Just got recruited to be a “host” or “greeter” at a church I am supporting and connecting in with. This is humbling for me as I feel so strongly about hospitality and it is one of the most significant things about churches that I often miss when I attend a service. If we are to offer a truly authentic and genuine experience of community, we have to think through everything! Greeting, food, how we sit, how we speak, how we as leaders dress, our use of microphones, etc. I offer these thoughts only as my own experience and in an effort to open up conversation. They do not represent any specific thinking of anyone that I know.
I should say that it is my hope and desire incorporate belonging and authenticity in all that I do… greeting would fit into that… and I know that I have experienced some pretty confusing messages from greeters at churches in the past. Not that I am pinpointing any specific community… but it is definitely one of the things that screams CHURCH when there are some greeters who you know are just there because it’s their duty and they want to make sure you have a bulletin. The best is when you know that the two greeters are married and they have decided to do it together. I can tell that they have not really had anyone encourage them how to be a more authentic greeter. They just signed up. I shake each of their hands as a sort of secret password entry requirement and we smile and they give me a bulletin. Even better when they don’t know, and I don’t know, who I am going to get the bulletin from. They both have them and I can only choose from one of them. They don’t really know me better and I don’t really know them any better either… Name tags, vests, similar words to everyone (like “Good morning, welcome to…”)…. kinda reminds me of Walmart. This could be totally unfair… but it is a pretty strange thing for people who don’t know the “Christian church” subculture.
I hope we can talk about ways that make people feel less “churchy” and more community focused. Greeting is the first thing people experience. I wonder what it would look like to have 10 or so greeters that no one knows are greeters. They just walk around and try to find the people who don’t seem to know where they are going. Maybe there is a different name that can be used.
What it really comes down to is authenticity. If someone is not super out-going or the best at small talk, it means so much more to me for them to say hi and ask if there is anything they can help me find. If I don’t know them, I want to. I don’t want to know who the pastor is until he or she gets up in front. I’d love the leaders of the church to be just like all the rest of the folks who are there… intentionally modeling an interest in individuals lives. Willing to sit with someone who really needs to be sat with.
If “greeters” were to be the ultimate hospitality offerers I feel as though they would be consistently paying attention to those who have come in the doors of the meeting place with stuff going on. More than half of the church doesn’t need to have their hand shaken at the door or be handed a bulletin. They know where to get one, where to go, and they are glad they are there. It is the ones who really need someone to ask them how things are going and what’s going on that perhaps often feel the most significantly alone when they get to church. They are the ones who feel like there is no one there to help them. This is what greeters can.should offer.
Just my thoughts. Take them for what they are worth.