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Visitor anxiety

I’m always a little on edge when I spot visitors at church, especially truly new people who are checking out our congregation for the first or second time.

I become more aware of elements of the service. Did the worship leader have to pick that song today? Did the preacher have to tell that story? Little things I see as the usual quirks in a congregation become causes for concern.

I was in charge of planning worship one Sunday when we were expecting a group of visitors—not people looking for a church home but, more anxiety-producing for me, pastors from our denomination and leaders of national organizations who had been attending meetings in the church building.

I spent extra time preparing. Would “Veni Sancte Spiritus” fit as the first hymn, or would visitors find it strange for Mennonites to be singing in Latin? Which members would read scripture most eloquently?

At some point I stopped and reminded myself that I can't change our church members, nor do I want to. The church can’t be ironed out, dressed up and plastered with makeup to look pretty on picture day. It is an imperfect reflection of God's love for us through broken people.

We haven't necessarily failed if the visitors don't come back, or if they take reports of our eccentricities back to their congregations. We can pray they saw some of the good, too.

If I love my congregation, warts and all, then I should be glad to have visitors get to know us as we are. Perhaps that odd song or awkward story is a blessing after all.

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John VanDerWalekr said...

John VanDerWalekr said...

A poignant post considering a conversation yesterday. In one of our congregations a bachelor has a certain air about him and usually sits alone in a pew with the rest of the seats taken through out the sanctuary. Visitors come, where might they sit? Our discussion centered on hospitality and how to extend it to both the known sitting alone in the pew, and the stranger who may sit next to him.
Thank you Celeste for a thought provoking post. When you mentioned putting on makeup my thought went directly to presenting the church (body of Christ) as a harlot, a thought that gripped and terrified me. Because of my guilt?. This goes right to the "Church Dos and Don'ts in Century marks. Present the congregation as it is, and confess that you are becoming God's church.

David Warkentin said...

David Warkentin said...

Thanks Celeste! Coming from a small church, it's so hard to resist the temptation to sell ourselves. Your story is an excellent reminder.

Sally said... Your love

Sally said...

Your love for your church shone in your post!

Pat Pope said... I'm in

Pat Pope said...

I'm in the middle of a pastoral search and on a couple of occasions we've had candidates come and visit. While the temptation is there to want everything to be "right" for their visit, it's best that they see the church as it really is and more importantly how glitches are handled.

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