Should Your Church Stop Having a Stand and Greet Time?

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.

  1. Many guests are introverts. “I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.”
  7. 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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  • Just read this article. I can verify this is true, since my husband who had just started attending church with me refused to go back precisely because of this practice. Also, there may be health reasons for some to not want to touch other peoples hands. I wonder if this is even thought of.

  • Jon Morris says on

    I see quite a few churches adding these back in services after removing them for years. I don’t think it’s an absolute wrong or right thing to have in a live service.. More cultural and seasonal than right and wrong.

    I think there may be an advantage for larger churches and disadvantage for smaller churches to have an in-service meet and greet. For instance, in a smaller church, someone should be greeted and connected with in a more natural and simple way because it should be obvious there is someone new in the room. In a smaller church, you should not “need” an official meet and greet time and by having one it may feel unnecessary and lazy. In a larger church, it may have to be more purposeful and orchestrated causing it to maybe feel less authentic but at the same time completely necessary because newer people have the ability to blend in and be missed.

  • Tim Serdynski says on

    Most days, I have to duck out the back door for “a drink of water”, because the stand and greet time jacks up my anxiety. Some days….I just can’t do it…..& we’ve been at our church for 4 yrs. No one ever thinks of that reason.

  • Like **anything** we do in corporate worship, the fact that we can do it with less than complete sincerity, or the fact that it may disturb our comfort, does not mean that they should not be done – otherwise we’d never sing, preach, read the scriptures, pray out loud, etc. As others have said, the value of welcoming one another (“as Christ has welcomed you”) is too great to lose.

    I frankly think this is one more point at which those of us (myself included) in the Free Church tradition can benefit from re-claiming some of the wisdom of our liturgical brothers and sisters. Rather than getting everyone to create their own greeting, where there is pressure to be cool, genuine, funny, sincere, quick, non-invasive, etc., etc., WHY NOT JUST USE THE LITURGICAL WORDS: “The Peace of Christ Be With You.”

  • Sandra Myers says on

    I would welcome the elimination of the ‘meet and greet’, but who am I to say the whole congregation should change to suit me? Some members are great at approaching people and seem to truly embrace this part of the service. Why can’t they do it before or after the service, though? Come in early and ‘pick’ out your seats, then wander around and talk to people before start time. I think guests would feel more welcome if they were greeted spontaneously rather than because someone said ‘do it now’!
    As for me, well . . . if someone asks how I am, I feel compelled to say, ‘good’ or some such. If I’m not good, then I’m lying! God hates lying and now, not only am I committing a sin – I’m doing it in God’s house. Double whammy. I have spent hours trying to come up with an answer to ‘how are you doing?’ without either lying or telling someone how I really feel when they probably don’t really care!
    I want and need to be able to go to church, talk to God, listen to God’s word and the sermon, feel comfort in being the in presence other believers and so on. Many times, though, when I most need to be in God’s House, I avoid attending because of this meet and greet. It has been YEARS since I’ve attended a church that did not have this thing. I need more than home Bible study, but don’t know where to go to find it. Then I’m embarrassed to show up after missing weeks of service.
    Sorry for the ramblings, but this is a touchy subject for me.

  • I am a youth pastor at a bicultural church that is striving to be multi-cultural. Our church is a member of the CRC (Christian Reform Church) and takes an approach to worship that is conversational. We believe that in our services, God speaks to us, we respond in worship, acknowledge others in worship and reach out to others to worship too.

    Our church has a large number of lifelong Dutch CRC members. We also have a growing membership of people who have emigrated from China. Both groups have decided that our mission is to the international students at the local university and the ABC’s (American Born Chinese) in my youth group.

    Since we have two very different cultures coming together we are constantly asking ourselves why we do the things that we do. Is it cultural or is it our calling? If it’s cultural, then do we really need to do it?

    This past fall we focused our services and Bible studies on worship. What is it? Why do we do it? And how do we do it?

