When You Shouldn’t Talk to Your Guests
Yesterday we covered the six times in a weekend service that you should strategically plan to address your guests. But what about times when you should strategically plan not to talk to them?
Any time you would single them out.
True, the whole point of yesterday’s post was that you should recognize guests. But not if it means turning the spotlight on them in the service. Recognizing them in a general sense (“If you’re a guest with us today…”) is great. But getting too specific in a service can turn people away faster than you can imagine. (“Hey, you’re new. Stand up and tell us your name, who invited you, and the sin you’re currently struggling with.”)
I’ve got horror stories for days of how I’ve seen this go bad: “Welcome times” when members stand and guests remain seated. “Introduction times” when guests stand and members remain seated. Ushers handing out name tags or info cards to seated guests as a part of the service (i.e., all eyes are on them). I’ve even seen a church that played “Name That Mystery Person” at the beginning of the service (and no, I’m not making that up, and yes, the details are worse than you can imagine).
The key to interacting with guests is that you want them to set the speed for interaction. You should provide multiple opportunities for them to connect and take a next step, but ultimately you should leave the option to them. Some are ready to make themselves known from day one. Others want to remain more anonymous for a time. Neither of those things are wrong, they’re just deeply tied to an individual’s personality and comfort level, so respect it.
Think through your guest’s experience from your own perspective as an outsider. When you visit a restaurant or retail establishment, when you show up for the first day on the job, when you’re called on to give an impromptu speech at a big meeting, how do you feel? Harness that. Multiply it by ten, and then you’re starting to imagine what it’s like to show up at your church for the first time.
So how about it, readers? Are there any other times you shouldn’t talk to a guest? And better yet, what are your horror stories? Comment below.
The church we attend in Jakarta makes the first-time guests stand and introduce themselves. They even apologize when they begin this part of the service: “I’m sorry, it’s awkward, it’s just something we always do.”
This introduction moment is also very common in evangelical churches in Latin America, but thankfully, this practice doesn’t happen at Summit en Español!
I know your post deals more with the inside of the auditorium, but some smart man trained me to recognize our welcome begins in the parking lot. Every once in a while, I will notice a guest who seems reluctant to approach the FTG Tent. If I smile and they don’t smile back, or they look away, I give them their space. I hear the body language loud and clear. Often, they will stop by after the service, after hearing the prompts from the stage. But, if they return my smile and turn their bodies in the direction of our table, well, that’s a different story. It’s easy to chat with folks and often you can see any angst they have, begin to lighten up a little. There was a learning curve to this though that was taught to me by Merriem. Years ago, on one of my first Sunday mornings at the Tent, I was way too friendly and way too enthusiastic with an entire family of first-time guests. After she escorted them in, Merriem gently corrected me but in a forthright manner, telling me to bring it down a couple of notches. You both are good teachers and examples and I appreciate you more than you know!
I love this, Robyn!