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 *


  • Can someone elaborate on the “passing the peace” thing? I am not familiar with it and would like to know more about it. Thanks.

    • The members of the congregation generally shake hands with those around them and respond with “peace”. You don’t go far from your seat and it doesn’t last long (1 minute). Done right before the great thanksgiving which leads into the canon of the mass (the words before communion).

    • The Passing of the Peace evolved from the early Christian greeting of the Kiss. Passing of the Peace is a very significant liturgical and theological moment that follows the Confession of Sin and Absolution. It is a sign that we forgive, accept, welcome, and are reconciled to one another in the Body of Christ. We are then properly prepared to move to the Table to receive the grace of God offered in the Bread and Cup.

  • For the last several years, just prior to the start of our worship celebration, I have encouraged those in attendance to stand and greet those around them. I do this in part, to avoid a “break” in the flow of the service by creating “organized chaos” often created by doing this within the service. I have heard many people testify that they attended a service and no one spoke to them so a “greeting” time makes perfect sense…the key is training members to actually greet someone they don’t know!

  • We recently re-purposed our “meet and greet.” We moved it to the time after the last song set and right before the sermon. It has become a transition time for our parents with young children to escort their children to the foyer to meet the teachers for children’s worship (thus eliminating a stampede of kids running unescorted down the aisle). This is also the time our praise team moves off the platform, avoiding mass movement during a prayer time. Worshipers are encouraged to “greet those around you.” We run a countdown clock so everyone knows how much time they have. Initially we started with four minutes but have since reduced it to three minutes. As the countdown hits 20 seconds or so, I make my way to the platform to prepare to preach, the house lights become brighter, and I call people back to their seats. I will then lead in a prayer to get our hearts and minds back in focus. This process is explained during the initial welcome so guests will know what to expect at that particular point in the service. It has been well-received in our church.

  • Emily Wood says on

    I hated it when we first started doing the peace….felt very intimidating and awkward …. NI take the time to seek out folks I have never seen there before and purposely go up to them so they feel included.

  • Robert Ivey says on

    I serve with a local Baptist Association and am in a lot of different churches, and I agree with you Dr. Rainer. What I have observed when most church do this it is because “everyone else/all the other churches are doing it, so we need to do it as well.” Often times it is acquired and it turns into a “catch-up with my friends time” and it can be disruptive to the overall “flow of the service.” The bigger point that is often missed is that if we are waiting until a “meet and greet time” to speak to and welcome guest and each other, it is too late, why “schedule” what is to be the very essence of the life of a child of God and worship, “meeting with someone.”

  • I posted the before-mentioned article on my Facebook wall and a few of my friends said they hated the stand and greet time. Some of them mentioned the very reasons you have listed here (germ issues and the sense that it is fake).

    I don’t remember practicing the stand and greet time when I was in the Philippines. I didn’t miss it at all. I’d much rather sing another worship song with that time–there is plenty of time to talk with people before and after the service. I’m sure being an introvert has something to do with this, but the stand and greet time really interrupts things for me and comes across as very superficial.

  • We have this time at both churches where we attend (we are members of one, but we really love the other one, too). The last church where we were members also had this practice. There are many reasons I think it’s a great idea. The most important being I may not get a chance to communicate with some of those people the rest of the week.
    Anyway, I don’t have a problem with it. I would ask anyone who does to examine themselves to see if they might be hiding a motive against fellowship.

    • “Hiding a motive against fellowship”?
      First, speaking to your friends for a couple of minutes during the middle of a worship service is not true fellowship as described in Scripture. True fellowship happens on a daily basis.
      Secondly, while you are catching up with your friends, first time guests are often being overlooked.
      Thirdly, chatting with your friends during the middle or worship takes the focus off of who we are there to worship.
      I challenge anyone who thinks the highlight of gathering on Sunday is to talk to your friends to evaluate themselves as to whether they really understand true worship.

