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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  • You don’t give a damn about me.
    I might be suffering. I might be about to be bankrupt, but for a small amount.
    Instead of caring or asking you will try to grab my hand and “greet” me.
    But it is clear you don’t care. If I was bleeding you would not bind my wounds. If I was homeless you wouldn’t pay for a night in a hotel, much less let me stay in your home.
    Superficial Christianity.
    The image – as in 2 dimentional painting – of Christ?
    But blow your trumpets as you greet people.
    Do so in public and laud yourselves.
    I know you don’t care.
    I’m not sure if you are Christan because your virtue signalling is so loud I can’t hear anything else. Your superficial glitter is so bright I can’t see beyond.
    And many just don’t wish to be bothered – they might if it was at all sincere. But you will run up to them and do a battery by grabbing them and shake their hand and no matter how uncomfortable, you will tell them that you love them, even though you have caused nothing but hurt.

  • Add me to the list that finds the greeting as too contrived. I don’t know if what I am about to write was included in your survey and that is before the distribution of Holy Communion our Pastor requires that everyone must stand and wait until the que reaches your pew, then process down the aisle. Our church is a large church, the last pew is a long way from the Eucharistic Ministers. When sitting toward the rear of the church it is a long wait, time that I can remain kneeling, praying or meditating on the hymn that is being sung etc. After a while this singular issue botherd me enough that I switched parishes. Thank you for letting me express my opinion.

  • This practice has been adopted by some Catholic priests in recent years. It’s so wrong! “Good morning” is what I expect to hear from a Walmart greeter, not a priest of the Most High God.

  • HATE it. Please make it stop. Waste of time and great germ spereader, right before Communion, and most people take the Body of Our Lord in their nasty dirty hands, after touching the music books, money, etc. Jesus deserves more respect and stopping the stupid phony friendly greeting is a step forward.

  • Jerome Bettis says on

    A recurring theme from those who like the artificial and awkward time of “stand and greet” is that those who don’t like it … most responders and virtually all visitors … can go pound sand. In otherwords, I don’t care if this practice is uncomfortable for you, or might cause you to avoid future services. Pretty close minded and selfish I’d say.

  • LivinginIowa says on

    When first started in my church, I did think it was unique and ok. Now I think it is fake and I rarely participate. I don’t like it when some one comes to shake my hand and says something like “how you doing” but then turns and goes to the next person. Don’t ask me a question unless you are willing to take the time to listen. I know others in the church love it. Therefore I don’t think it should stop. After all the church is an assembly of believers and not all believers feel the same about everything.

  • Valerie says on

    Our church practices “Stand Up & Greet Your Neighbor” aka “Passing of the Peace.” Only a handful of people will remain seated – not necessarily because they are new or are unwilling to participate but, many are seniors who are unable to stand up so quickly & have limited range of motion. Our pastoral ministry encourages all to greet those seated nearby yet our congregation is eager to cross the aisles and greet as many as possible who are, I repeat, STANDING UP FROM THEIR SEATS. We never impose on those who remain seated!

    Throughout the years, we have had only a few complaints but not to the point where they stop attending worship! How sad that this tradition that Jesus Himself practiced with His disciples and to all He came in contact with should be left out before the start of Worship in a growing number of churches. Like his sermon, the pastor should be in total control of this tradition, by announcing who (those standing up), where (behind, beside & in front of you) and how much time it lasts (no more than 5-7 minutes or depending on size of congregation).

  • In our olde New England Congregational church, we see this as not simply practice, but a theological imperative. To prepare ourselves to take Communion, we try and make ourselves right with God through a prayer of confession and assurance of pardon. And we try to make right with our neighbor through the passing of the peace. One woman in our congregation who does not want to touch anyone simply holds her hymnal open for the closing hymn and greets folks with a nod.

  • Nice topic.
    Each community church is different, In my Spanish church with people from all over Latin America, handshakes and hugs are warm and expected.
    Many have said the love they felt and the warm welcoming attracted them to our church.
    If you show up you will be warmly welcomed and hugged.
    Be blessed!

  • Jamie Trask says on

    This is a great discussion. It is hard to know other people’s reactions to things.
    I am the music leader in a church that has from 80 to 120 people attending on a Sunday morning, a single service with about 80% Sunday School attendance afterward. When we greet each other during service we often shake hands – during cold or flu seasons, we touch elbows – asking how someone is, taking time to find those who are new (at least to some of us) and welcome them. It is not deep or intrusive, but I look forward to it because it is an opportunity to acknowledge and interact with people I don’t see often. They are friends and people I care about, yet we each have our own set of closer friends. I pray for them and their concerns often. Before and after the service I am often pretty involved in things that are going on and because I am in the front of the church, new people are usually out the door before I make it to the back.
    I think of ‘meet and greet’ as a greeting card – they are a way for God’s people to connect in a small way as they prepare for corporate worship. We are not a liturgical church. We are somewhat informal, often sharing prayer requests and praises as part of our service, though not an extremely effusive group.
    We see each other, greet each other, joke around a little sometimes and often pray side by side or with a hand on their shoulder or the shoulder of someone standing or kneeling with us.
    We are a family. Often our family has visitors who may not be very comfortable at first, so we keep contact light and non-invasive. Before long we all become comfortable with each other, learn who likes more or less interaction. We become Family. It’s normal.
    I hope that this discussion helps all of us realize that what is difficult for one person can be life-giving to another – and vice versa. We are all so different! Thank God for that – and God bless us all!

  • Interesting conversation. Each week we project a blessing which we invite people to impart (Cannot think of a better word) to one another. Naturally it is followed by introductions, where appropriate, or short conversations. It comes at the beginning of the service as we gather as the people of God and serves to say that we are here not simply as individuals; but as brothers and sisters in Christ– a family. While somewhat awkward at first for a few as it was a new practice for the congregation, we now have to bring it to a close by beginning the praise time. I frankly cannot say that I have encountered anyone who was so uncomfortable with it that we would cease to do it all together and I say this as one who has modified or ceased a few practices in response to discomfort or concerns raised.

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