    On the subject of the “meet and greet” we decided it is important to our worship because it is in line with our conversational approach to worship. The service starts with God calling us to worship and greeting us. We then turn and greet each other to worship God together. We then respond with singing songs, reading scripture, confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness, giving back to God a portion of what he gave us (offering), listening to His word, receiving His assurance and blessing and finally we (try to) take our experience with God and share it with others.

    For our mutual greeting, there is no timeline and no expectations (except for my youth group which I make them go around and greet people because the “old people” like it. But, the kids have started liking it too, I think because we do it the right way). We do have specific people assigned to greet newcomers but the newcomers are not expected to participate.

    From the posts I have read, it seems that many people just don’t understand why they do the things they do in worship. That’s ok, so did many of the people in our congregation before this fall. I would urge any pastors who read this blog to have good, open, constructive conversations with their church about why they do anything in their services.

  • After discussion with the Deacons, we decided to remove it for the main reason of what you wrote in your blog and a “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore” by Shultz. Well, the service went more smoothly, even members said more enjoyable. However, some did not like it all. One asked me why are we not welcoming the visitors anymore (we had no first time visitors in the congregation, just attenders that have yet to join). They felt it was cold. I assured the member that I would be more zealous in making people feel welcome (though I go throughout the sanctuary before worship greeting people). But then another member gets with the Chairman of the Deacons and asks whose idea was it (mine) and that she was going to hold a meeting and present a formal complaint to the Deacon Body to have it reinstated (this isn’t the first time she has held a meeting). I believe it was the right move and for now it will remain out of the service, but I don’t think this is a hill am willing to die on. But I have printed out your material and will present it when the time comes. Thanks for your heart for pastors and the churches.

  • Jim Bender says on

    A french atheist wrote the book “Religion for Atheists” in which he tries to create “religious” practices, many of which he borrows from organized religion. He highlights these beneficial practices and is jealous for what they evoke or create. He described the beautiful ritual of sharing the peace– at that moment, you are no longer defined by how the world defines you– doctor, plumber, white, black, etc– but you are all equal holding out your hand speaking peace to the other. He asked where else in our American culture can you find such a ritual that demonstrates that beautiful truth. I don’t think we Christians are fully aware of the treasure of our rituals.

  • What a great discussion, but have we become so self serving that a fellowship time, or lack of it is a make or break thing for people in going to a church. What about where we put the offering, if we include it at the end of the service, as some would suggest, should I be so offended that I don’t go back to that church. Here is another issue to think about…I know a good number of people who HATE to sing, so should we do away with the singing because so many people cannot carry a tune and they are afraid someone might hear them. I think any excuse could be made for not going back to a church….the preaching is too long….or too short….the music is too loud….or too soft….there are too many gray hairs….or young people…..oh, and I cannot deal with perfume, I wish people would quit wearing it….I have been in ministry for 26 years now, 16 of which pastoring the same church, and I find that people are going to come and go, and have many excuses for doing so. Even Jesus didn’t have everyone stay…He laid out the cost, and many left….so maybe the more important question is, WHAT MAKES OUR WORSHIP GENUINE….I happen to believe that if people see real, genuine, heartfelt, and relevant worship, they will be thirsty for more. Maybe the problem isn’t to shake or not to shake, but the lack of genuine worship going on in God’s house….well that’s my opinion, but it comes from a very burdened heart as to where we are headed as the church…..reach out, minister to someone, make a difference, save a soul, advance the kingdom….and let the people complain, they have been doing it since the creation of the world! Be Blessed!!!

  • I’m Episcopalian and one issue I have with some parishes is how the passing of the peace does turn into a 5+ minute halftime where everyone meets and greets with each other. It makes me very uncomfortable and I wouldn’t go back to a parish where this is the custom. I’m fine with a quick 30 seconds where I great the people immediately around me, but when everyone starts walking around the church and making sure they shake hands with everyone, it’s too much for me.

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