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 *


  • I have to confess that I didn’t care much for the meet and greet in the previous church that we are attending because it did feel artificial and forced. However, I have been called to pastor a small country church and the feel is much different with our greeting time. We don’t single out guests when they visit publicly, but the members aver very intentional about welcoming any guests in our service. In fact, we just had a young couple to join our church last week. They had been looking for a church in the area for 4 years. They said ours was the first that they had visited during that time where they had felt welcome. None of the other churches they visited made an effort to greet them at any time.

  • Let me rise in defense of “fellowship time.”

    1. Many guests are introverts.
    I don’t think the comfort level of the congregant is a sacred-cow. This shouldn’t matter when thinking of the validity of the practice. If it is healthy for the body to be force to greet each other, then it is healthy. If it is bad for the body, then don’t do it. #1 sounds too much like it is on the slippery slope to man-pleasing, than God-pleasing. Further, many guests are extroverts, what about them? This is fallacious.

    2. Some guests perceive that the members are not sincere during the time of greeting.
    That’s because some member’s aren’t sincere. It is the same as witness or holy living. They are faked sometimes, and that doesn’t give a verdict on the practice.

    3. Many guests don’t like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time.
    Seriously? “You’re gross and I don’t want to touch you?” I can’t think of any concept further from the early church fellowship than that. Keep a little bottle of sanitizer with you if this is an issue.

    4. Many times the members only greet other members.
    Again, same as #2, this is legit. And it is wrong. And it isn’t relevant to whether the practice should be in the local church.

    5. Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise is awkward.
    This is similar to #1, I know many who love it wholesale.

    6. In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another.
    That’s strange. I have experienced fellowship time every week for 40 years in 3 different churches and have never experienced that. Thom, why include this one? Because “some” make a mockery of it doesn’t bear at all on the question of its validity.

    7. Not only don’t some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members.
    Some dread the singing, some dread the sermon, many dread the offering. How is this anything other than man-centered thinking.

    Each of these deals with the individual’s wants. Not once is the individual’s desire weighed against the health of the body. Is this practice healthy for the body? If yes, then proceed. If no, then stop.

    We have a example/mandate of showing love thru intimate greeting (1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26; Peter 5:14). If not this, then what?

    Thanks, I know the post was long.

    • Robert Wall says on

      Not to be argumentative, but I think you’re drawing a false dichotomy with #1. It may be healthy for some people and not healthy for others.

      There are people who don’t take communion because of gluten sensitivity. I realize they’re a minority, but should we force-feed them communion because it’s a critical symbol of Christ’s atoning sacrifice? After all, it’s good for the church to receive communion….right?

      I also know churches that serve actual wine as part of communion. Should those churches force recovering alcoholics to drink the wine? It’s completely Biblical, after all – it’s what Jesus drank. If they can’t be like Jesus why should we have them in our church?

      There are many examples like this, and there are entire chapters of the Bible that talk about not putting stumbling blocks in somebody else’s way.

      I think there’s a point to be firm – on core doctrine and salvation issues – and a point where you just have to take somebody’s word for it that a given thing is a stumbling block, and let it be.

    • > If not this, then what?

      “The Holy Kiss” described by Paul is not the same as “meet and greet” practiced in contemporary Christianity, which, in turn, is not the same as “The Passing of the Peace” as found in liturgical Christianity.

  • We do a “stand-up-meet-and-greet” every service…for 3 whole minutes (*gasp*)! The idea is not to see how many surface-y “hellos” you can squeeze in but really create a warm atmosphere of togetherness in worship. There’s so much shallow individuality in churches (and the world). Lots of people would visit our church for multiple weeks and eventually stop coming because they thought we were unfriendly and they didn’t know how to get to know anyone. Rather than create a team (or system) whose “job” it was to be friendly, we decided to make it our culture.

    Frankly, it’s working.

    It was awkward at first. There were a few of our folks who insisted we knock it off. Knock of being welcoming and friendly? Bizarre. But new people are staying! Not all of them. But a lot of them. More than before. And many of them, when I ask why they stayed, is because they felt welcomed.

    I’m a classic introvert. I hated church meet-and-greets before I was a Christian too. But I would never have asked a church to stop trying to be friendly to make me comfortable. The church is representing a new humanity to a world that is cold and hostile. Make no apologies for this. And provide hand-sanitizer if you need to.

  • I am an extrovert and have been in church since I was 10 and I hate the stand and greet each other time. It seems fake and is uncomfortable. My vote is to get rid of that time during the worship service. An alternative that I liked. We visited a church this summer that had a well defined coffee room across from the worship center doors. If visitors wanted to be greeted, they could go there before/after service and get to know members. This seemed much better to me.

  • I don’t quite know what to think about the “forced fellowship” issue while looking at it through a guests eyes. I can see how they could be uncomfortable with it. But as a pastor/minister it is a connection point with regular attenders and I do think that has value.

    I minister in one church and they have a coffee break just after praise & worship right before the preaching. Everyone get us leaves the auditorium and gets a cup of coffee and they chat with each other. This isn’t a small church either. They are growing and have been for many years. The pastor coined the phrase “forced fellowship” to describe the event.

    I do think people are hungry for relationships and I do think we can to better at being genuine and caring for those who come seeking.


