She meant it as a throwaway comment. I don’t think she grasped the weight of the words that just came out of her mouth.
I overheard it in a breakout session after a training for this particular church’s guest service team. I was sitting with a group, listening in on their discussion, when a gentle lady spoke up. In a soft voice, she said,
I live alone. The church is the only place where I get a hug.
Don’t rush past those two sentences. Let ’em sink in, and think about it for a moment. In a given week, she experiences touch only on Sunday. The church is the place – the only place – where she gets human contact and affirmation. I think we’d be surprised how many people in our congregation this might be true of: the widow. The single middle aged man. The divorcee. The college student.
I’m not advocating for an embrace-fest each weekend, where awkward greeters awkwardly move in for an awkward moment with an awkward-feeling guest. That’s…well…awkward. No, you need to read people’s body language, understand that not everyone is a hugger, and know that if you don’t know ’em, a handshake is plenty.
But for those in your congregation that you do know, for those with whom you have a relationship, and for those that are on their own, maybe the best thing you can do this weekend is hug ’em. It might be the only place it happens.
What are your thoughts on this? What is the “hug culture” in your congregation? Comment below.