      • If we are expressing love, that is definitely worship. Please do not under estimate that we are the body of Christ. Worship includes our uniting together.

    • I’m always amazed at the people who think that if something works at their church then every other chuch has a moral obligation to do it.

  • I find this whole topic interesting because at my church this is one of the highlights of the service. We have a very warm and welcoming congregation and people just love one another so much that the greeting time sometimes goes longer than it’s supposed to and we have to give some sort of cue from the worship team or lead pastor that it’s time to sit back down. Time and time again, one of the top things first time guests say they love about Christ Fellowship is how friendly and welcoming people are. I’ve seen in some of the comments that people say the church folks are only friendly for 90 seconds during the welcome time, but that’s not the case with us so I can’t really relate to those views. Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be stopping the practice of greeting each other anytime soon.

  • The ‘meet and greet’ appears as an awkward attempt at forced fellowship. It also may be traditional, and even be seen as a ‘worship ice-breaker.’ At any rate, both my wife and myself, would much rather not have the ‘meet and greet’ as part of the service agenda.

    • Robert Wall says on

      Totally agree. After all, making real connections takes more than a five-second handshake. Even if the music is quiet, about all you have time for is “good morning”. Or worse, “how are you?”

      To me, this isn’t an issue of whether we should make new people feel welcome. I don’t think anybody’s seriously debating that. The issue is whether there’s a good reason to have such a “meet & greet” when we know it actively makes certain people uncomfortable.

      And on the other hand, just because it makes somebody uncomfortable isn’t an ironclad reason to not do something. But there needs to be some sensitivity here.

      For example, last Sunday the pastor told us to pair off and pray, audibly, for a certain event coming up. For most people I think it was at least a little awkward. The person sitting next to my wife left immediately afterward. My wife is pretty sure the lady was a newcomer, but she’s not sure.

      If she *was* a newcomer, and she left because of the “praying out loud” thing, does that mean praying out loud is inherently a bad thing? Definitely not. Maybe we should be doing it more, not less. I’m sure we could put together a solid sermon about how we need to pray more, and pray with and for others.

      But it occurs to me that we also have a whole chapter of the Bible (Romans 14) that talks about being gracious in disputable matters. So the things that we decide that we need to make people do should be chosen with that idea in mind.

      And I really think that standing up and greeting one another (*especially* if you’re more likely to be talking about football than Jesus!) is one of the more disputable of disputable matters.

  • tim smith says on

    When our family gets together we hug and greet as they arrive and before we leave. We don’t sit down, ask the blessing on the meal, then get up and greet each other before we eat…..we eat. I prefer when, hopefully early in the service time, there is a transition of focus. Where we would intentionally turn from “us time” to focus on God. The meet and greet time and most announcement time is focused on us rather than on the One we claim to worship.

  • I am a minister, and I recently visited the church in which I grew up. Before the service started, I saw the pastor walking around speaking to people. He walked right past me without speaking. One person spoke to me before the service, and he was someone I went to high school with. During the “greeting” time, one couple spoke to me. After the service, no one spoke to me. Did I feel welcomed? Not one bit.
    Here are a few of my observations:
    1) If the church members are not going to be friendly and welcoming before and after the service, the time of greeting is a waste of time. If members have to be told (forced) to greet people, then stop doing it. The better solution is to train members to speak to people before and after the service.
    2) Church members generally will walk past people they don’t know to speak to their friends. This is a natural tendency, so we need to work on getting our people to be genuinely welcoming before and after the service.
    3) Some people are not very hygenic, (wiping their noses, etc) and I don’t want to shake their hands.
    4) First time guest may not be used to our customs, so what we think of as normal may seem odd to them, therfore may make them uncomfortable.

    I try to put myself in the shoes of a first time guest and think like them. I ask myself the question, ‘how would I want to be treated?’.

    The bottom line is that I think we are well intentioned and want to make guests feel welcome, but to often we think that guest should think like us, and be like us, but they are not.

1 2 3 4 17