Friday, August 25, 2006


A couple of interesting notes that I neglected to include in previous posts regarding our church visits.

Disclaimer: These are just observations; not really "random" but still not big, scary showstoppers in terms of gaffes, either.

At church visit # 1, all of the advertising for the church indicated a Sunday a.m. start time of 10:45, including the recorded message one gets when calling the church contact number, which we did on Saturday to try to make sure we knew when the service would begin. We arrived at the church at 10:40 a.m. and the service was already in full swing. A sign out front indicated a "new" start time of 10:30 a.m. Ok, perhaps we would have known this if we had driven by the church some time during the previous week (or month? who knows how long the sign had been out there?). However, as visitors we were relying on other media - especially the recorded message - to be accurate. Also, a large part of our "plan" is to see how we are greeted at each church. We missed that opportunity because all of the ushers and greeters were already inside the auditorium. We had to find our own way in and find our own seats.

At church visit # 3, we were offered a Bible when we arrived, but we were allowed to decline the offer because we had brought our own Bibles. That is all well and good. However, during the service the pastor referred us to Scripture passages by giving us a PAGE NUMBER - only. He never told us book, chapter and verse. Now, don't get me wrong. The message was truly wonderful, and we figured out where he was by the context, but it seems like it would have been a good idea to tell everyone the actual Scripture "address."

Also at church visit # 3, we noted that there was not an invitation at the end of the service. That little "omission" caused us to ponder... and we were pretty sure we would like for any evangelical service to end with an invitation. However, at church visit # 4 (about which I have not yet reported!) there was also no invitation. We pondered some more. I am going to write an entry of its own for the subject of "The Invitation."

I also intend to write a separate entry about Denominationalism (and "post-denominationalism").

One more item that relates to all of the church visits we have made so far: "Welcome" letters. We have received a welcome letter from each of the four churches we have visited. You know, those post-visit form letters that basically say how glad they are that you visited their church, signed by the pastor. These are fine. They accomplish everything they are designed to accomplish; namely, hey, we noticed you, our visitor card in the offering plate notification system is functioning as normal, and we hope this warm note is a nice reminder of a pleasant experience and that you will happily choose to become a part of our "fellowship."

I don't mean to sound quite so cynical about this, but it IS a form letter. I know I would notice it for sure if the church did not send us one. In fact, church visit # 1 took almost two weeks to send theirs and we thought they had overlooked something we apparently consider to be at the very least a matter of good manners - like sending "thank you's" to people from whom you recieve a gift. Nevertheless, it also seems a bit like an empty formality. I'm wondering if there is a better way...

This is a tough call because churches have been "warned" by pollsters and pundits that we do not want visitors to feel hounded, singled out or spotlighted. But still, in this day of mega-spam and daily junk mail, that letter from the church pretty much feels like just another hunk of flotsam awash in a sea of postal debris.

I don't know what the answer is. A more personal sounding letter might be a good start; one with an actual "wet" signature from the pastor instead of a xerox copy. It's a fine line. We also don't want to go to cheesy-freebie land, either.

We had an experience in Virginia in which we received "The Letter" on Tuesday, got a phone call on Thursday to see if we got the letter and to ask if it would be okay to come visit us. We said, "Sure!" So, three people (two men and a woman) visited us the next Monday evening for about twenty minutes. That was actually kind of nice. And we did not feel hounded.

Once in Texas we received a full-blown welcome package. Besides the obligatory letter, if contained, among other things (I don't think I remember it all) , a refrigerator magnet with church contact information, a sampler CD of worship music and a VHS videotape of one of the pastor's sermons.

Anyway, turns out maybe I should have made this item a separate entry, too. I did not think I had quite so much to say about it!

Needless to say, all of these "expectations" of ours, some of which we did not even know we had, are getting quite a workout!

Til next time,

No comments: