Let’s face it, there are people in our lives whom we consider to be our friends, and then there are people we don’t care about. We maintain and regulate our few, coagulated homies like Mr. Rogers used to maintain his golden, button-up sweater and blue suede shoes–daily and exclusively–the same, basic outfit every single show.
Walking into a church for the first time on a Sunday morning can be a terrifyingly strange experience. Taking the big leap of faith into the trying-a-new-church-for-the-first-time-since-your-mom-made-you-wear-a-sailors-suit-and-bow-tie-to-church-on-Easter-Sunday can quickly present itself as a situational discomfort unlike any typically sought after weekend activity. In order for most “churched” people to really start befriending you, Newcomer, you’ve got to attend regularly and somehow push into at least one of the more predominant, preformed, circles of friends.
How do most churches get around this “welcoming challenge”? With a committee strategy, of course. We send enthusiastic people highly trained in the ways of smiling and hand shaking around the room to intercept any newcomer-esque attendees. Church leadership usually determines which people will go, and those selected will work the room, cautiously introducing themselves to you–The Newcomer–welcoming you into the wonderful world of the church. (Take note of how people have to be assigned to do this task.) If the welcoming committee people seem a little distracted, don’t hold it against them. Remember, their real friends are still out in the foyer drinking coffee and eating tasty fruit tarts.
The welcoming committee, or your new “fake-friends” as I like to call them, do their part to make most guests feel as comfortable as possible, like you’re now a part of something truly cool and culturally relevant. But the real situation, and this is why you the Newcomer can’t quite seem to connect, is that most of the friendly church people are busy being friendly with the friends they already have. And how do we convince our churches friendliest members to go and be friendly to those outside of their well groomed, established groups? We don’t. We usually just send the committee because it’s the committees job, and jobs are easier to establish and enforce.
If you’re new to the church, and you’re experiencing this weird activity, please take my advice: Don’t worry; it’s not you. Well, it is you, but it’s not really you. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not your fault. You don’t smell too badly, and your clothes are actually spot on. Your hair is fine, and as far as we can tell, you’re probably educated and employed. So everything is in line for you to eventually become a friend of the church and maybe even an active, sought-after member! But for now, don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It’s ours. We’re a little insecure when it comes to what we believe, and we don’t want to be too joyful or too loving toward anyone we don’t already know and care about. And, apparently, the fruit tarts are really good.