Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Welcome Visitor

My husband, Tol and I went to a gospel meeting tonight in the next town from us. Although this congregation has helped my husband with money recently on one of his "mission" trips to the Caribbean, we have never been to visit with them and have not personally met the elders or members; my husband has met the preacher. We felt it would be a good opportunity for us to meet them.

When we came into the assembly tonight, no one greeted us. We went about half way down the aisle and found a seat. As the auditorium began to fill, the members greeted one another and carried on quite lively conversations with one another and still, no one greeted us. About 2 or 3 minutes before the services began, the preacher saw my husband and came and spoke to him, never even introducing himself to me, and asked him to lead prayer.

Finally, the services began and the singing was excellent as was the sermon. After the closing prayer, we very slowly made our way to the back of the auditorium. No one greeted us though we smiled and acknowledged several. The visiting preacher greeted Tol as we exited the auditorium and again, the local preacher told him he was really glad we came.

We lingered in the lobby for what seemed to me an eternity, and finally one of the elders whom my husband has spoken to several times on the phone came and introduced himself to Tol. He immediately recognized Tol's name but never even asked him how the trip he had just recently taken, went. (I would have thought he would have been interested in the work they had helped to support.) After another long space of time, the other elder and his wife came and introduced themselves to both of us. Tol told them who we were and they just said, "We are glad you came" and then walked off.

For some reason, I did not really feel like anyone was glad we came. There was another family we saw who were obviously visitors who were treated much the same way that we were. Tol had hoped to get acquainted and instead we felt totally shunned. And from the looks of things, it appears that is just the way they treat visitors. Though one or two say they are glad you are there, you sure do not feel welcome in any way. What if we had been a young family that had just moved into the neighborhood and were looking for a new church? The way in which we were treated tonight, I doubt that the family would ever return.

How do you treat visitors at your congregation? Do you ignore them and expect someone else to greet them? Are you glad they are there? If you are, then show them that you are. Ask their names, where they are from, how long they have lived in the area, etc. Make them feel that you really mean what you say. (Thanks for letting me vent.)

Dana Burk

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