Tackling Small Church Myths, part 1
This is the next installment in our ongoing “Small Church” series, which looks at guest services through the lens of the smaller congregation: those with 150 or fewer people in attendance each week. See the entire series here.
In a recent post we looked at five myths that befuddle smaller churches when it comes to hospitality. These are myths that we simply can’t correct if we’re not aware of them.
The first and second myths are kissing cousins: myth #1 is the “We’re just so friendly” myth (which usually translates to “We’re just so friendly…to each other.“). Myth #2 is that “Everyone is a greeter.” (If you’re a part of the church, you’re expected to be a part of the hospitality task force.)
So if these are myths, how does the small church leader call out the myth and change the nature of the game? That’s what we’re covering today.
Five Steps to Kill the Myths:
1. Appreciate the sentiment.
We don’t do our people – or ourselves – any favors if we let a myth continue to live. However, we also don’t do anyone any favors if we try to kill off these particular myths without identifying what’s behind them.
To put “We’re just so friendly” or “Everyone is a greeter” to death means that we’re acknowledging that our love for each other is not enough. There’s a deep comfort that comes with a friendly, familiar church: it’s the place where we came to faith, where we were married, where our children were raised, and where so many memories came from.
So we have to understand the purity of heart behind such myths. We have to honor the things that are true of many in our church: we do love one another, we do desire that others might feel this kind of community, we do want everyone to be the kind of “friendly” that makes outsiders feel like insiders.
2. Acknowledge the built-in hurdles.
Let’s take myth #2 as an example here. No, not everybody is a greeter. Deacon Bob may be great at repairing the leaky faucets around the church building, but he’s got a crusty exterior that doesn’t exude a lot of warmth to someone meeting him for the first time. Deacon Bob should hold a wrench, but maybe he shouldn’t hold a door. Or be expected to speak to a stranger. Or have it assumed that he’ll invite that stranger out for lunch after church.
It can be true that Deacon Bob is a faithful friend who will show up at your house at 11 p.m. to help you find your water shutoff, and also true that no one sees that faithful friendship until they’ve been around him for a few
Getting the “Deacon Bobs” clear in your mind will remind you that not everyone is cut out to be on your frontline greeting team. Just because we want it to be true…and maybe just because it should be true (1 Peter 4:8)…doesn’t mean that it always is true.
3. Look at your margins.
I’m not talking here about financial or time margins, but rather the margins of your gathered crowd. When you stand at the back of your sanctuary on Sunday morning or your fellowship hall on Wednesday night, who is on the fringes? Who sits by themselves? Which groups of people naturally cling together, and which groups (or individuals) remain unseen?
Or here’s a truly painful one: when you do the “turn and greet your neighbor” time (please don’t), who stands awkwardly by themselves as everyone is talking around them?
Years ago I shared the story of my dear friend Virginia, who taught me that you can be in a full room and still feel desperately alone. We can’t really believe myths 1 and 2 if people are still on the sidelines, looking for a friend. And when we call out those tough examples of lonely people, it makes those myths wither away.
4. Appoint a point person.
“Everyone is a greeter” can serve as a convenient cover for the fact that we can’t field a full hospitality team. After all, if everyone has the job, we don’t have to give anyone in particular the job.
But even if you can’t field a team of many, could you recruit a team of one? Could you actually give someone the title of Hospitality Director or Guest Services Leader or whatever? Their job is not to greet every single new person who walks in the door, but rather to make sure every single new person is greeted when they walk through the door.
Now, the footprint of your church and the schedule of your morning may dictate whether one person can have eyes on all things all day. But to have someone who genuinely loves people and loves hospitality, that can be the thing that serves as a catalyst to get the ball rolling.
[related post: Own It & On It]
5. Keep your head on a swivel.
A friend of mine uses this phrase all the time, and while I’ve tried to tell him it’s not actually a thing that people say, it actually makes sense in this regard (don’t tell him I said that…his big swiveling head will just get bigger).
Whether it’s a point person – or you – we have to keep an eye out for the newcomer. If you’re a small church (defined in this series as 150 or less), it should be relatively easy to scan the room and see who’s new or unfamiliar. If you see them, you’re responsible for them. Responsible for getting the point person to spring into action, or (gasp) responsible for talking to them yourself.
Do you have an idea or question for the Smaller Church series? Reach out to me directly or comment below.