Visitor anxiety

August 12, 2010

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.

Comments

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.

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.

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.