2/14/15

visitors are people, too

Happy New Year.

I realize that it's been the new year for a while, but I haven't been here in a while, so this is my formal New Year's address to you.

Let me catch you up to speed:

A year ago I moved from KY to WI, then four months ago I tried moving back to KY but moved back to WI shortly thereafter. Now I have a good (non-church) job that gives me lots of chocolate to make me feel like a valuable (and diabetic) employee, and I'm living in my own (albeit lonely) place with my cat, who is sitting on my lap right now like the fluffy toasted marshmallow that she is.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and Sundays were, once upon a time, my busiest days. Full of coffee and bustling hallways and being on stage and meeting new people and avoiding the bulletins because it was too late to fix any mistakes and hustling from one side of the building to the other to make sure everything was running the way it was supposed to be running.

Now I'm sitting on my living room floor trying to decide which church to visit tomorrow, preparing myself once again to be another visitor at another new church. I'll get there early and sit in my car until it feels a little less early, then I'll take a deep breath and walk through the doors and smile and shake peoples' hands and find the auditorium and sit by myself and fill out an "I'm new here" card and observe what style of music they have and analyze the pastor's sermon and occasionally glance around the room to see what kind of people go here and if they are like me at all. And I'll simultaneously hope that they notice I'm new and that no one notices I'm new.

Has this ever been you?

It had never been me, till now, and suddenly I realize how very hard it is to be a visitor.

For example, I went to this church a few weeks ago where the pastor asked, "How many of you are Jesus-lovers in here today?"

My arms had been crossed around my middle and, as I saw out of the corner of my eye all these hands shooting up around me, I went to raise my hand, too. However, my ring got caught on my sweater and I tugged and tugged but it didn't unsnag, and before I could get it free the pastor had moved on and everyone lowered their hands and I had not proclaimed to be a Jesus-lover.

I felt judging eyes all over me. I was positive that someone in the back of the room had made a note on his little clipboard, "Girl in red sweater. Not a Jesus-lover. Talk to her after."

That same church sent me this card in the mail:


A few facts about this card:

  1. It came 2 weeks after I'd visited their church.
  2. I left before the service was over, so it's not probable that he talked to me at the "After Party."
  3. I don't know what this "difficult time" is that he speaks of, but I will also be praying for whoever it is that is going through it. (Unless he's referring to me not loving Jesus, according to Clipboard Guy, in which case okay, pray for me if you want.)

Oh, how very important it is to feel welcomed and noticed and remembered.

If you're a church-attender and you've been at your church for 5 or 15 years, maybe try to step out of your comfort zone a little and greet someone new. They probably really want you to and really don't want you to at the same time. But they do want to feel welcomed, and noticed, and remembered. And your one little action can make all the difference.

If you're searching for a new church and feeling weary of the search, I feel you. I grow impatient for a place to call home. All I can say is enjoy the adventure and take advantage of the free stuff. I have so many copies of Andy Stanley's How Good Is Good Enough? I'm beginning to use them as coasters.

And if you're a church staffer and every weekend is the same ol' time to make the donuts, remember that people are walking in your doors to find a place to belong, and you can either offer it to them or make them feel like just another outsider of some cool clique. I get that it's hard to tell who's new sometimes, and you don't want to embarrass yourself by asking someone, "Are you new?" when they helped plant the church 25 years ago. But guess what: church isn't about you. So maybe risk some embarrassment and make people feel welcomed.

Also, make eye-contact. Nothing is more annoying than talking to a staff member who's scanning the halls for other people. SEE ME!

Okay I'm done now.

Here's this song to kick off the new year [two months late]:


7 comments:

  1. Hi Heather: This is Sarah's mom (Karen.) This is the second time I tried to post this comment so I hope it works. I just wanted to encourage you to keep writing...you are a gifted and talented writer. I especially like your humor. I don't get to visit churches very often but when I do, I can certainly identify with your experiences. In particular, "I'll simultaneously hope that they notice I'm new and that no one notices I'm new." I don't know if this conundrum (my new word for the week) can be solved. Thank You!

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    1. Thank you, Karen! I agree, I don't think the discomfort of being a visitor can ever be completely eased. We just have to embrace the tension!

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  2. Great post. Tell us more about this new job. Is this the insurance thing? Was I unsuccessful in warning them away from you?

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  3. Ask your coworkers what services they attend. Sheboygan has a good selection of churches and denominations. By asking others at ACUITY where they go, perhaps you will find a fellow 'Jesus-lover'...

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    1. I actually did this very thing! And am happily plugging in to a church. Thanks for the advice!

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  4. Oh my gosh my mom wrote a comment.

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