It’s one of the biggest lies in churches.
Of the thousands of on-site and virtual consultations I have done, it is the most common sentence I hear from church members:
“We are the friendliest church in town!”
With rare exceptions, it’s just not true.
We surveyed guests who visited the church and found a dramatically different perception. Their most common comment is:
“The people at that church aren’t very friendly.”
So how do so many church members have such a disconnect with reality? I see six common reasons:
1. The holy huddle syndrome. Church members naturally gravitate to people they know when they go to a worship service. They already have relational connections. The members thus perceive they are friendly because they are friendly to each other. Unfortunately, guests are not included.
2. The stand-and-greet satisfier. Many churches have a time set aside in the worship service for people to greet one another. I have written before about the dreaded stand-and-greet time. For most church members, those three to four minutes of shaking hands and speaking to someone constitute friendliness. To guests, it often seems contrived and inconsistent with what they see beyond the “official” welcome time.
3. The I-don’t-live-here reality. Church members know the facilities of their churches. They know where to park. They don’t need good signage. They know where to sit. Guests are, well, guests. They often come to the worship services frustrated because of poor signage. One guest tried to open three doors before she found the right one. And she was a single mom with three kids in tow. For many guests, they form a quick opinion that the church is for insiders only.
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Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.