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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • You must have read my mind! I go to a Catholic church which has a ‘stand and greet’ just before the processional. (This is not the ‘sign of peace’ which is an official part of the Mass and occurs later.) I have been saying for years that it is inappropriate for the following reasons:
    1) It disrupts the quiet and prayerful frame of mind that we should have as we begin mass
    2) It is unsanitary…people cough, blow their nose, or change their babies, then shake hands
    3) It is demeaning for the reader to tell us to greet people. It feels like we’re in kindergarten…”Now, boys and girls, turn and say hello to your neighbor”. We are adults. We can decide for ourselves if we wish to greet others.

    All of your other reasons are certainly valid as well.

  • Like anything, if it’s authentic and sincere, it works; and if not, it falls flat. The headline is telling–maybe it was written to produce more ‘hits’ than a headline talking about the passing of the peace of Christ. Which makes the whole post inauthentic? I wonder…

    The passing of the peace isn’t the same (at all) as a “stand and greet time.” Or it shouldn’t be. Congregations need to be reminded often of its significance. Here’s a few ways to do that…

    1/ Label this event “The Peace.”
    2/ Settle on the words and stick with them. We use, “The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” with the congregation responding “And also with you.” But there are other good options. But there is great value in using the same words and not always trying to make it novel.
    3/ Precede the words–at least sometimes–with an explanation of WHY in the world we’re doing this. Is the passing of the peace worship? Darn tooting it is! But people need to be taught and reminded of this.
    3A/ If the passing of the peace follows confession & assurance, these introductory words are appropriate: “Since Christ has forgiven us, we ought also to forgive one another. The peace of Christ be with you all.” (And also with you.) “Please stand, if you are able, and share signs of peace and reconciliation with your sisters and brothers in Christ.”
    3B/ Another good preface, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body” (Col. 3:15).
    3C/ If the passing of the peace immediately precedes the offering, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount might be remembered, “Jesus once said, ‘If you are about to make an offering in worship and you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, drop your offering right there and go to this friend and make things right. Then, and only then, come back and make your offering.’ We are called to be reconciled to our sisters and brothers in Christ. Rehearsing this in worship is an ACT of worship, I say to you as I do each week: ‘The peace of Christ be with you’.”
    3D/ One last idea. Talk about peace with children and then have them assist with the passing of the peace.
    4/ Be an example. Pastors can remind people this isn’t a ‘meet and greet’ time as much as it is a ‘sacramental’ (using the term loosely) time of sharing Christ’s peace with one another. Depending on the time and place, pastors might mingle among the congregation exchanging the words ‘peace be with you’ or ‘peace of Christ’ or ‘and also with you.’ This doesn’t mean you ought not say ‘good morning’ to someone who says ‘good morning’ to, but that you add the liturgical words too. I have a member who often wants to talk about sports events during this time and it’s tempting! But I try to smile and say ‘more about that later–peace of Christ’ and then move on. Perhaps moving on to one or more members with whom I really feel the need to be reconciled.

    Should churches end the “stand and greet time”? Yes of course. Stand and greet is for coffee-time. But “THE PEACE” is a integral part of worship–not to be confused with some lame attempt to prove how friendly your church is. :))

    Peace be with you,
    Rev. Randal K. Lubbers

    • In the church I attend ‘the peace’ seems to have slowly transformed into a more informal ‘meet and greet’, marked by grand tours of the sanctuary with much socializing and hugging. Your use of the words ‘loosely sacramental’ in describing what the peace can be hit a nail on the head for me and suggests a sharing of the Peace I could fully embrace. I suppose that implies a bit of formality/ritual that might restrain what I would call excesses of individuality in a time of worship. What an old fuddy duddy I am! Peace be with you, Bruce

  • I’ve attended an Evang. church at the request of a particular parishioner. Their “meet and greet” that involves hugging. I am abhorred by this and will not go back even tho this parishioner asks me time and again if I’m coming to church. She knows I’m a non believer and the pastor made it clear during the service that the non-believer was wasting their time. Not sure whom he meant by “their” but either way he’s right. Our local doctor has discreetly tried to discourage this close contact especially when so many churches are comprised of mainly seniors who’s health may be at risk.

  • That is exactly the reason I am looking for a church right now. I dont understand it all, it feels insincere and very uncomfortable. I would LOVE to find a church that doesnt do this. I think the time could be better spent and leave the greetings for after the service.

  • I personally think that this is very superficial, and understand why it deters guests (even though most churches I have participated in have this.
    For most churches, this just became a time for the people who knew each other (and thus sat near each other anyway) to shake hands and make a comment or two about how glad they were that each of them could make it that Sunday. For everyone else, a quick “hello” and “welcome” is about all you have time for, and that does no more to make a connection than the Wal-Mart cashier asking if you found everything you were looking for.
    Additionally, in large churches, it is almost impossible to know, unless you have served in an arena that exposes you to everyone who comes through the doors every week, who is a long-time member and who is visiting for the first time. I remember some time ago asking somebody that I had never seen before in the church if it was his first time coming, to which he replied that he’d been a member for almost 15 years.

  • Lu Ann Bradshaw says on

    I have been a church-goer literally all my life and I HATE this practice. Most regular church members greet each other leaving the visitor feeling like an outsider. I have been subjected to this in so many churches and would rather not go back to the ones that practice this. It does NOT make visitors feel welcome. DoeS more harm than good in my opinion. I suspect the ones who love this practice are those who haven’t had to find a new church in a long time and therefore have forgotten what it feels like to be the visitor in this situation.

    • Lu Ann Bradshaw out of all the posts i read which is about 10 % i really liked yours. I know that it wasn’t a computation

  • May I ask how many total responses you received when you conducted your poll (meaning, how many total people voted in the original poll)? Thank you, sir.

  • The meet and greet ranks right up there with everyone saying their name around the table as for meaningless activities. I really dont like it at all, its disruptive and doesnt feel like “church.” BUT having said that, i realize there are people who really like it.. so i just put up with it.

  • I agree completely! My church has the visitors remain seated while the members all “descend” upon them. As a life-long church attender, I was able to deal with this when I first started visiting; however, it made me very uncomfortable. When I have guests attending with me, I usually stick close to them and try to keep them from getting too overwhelmed.

1 12 13 14 15 16 17