In almost every church I have visited, there is some period of time set aside during the service to "greet one another". Presumably this is an opportunity for church members to greet visitors and get to know them better. What seems to happen more often than not is that folks spend lots of time shaking heads but never really getting to know one another. Part of that is the constraints of time. It's hard in the course of a couple of minutes to start a meaningful conversation with someone especially when that person already feels a little uncomfortable and out of place. Of course, as an introvert I'm not inclined to engage in meaningless conversation. I'm naturally uncomfortable in large gatherings. Greeting time usually ends up being the most excruciating part of the service.
By the way, is it too much to ask for folks to introduce themselves? I can't tell you how many times I have visited a church where no one wants to tell me their name.
The other issue is the fact that the greeting time ends up disrupting the flow of the worship service. I've experienced this both as part of the congregation and as a worship leader. It's difficult to get folks focused back on worship after they have been up shaking hands and chatting with each other.
I'm all for trying to make visitors feel more comfortable in the church. As a matter of fact, I think most churches don't expend enough energy welcoming visitors to the church. But it also seems that the best time to do this is either before or after the worship service. But interrupting the service for a few minutes of chit-chat seems to be counterproductive. Like so many of the other elements of worship that have become entrenched in our services it would be wise to reconsider whether greeting time is really accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. If it isn't then maybe it's time to stop doing it.
Previous entries in this series: