Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shaky on shaking hands

So... I can't decide what to do. I thought I had decided, but now I'm unsure.

I have always been the first to leave the sanctuary on Sunday mornings after our worship gatherings. That way I could get to the bottom of the stairs and shake everyone's hand as they were leaving the sanctuary and entering the main hallway where the cookie and coffee table is (which then leads to the exit). I have always enjoyed this time, because it gives me a chance to meet any visitors, as well as catch up with people, even with just a word or two.

However, several weeks ago I had a conversation with someone (one-sided as it was), and they stated in several different ways how it was "MY Sunday service," or "MY worship service," and a few other ways I can't really recall. What I heard was someone stating that they thought the church was a little too much about me. And they weren't really being critical even. But it came across that they really felt like it was MY church, and everything they did, and the reason they attended on Sundays, was because of ME. I believe this also led to them being very hurt when they thought that *I* had disrespected them. Which, in turn, has caused them to leave the church.

It has honestly been troubling me for almost 2 months now. And I've not known what to do about it. So, what I had decided was that I needed to somehow get across that this is not MY church, but it is GOD'S church. It's also not MY worship service. One thing that I thought might help is if I no longer shook everyone's hand as they left. Perhaps this does make it seem a little too much like I am the center of it all; when in actuality, it is ALL OF US who make up the church here. So I would still do my thing, but when the service was over, we would all depart in like manner. And if someone needed to speak to me, I would always be available up front. This is actually how most churches operate anymore to my knowledge. I don't remember the last time I was at a church where the pastor shook everyone's hand as they left.

However, after not doing this the past 2 Sundays I was here... it feels odd. It's like I have now lost the most valuable time I had to relate to people on Sunday mornings. So I am torn as to whether or not this is the right thing to do. Am I just being selfish - because I like to greet people before they leave? Or is there another way to make a difference and make it not seem so much like it's MY church (or my service)? I honestly don't know. I don't want it to seem like I don't care about people and I don't want to lose touch, but I also want to get across that we're all in this together. I could use some help.


Larry Geiger said...

Our building has two doors in the back. The pastor exits during the last hymn and stands just outside one door. Almost everyone exits through that door and greets the pastor. Some, a few, go out the other door. Some go out the side door to the fellowship hall to pick up their kids from Sunday School or the nursery.

To me it feels more like we are greeting the pastor more than the pastor is greeting us. We make the choice. If you don't have two doors, maybe you could stand further out from the door, near the sidewalk, so that it turns in to more of a gathering than a reception line.

I have been in churches where the pastor follows the congregation out and then things sort of gather up together in the aisle and the narthex. Some folks sit in the back and exit ahead of everyone else.

Also, you need to figure out what works for you AND your congregation and not worry too much about what one person thinks.

dan horwedel said...

Excellent points, Larry. Thanks.

Jim said...

Our sanctuary is much like Larry's, in that there's the main hall/door out, but there are also two side doors. The pastor (pastors, actually - there are two) go to the back during the last hymn and shake hands as people are leaving. Most people go through that main door and shake their hands - in fact, I would say most people WANT to shake their hands and have a bit of conversation with the pastor...Maybe just to prove they were "in church." But if someone wants to avoid all that they can simply go out one of the side doors or through good timing slip by in the main door while the pastor is engaged with someone else.

My only comment is that having the pastor(s) right at the main door creates a bit of a traffic jam, but that's just the computer programmer in me looking at it from an efficiency aspect, which is not what church is supposed to be about. :o)

dan horwedel said...

Yeah, we have that bottleneck too. I think some people just accept it as part of what church is about. And certainly you could say it might even force some interaction to happen while people are waiting in line.

I dunno though... I'm still torn on this idea. I appreciate the comments both of you made. And I think most of the people in my church WANT to talk with me too... but I still think it kind of creates a "they are MY guest" atmosphere, rather than "we're all in this together." I mean, it's like if you invite a bunch of people to your house - they would expect you to go to the door with them and see them off (like the pastor shaking hands as you leave). But if we're all on equal ground, and we truly are "in community" together... we should all be greeting and sending one another off together. Or something.

Anyway, thanks for the help in processing this. Feel free to keep the ideas coming.

Jim said...

Here's a freaky idea that just came to me. Do you have greeters at the start of service? We do, at least in the morning services (which our family never goes to - it's 5:00 pm on Sundays for us!) Anyway, maybe you need to have "goodbyers", too. A rotating group of people who shake hands and talk and say goodbye to people on their way out of service.

I dunno how the whole pastorin' thing works, so maybe the following idea won't work, but instead of preaching a sermon and teaching people a lesson, once in a while can you give a sermon that presents an issue like this and then asks a question? Like, "Hey, this is what I am thinking - does that it make sense to anyone else, too? What should we do about it?" You don't have to have ALL the answers, ya know - in fact, having all the answers makes it "your church" more than "our church" much more than whether you stand at the back door or not! :o)

Good post, good topic to think about...

Carrie Jade said...

whoa - goodbyers...genius idea.