It isn’t welcoming if I can’t figure out how to get inside.

Being welcoming.

I know you TOTALLY asked for my opinion. And you know me, happy to oblige. I know some people couldn’t care less about the things I’m going to talk about but, darnit, they bug me!

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If it is your church’s tradition to stand and sing all the children out of the sanctuary after the story for all ages? Then put an asterisk in the order of service and let people know that.

*After the Story For All Ages please rise as you are willing and able and join us as we sing the children out of the sanctuary with “Go Now In Peace” #413.

It’s SUPER easy. It makes you more welcoming to new folks who won’t be totally thrown off when suddenly everyone stands up and starts singing a song that is not printed anywhere in the order of service.

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If it is the custom in your church that everyone stays seated after the benediction to allow time to reflect and meditate? That’s fabulous.

“Please rise now and join in singing hymn #347 Gather in Spirit after which we will have time for reflection and meditation before leaving the sanctuary.”

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If your church does not stand until AFTER the pianist has played the hymn through once?

“We will first hear the music through once then please rise as you are able and join in singing hymn #1014 Standing on the Side of Love in your teal hymnal”

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Your chalice lighting SAYS “unison” but it actually means “the minister reads everything but the last two lines?”

DON’T WRITE UNISON.

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If there is a parish meeting scheduled for directly after the service? Don’t hold it LITERALLY directly following the service as in, not giving people the chance to leave the sanctuary. It’s really, really off putting to new people for them to awkwardly leave the sanctuary and have nowhere to go or nothing to do while the members have all been thrown from “worship service” into “meeting.”

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Does everyone in the congregation just know that you are supposed to get your cups from the third cabinet from the left above the sink for coffee hour?

Appoint a bored looking kid to stand near the cups, holding a couple of them, and letting newer looking folks know where to get them. Additionally, tell the new folks where to put their cups after they are done. Or just laminate two signs, one that says “CLEAN MUGS!” and one that says “DIRTY MUGS.” Problem solved.

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I’m not saying I’m any kind of an authority on running church. But seriously, do you know how monumentally awkward it is to hear “please rise as you are willing and able and join in singing Spirit of Life” to then rise and realize the rest of the congregation stays sitting until the song has been played through once? Or when, after the benediction, you stand up to leave and realize everyone is still sitting around in silence?

Or to be the only one sitting when the entire congregation suddenly stands up to sing the kids out while you are sitting there going “wait, WHAT?”

And, please, I’m so glad that you’ve found a system that works for the mugs during coffee hour! Just please, tell me what it is.

I don’t think a congregation should need an instruction manual to worship at their congregation. I don’t think that would be a good thing at all. I just think that if we want to be open to everyone, even to the really shy people who like to know what is going on, that some things could be explained a lot more.

One last thing. If the big, giant, prominent doors are not the ones that people are supposed to use to enter your church? PUT A SIGN ON THEM OR SOMETHING. I know it’s second nature to every single person in your congregation that you actually enter through the awkward side door that looks like it was last painted in 1904 and you have to turn the handle like a combination lock to get it to open, but it’s not exactly obvious to people who have never been there before. This is where bored looking children can come in useful again.

Seriously.

(I have no idea if those are the right hymn numbers.  I usually have a pretty good memory, but I don’t have SLT in front of me)

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6 Responses to “It isn’t welcoming if I can’t figure out how to get inside.”

  1. Excellent points that everyone should remember (and fix)!

  2. Good points! They probably need someone new to point these things out to them, as the congregation has been doing the same thing for years, and hasn’t viewed their church from a newcomer’s perspective…

  3. Great points. I would add…just tell people when to stand and sit.
    And let’s loose the “willing” in “please stand if your are willing and able.” It’s good for them to stand if they can, and you are obviously not going to sic the Inquisiton on those who don’t, and who needs to stop and ask themselves, “am I willing?”. Invite them to stand if they are able.

  4. Yes, good points! Though I would add, along with Christine’s “just tell people…” that unless you use the printed Order of Service as a worship book that people have to read along with in order to participate, using asterisks and notes is more stuff to ignore or miss. Just incorporate spoken instructions. But do so in the least obtrusive way possible, since the service isn’t about standing and sitting or waiting meditatively before leaving or any of the mechanics of it. Mechanics are mechanics and when they get the stress, it’s rather like putting the toilet bowl in the living room.

    And talking about toilets, if your well signed restroom doors are not in clear view on entering, if they are discreetly tucked around a corner, available but out of sight, put a very visible sign with an arrow in the area(s) that everyone passes through on the way into the sanctuary. It is awkward first thing on arriving to have to ask a total stranger who seems intent on getting you pewed where the toilets are.

    Another thing, don’t have congregational singing that is not led by someone with a good, strong, pleasant voice whom everyone can hear and follow. It doesn’t have to be someone with training on how to wave their hands about. Most people don’t really have any idea what that’s all about anyway. Just looks like aerobic exercise raised to the level of performance. But the song-leader does need to provide a clear, unambiguous, audible reference point on the music so people can find their place if lost and join in at any point without being able to read music or having to follow the person next to them who is singing softly and is also a bit lost.

  5. As someone who’s attended many services at many churches and i incredibly prone to feeling awkward and out of place, and as someone who also went to one church for a really long time and knew all those things that new people would probably have been waaaaay thrown off by, I enjoyed this post. I’m almost afraid to ask – did all of your examples happen at the same church on the same day?!?

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