  • Mike Bowen says on

    Our church has a meet and greet time and yet we retain nearly 75% of our visitors. I think churches are trying too hard to commercialize church to be seeker sensitive. The bottom line is preach the Word, pray, love the people and the church will grow. In the early church unity, prayer and preaching grew the church. They didn’t use a purpose-driven book, argue about church greetings, or buy the newest church growth book from Lifeway. We can have all the programs and plans in the world but if we are not on our knees fervently in prayer, it is all in vain. Everyone is trying to copy the growing church down the road instead of getting alone with God in the prayer closet and asking Him what they should do. However, I do enjoy reading Thom Rainer’s posts because they are thought provoking

  • Yes, please don’t tell us a silly phrase to repeat as we are instructed to stand and greet; it’s awkward enough to go through the motions. On this blog and the original, a few people mention that there are some who never experience physical contact except during the stand and greet time on Sundays. Should we feel obligated to supply someone’s desire/need for touching and being touched? Please, no! I do not think that is an appropriate expectation. I love hugging my family but am extremely uncomfortable with physical contact to or from other people. I especially have a need/desire *not* to be touched by strangers in any group gathering, including a church. Just worship alongside me and I will speak warmly and spontaneously to you either before or after service. Let’s get rid of a forced stand and greet time. — One suggestion: If a few lonely, grandmotherly women have hugs to offer and do not mind receiving hugs in abundance, please consider volunteering in the preschool department or nursing homes.

  • Dr. Rainer, My church – Rock Springs Baptist Church, Easley, SC – is widely-recognized by visitors & members alike as one of the warmest and friendliest churches that people have ever seen. Just yesterday in our Bible Fellowship Class (Sunday School), a gentleman, now retired after having been moved 17 times in his working career, voluntarily testified that in the 17 previous churches in which he had been a member, never had a single one of them come close to making him feel as welcome as has been his experience at Rock Springs.
    Yes, we still do stand & greet time. And sometimes our pastor, Dr. David Gallamore, will advise that, if we prefer, it’s OK to do the ‘knuckle or the elbow bump.’ But it’s not the external anatomical body part that’s important. At Rock Springs, we believe that true Christian fellowship begins internally. That’s why many times you’ll see our handshakes accompanied by hugs during our stand & greet time.
    But stand & greet time is NOT the only time we reach out to each other and to our guests. From our shuttle bus drivers to our welcome center attendants to our greeters to our ushers to our deacons to our pastor and staff, our desire is that when you leave our campus, you’ll say, as did the Psalmist, “I was GLAD when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord!”
    Come to see us soon. We always have an ample supply of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.

  • Both of the churches that I pastor have this time of shaking hands or whatever else I come up with. I also believe it is artificial and awkward. In the larger church that I pastor, it is done after the offering and allows for the choir to get down from the area behind me. I am not sure what else to do during this time. Any thoughts? I am not a fan of doing things because we have always done it that way and the larger church is extremely set in its ways. Anytime anything is changed there is backlash.

  • We are able to also use the fellowship time to allow a transition time for parents to check/sign their kids in to the children’s ministry. Parents are often able to get to know the other parents in this time. Also our fellowship time is around 15mins. We have refreshments and coffee for people to enjoy. It sounds like from the comments that there is a right way and a wrong way to do a fellowship time. Still interesting to see so many want to be apart of a community and yet not getting to know other people.

  • Our church does have a stand and greet but we emphasize a time of fellowship. It is at the beginning of the service and provides a time for our children to come for a time with their pastor (me). By the way I am the senior pastor. I have heard many comments from visitors about the warm friendliness if our church. So here is my two cents worth.
    I agree that it may be bit uncomfortable or staged for some. But I also agree that we can’t change everything because some don’t like it. We can please everyone. I also agree that it can help introverted members learn to step out of third comfort zone. To sum it all up it depends on the particular church. If it is friendly and warm in nature then this time will reflect that. If not then nothing short of a move from God in the hearts of the members will help.
    Also I like the question about scripture and prayer time. We don’t have a choir. Yes we are heatherns. But we have a time set aside for scripture reading other than the sermon and 10 plus minutes of prayer. During that time we reflect on God’ presence and pray for others. It is a very powerful time.
    Okay to stop chasing rabbits like a good preacher. This time should not single out visitors by raised hand or standing etc. I don’t like this. But it can be a great time for all. It all depends on the nature of the church. Each is different.

    Thanks for the thought provoking posts and for all the responses I have read. God bless each one in your church.

  • My church has this practice, and it never gets easier for me. I attend every week, and every week I find it stressful.
    Recently I had a cold, so didn’t offer to shake hands. Several people looked startled and puzzled, which made it even more difficult! I’d prefer not EVER shaking hands!
    But I’d mostly prefer not “sharing the peace” at all. I find it difficult, and I doubt the sincerity.

    • For me, the purpose of church is to put away what “I” want and look for what my neighbor wants. If I can take myself away from being the center and see the time as “what can I offer the other” I find even as an introvert I find this time meaningful. However, that said, it means my hospitality is CARING about the other enough to ask “would you like a handshake, a hug, or a simple blessing?” I wonder if we as Christians put greeting the other first rather than criticizing how others “greet me” if this time might not become more meaningful?

      • Robert Wall says on

        Linda, I totally get what you’re saying – and I think it’s a good idea for everybody in the church to think that way.

        But it’s also entirely possible that the best way to bless somebody is to *not* have twenty people walk up to them and try to get to know them.

        Sometimes a friendly smile at the door, a nice usher to show them to an available seat, and a pastor that says “we’re glad you were here” after the service is enough. In my experience, that’s more than most churches do – even the ones with “stand and greet” times as a part of the service.

1 2 3 4 5 17