pastor may say “May the peace of the Lord be with you,” but after (or instead of) saying that, people chat….with those they know and are comfortable greeting, for the most part. I’m a huge proponent of greeting newcomers, but that’s an awkward time to really converse.
We are a Protestant Church – United Church is Canada and we practice the Passing of Peace. It is a beautiful time – often the only physical contact some folks will get in a week. If we are intensional to really see the new comer and extend a genuine authentic sharing, we can never go wrong!
I disagree! I was brought up 12 yrs. in a catholic school taught by nuns; just before Vatican 2 came to be.
I got confused; left the Church; through prayers of others, I returned and I do my Vatican 1′ prior to the stuff they do now in Mass. God forbid, should anyone touch me; while I’m wearing my mantilla and kneeling and praying during the :kiss of peace!”.
You want to say howdy; do it before you go into Mass, or after the Mass is said; outside in the vestibule; not during Mass. Mass is thanking and asking God to help us. Not for visiting and ignoring His wishes.
Agree, Maura, I’m there to talk to God, not my neighbor. Leave me to it.
Thats so true!! I use to feel uncomfortable at the peace sign,and you can catch colds etc that way too. I go to a Latin mass now were that isn’t done,its not nice to chatter in a service when worshiping God.
No, this is different than “exchanging peace” which happens in the middle of the Mass. This stand and greet is before the start of the Mass and it is nothing but distraction and annoyance, a fake effort of “building a community”. Aren’t we already a community of God’s children and members of the Body of Christ -the Church?
The comment “Many guest are introverts” is confusing and may be misleading. Is many a majority? I would suspect that the church sees a cross section of personality types as guests very similar to the types found in society and so be careful we do not make a rash decision because of a few tweet comments. Maybe the introverts are more likely to tweet being the introvert they are and the data / feedback is skewed.
So what do we do? Continue to remove doing something because a certain segment doesn’t like it or feels uncomfortable? What of the extrovert that is dying for interaction?
I think we need to be careful to react to a very small population that may tweet a certain response during a one time request or comment.
Our church does not do such a greeting BUT I know a few very robust and growing churches that do this and it seems to be very helpful.
We need to know our community and reach out well and trust the spirit and not be afraid to try and fail and learn and do something else.
Several years ago, my UU church conducted a session on Myers-Briggs that included an introversion-extroversion test. There were, perhaps 40 people attending, and I would say 30 tested introverted. I think that’s generally the case in UU churches.
I am an extrovert and yet I hate the “meet and greet” at the beginning of a service. It’s entirely contrived – people do it because they are told to, period. There is no way to form a relationship in the scant few seconds it takes to shake hands and say, “good morning”… that’s what social hour after church is for. It’s disruptive to the reverence that I think belongs to gathering to worship God because it turns attention once again to ourselves and our neighbor instead of where it should be during the church service.
these findings have little meaning if there are no stats given for race. There should be a crosstab for race and “meet and greet variable. At this point, the findings cant be used universally about the whole church. Can you provide crosstabs between different races and “meet and greet section of church”? I bet, the findings will be different.
Did you not read the article which stated this was not a scientific study !!?????
Not a fan but did participate in something beautiful in Maui. After the ceremonial entrance and prior to the sign of the Cross, the celebrating Priest asked everyone to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves. It was a quick exchange of names; consisting of a moment in time, 30 seconds or so.
The Mass and sign of the Cross commenced. I had a wonderful feeling of family as I (we) prayed.
I personally loathe the stand and greet time. For all the reasons I have seen listed, shyness, the insincerity, the awkwardness, the nasty hands I have had to shake. I have literally quit going to services because I hate it so badly. I go to Sunday School/small group and then leave. And I would like to make more connections at church but after going to church for years, I have never made a more than fleeting connection during the “stand & greet” and usually it is just a time to stand there and feel awful. I would jump for joy if my church did away with it.
Can you not see the irony in your post darlene? You would like to make connections at church but Heaven forbid that you might have to shake “nasty hands”. Community is messy. If you want some kind of clean relationships that are always easy, simple, and go just as you planned you may want to reconsider whether it is really people you want relationships with.
Shaking hands is not making connections because everyone is waiting for it to be over. Besides the music is too loud because the musicians are given the chance to jam for three minutes. I purposely look for people I don’t know assuming they are visitors and too often discover they’ve been attending for years! That’s just Big-churchitis. The meet and greet is ineffective in big gatherings.
That was kind of harsh. I think you missed Darlene’s point that she was not making connections even though she is involved in smaller meetings. I have never made any lasting connections through a meet and greet. Community does not have to be messy if it is from a sincere desire to create it rather than use a superficial gesture and call it a day.
Yes it is- and it does nothing for the reverence in the sanctuary nor for the worship service !
It is important to greet everyone, members or not. Visitors like it when they are greeted at the front door, handed a bulletin and shown the way into the Sanctuary. As a greeter at our church, I find that this is the best way.
I am a member of a Baptist church in Central Texas. Baptist churches have taken on this “practice” over the past few years. Personally, I despise it. We have a greeting ministry that is for the same purpose as Robert mentioned above, but they overdo it. We have greeters out on the street, then greeters at the entrance to the church, then greeters inside the entrance to the church, then more greeters down the hall. I have started to go to an entrance where I will only be greeted once. I do not have a problem with greeting someone when they first arrive, but I get tired of running the “greeting gauntlet” when I get there. Then, we have the time at the first of the service where we stand and greet everyone. We generally have an organ prelude, then a choir anthem, and then a hymn, and then the pastor makes his opening remarks – welcome to *** church – if you are a visitor, etc. etc. We are here to build a community, etc. So find someone you don’t know and say hello to them. Wake up people. The service has already started – people have begun to focus on the service, and then we all have to stand up, get loud and greet people? Some members walk all over the sanctuary to greet people and then once the music starts for the next hymn, it is sometimes like trying to herd cattle to get them back in their seats and then to focus back on the service. I sit in the balcony in a corner away from most people so I don’t have to participate in this. Often, I just go down the stairs to the stairway landing until that nonsense is over. This is not the same as “Passing the Peace” as is found in some Lutheran and Episcopal services. It is “How are you doing – good to see you – how bout them Cowboys? -kind of thing. I have an acquaintance that is a priest in an Anglican church. I asked him if they ever did anything like that in their service and he looked mortified. He said no, that once the service began it was and should be all about Christ and not visiting with friends. My wife sings in our choir – she knows all of the people around her – who is she going to greet? It just looks stupid. If you have to have this greeting, then do it at the very FIRST of the service. Have the prelude, and then have the minister come up and say that we are glad you are here -take a moment and greet those around you and then our service will begin. That way it is done and does not interrupt the remainder of the service.
What a sad response. I could never get enough hugs and hand shakes. Most first timers come to church for the people connection. Okay, so you aren’t big on the human touch.Most people are. Just ignore us you’ll do fine.
Whether a person likes to meet or greet or not is a personal preference and there are many people here expressing their preference one way or another. I do find it curious that the most judgmental comments here are those who get snarky with people who do not like the meet and greet. They are allowed to be the people God made them, and express their opinions as such.
If we are talking hygiene how crazy if you are His you are the blood and body of Christ which means you are well and covered by Jesus just as He is. If we are talking hand shaking making you sick we are talking neurotic and believe you should be prayerfully asking for help with your problem. If you can’t shake someone’s hand don’t be a greeter!
We are the body of Christ who want to get to know and welcome new people into our Church after all we are brother’s and sister’s in Christ not a high school click! Stop offending by thinking your are better than or not part of: you are a child of God with an open heart to those who are saved and unsaved just get over yourself and walk and stop being rude!
Maybe a good place to start is where did the “tradition” of hand shaking come from, and is it cultural or what, why is it so important?
Right, Bill. IMHO, it’s all based on the touchy feely need some people have to insure others like them. I find myself dreading the ‘sign of peace’ and trying to maneuver my way out of it DURING EVERY MASS. It is a pain, a distraction and entirely germ ridden moment. Even during a flu outbreak a few years ago, many people just couldn’t stop throwing themselves at others. I hate it.
Wrong answer to give a person expressing a problem that’s very serious to them.
sincerity sincerity… ok if you’d do it outside of Mass, but does not readily happen. People are doing what they’re told. How about we greet the Lord and worship him.
It will take much more than a meet and greet b fire the liturgy to fix decades of lax Christian behavior