In the past few months, our family has faced a temporary life transition.
We have temporarily relocated for period of four months, away from our church, away from our social networks, and away from our friends.
Our move is only temporary, so we made a decision to pick a church where some friends attend and just stay there.
This puts us in a real life experience of
- being the first time visitor in a church and
- experience the challenges of getting connected.
The church we have chosen has multiple services, so there are lots of people. Â We expect to remain anonymous in this church.
Church Greeters will never know if we are new or repeat visitors, so their job is really to make sure we get to our seats and say hello.
Our positive overall experience.
During our initial visits, we were pretty much left to ourselves.
They have ushers and greeters and several good hospitality practices.
Sermons are relevant and connect Scripture to life.
They have a coffee hour after the service that allows us to visit and linger if we choose.
Guided to Children’s Church
I don’t expect too much personal attention in a church of this size, butÂ on our second visit, one church member personally invited my young daughter to children’s church.
When she agreed to go (and be with a bunch of strangers), he personally led me and my daughter through the maze of their building to the children’s church class.
My daughter is social and outgoing, but I can imagine that she was somewhat intimidated at walking into
- a new space,
- with 25 new kids,
- a new teacher,
- no friends yet.
The teacher did a great job in helping my daughter start to join in with the activities of the class, and I was able to return to the service.
How do we get in?
This is a relatively large church. Â This church has
- 3 services on a Sunday,
- lots of different options for Sunday school,
- snacks at good coffee hour after the one service we attend
- lots of programming announcements in the multi-page bulletin.
It’s a busy Sunday Â morning when we navigate the building to find our kids, get some coffee, and so on.
There really isn’t much time to make friends in the small window between services and Sunday school starting.
So that leaves us with the question,
how do we develop friends in a new church?
Accidentally Left Out?
We filled out the connection card for two weeks, but it did not seem to trigger any kind of response that I expected:
- a letter,
- a phone call,
- a visit,
- bag of cookies
- informational packet
I had assumed of a church this size that we’d receive some informational pieces about the church that could tell us more about the places we could connect.
Advertised Programming not a match
As we looked over the bulletin each week, the programs that got more detailed descriptions didn’t appeal to us or our life situation: Grief care groups, divorce care groups, recovery groups.
Most of the other bulletin announcements seemed to be logistical details of schedule changes, room changes,volunteer signups, and other stuff that members needed to know.
There was a logo for a program called “Connections” but no description of what that was.
Might Sunday School be the way in?
We determined at least to let our kids go to Sunday school that happens after the service we attend. Â For our kids – it was an easy option. Â One Sunday school class for middle schoolers and one Sunday school class for the grade in elementary school.
But for us, we didn’t see a descriptive list of Sunday school classes, or know how to get one. Â We only saw a class title and room number. Â There were several classes for adults to choose from with nothing more than a title and room number.
The end result for us was
- too many options
- with too little information
- and no clear simple next step.
So we made a default choice of simply hanging out at the coffee hour while our kids went to Sunday school.
So what happened?
An observant church member noted our lingering during the coffee time (after many people went to the next service or Sunday School).
They personally invited us to their choice of Sunday school class and took the time to tell us about the other classes that were happening, and we happily went along with them.
After a good Sunday school experience, our kids wanted to go to Wednesday night youth group. Â When I showed up to deliver the kids to youth group,some friendly church members
- personally led us the youth room,
- made friendly small talk
- invited me to visit with one of the many classes.
- took me to each class to meet with the leader to briefly here a description.
I found a Wednesday night class that I could attend.
The Sunday school class and the Wednesday night class have become places where we are starting to make friends.