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FIRST-PERSON: Should churches have stand-and-greet times?

NASHVILLE (BP) — I conducted a Twitter poll (not scientific, I assure you) asking first-time church guests what factors made them decide not to return. In listing the top 10 in order of frequency (http://thomrainer.com/2014/11/01/top-ten-ways-churches-drive-away-first-time-guests), I was surprised that the number one issue guests don’t like is a time to stand and greet one another.

So what is it about a stand-and-greet time that many guests don’t like?

Here are the several of the most common — although, again, unscientific — responses, 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 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 as 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 strong comments at the post on both sides of the issue of whether a stand-and-greet time is helpful in reaching guests — enough to prompt churches to ask themselves whether it’s effective in their community.

    About the Author

  • Thom S. Rainer