Monday, June 13, 2005

on being the new guy

Jacob's Well took the night off last night so a friend and I went to check out another church in OKC. It's been a long time since I walked into a church for the first time. I've forgotten what a wierd feeling it is to stick out like that and not know the rules and find yourself in a world that you are kind of familiar with, but at the same time a complete stranger. The experience was cool. We met some new people and got to see another expression of what the Church looks like.
More than anything it reminded me of what our community needs to be careful of when new faces come out way.
1. Honor time - we are not good at this at all. Starting and stopping on (or at least near) the time you say doesn't put people in the position of checking watches and worrying about whatever is next in their lives after they leave.
2. Invite them into our community - I'm not talking about giving them a membership card (anyone remember those?) but for the time they are with us I want people to feel like they are a part of us, not just interested observers from the sidelines. I feel like our community does a good job of this.
3. Don't make the conversations about "us" - the second question we got from every person we met last night (after "what's your name?") was some version of "how did you find out about us?". I know it's a natural question, but to me it felt like suddenly the conversation was about them and I didn't matter. Not that I need to matter, but for someone who is being introduced to a community for the first time, I think it's important to make them the focus of the conversation. We have some people in our church who are great at this and I learn from the all the time watching them talk with people.
I think I'm also developing some rules for visiting churches. I have no idea when they'll come in handy again, but I'm ready.
1. Get there right when they say they're starting. Early is bad, you catch people running around trying to get things done and you get stuck either (a) looking around or (b) reading their "literature".
2. Sit in the back. We sat four rows back last night. Turns out we were in the front row. Very comfortable.
3. Don't bring a Bible. Nothing says "church geek" like having your Bible with you. It seems like the assumption today is that people won't have them so scripture goes on the screen or in the "bulletin". I don't like this one, but it reflects my experience. (not just last night)
4. Don't tell anyone you go to another church. This is an immediate conversation killer.
5. Hang around for a minute or two after it's over. The goal here is to see if anyone is going to eat. You can find out a whole lot more about people and their church over dinner than sitting in church together. Unless of course you don't want to know them any better, in which case - run for the exit like your pants are on fire.

Ah the wonders of church-hopping.


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