I regularly shop at one of the members-only-stores in Gwinnett County. The maze of aisles contains items I never knew that I absolutely had to have. Everyone needs a 20 pound bag of white rice and a 12 count case of cough medicine in the pantry.
In case of an ice storm or zombie uprising, gather at my house. We’re stocked for any apocalypse.
The club store posts a clerk at the exit to crosscheck the buggy’s contents against the receipt’s items. I worked retail during high school and college, so I understand the need for inventory control. Yet and still, I always feel vaguely guilty about some indeterminate trespass during the process.
For incomprehensible reasons, the store’s supervisors often assign M to guard the door. He may rank as one of the most inhospitable store clerks I’ve ever encountered. I would say he’s the Eeyore of the retail world, but it would be a disservice to the rainy-day grey donkey of the Hundred Acre Wood.
M always wears a frown. I’ve heard him speak in monosyllables, but most of our encounters occur in silence. He tugs the receipt out of my hand, carefully counts the buggy’s items, and then dismissively waves me out the door.
Love me, hate me, but don’t ignore me.
On several occasions after completing the checkout process, I have stepped into his personal space, stared deep into his eyes, sweetly smiled, and said: “You have a REALLY nice day.” Then I hold position until he reluctantly grunts a reply.
I always shake my head in amazement at the store’s incompetent use of their human resources. Greeters by definition ought to GREET people. Put someone with the gift of gab at the door. Assign M somewhere in the back where he never sees another living being.
After each encounter, I also find myself wondering how well the church handles hospitality with our customers. It takes courage to visit a new church for the first time. Longtime members forget how uncomfortable the experience can be. Thankfully, it only takes a few people practicing radical hospitality to make a guest feel right at home.
Granted, the Holy Spirit graces some people with the spiritual gift of hospitality. However, we can all act hospitably to others. Greet strangers rather than friends. Join someone at a table sitting alone. Instead of giving directions, walk with someone to their destination. Take the initiative to exchange introductions. Brag to visitors about the articulate and handsome senior pastor.
I go back to the box store each week because the great deals outweigh M’s lack of hospitality. However, everyone won’t give the church a second chance. The good news is it only takes one congregation member to make a positive difference in a guest’s life.
Be the one.
We have a wonderful greeter at the door for 8am service she always makes you feel welcome. I have seen people take visitors to there destinations. It is not hard to brag on our handsome senior pastor
When I first started attending FUMC back in 2011, I sat in the back left section facing the alter every week for a month and no one asked me my name or said hello (other than the standard greet your neighbor). If I didn’t have the personality to go “get involved” and join a Sunday School class, I most likely would not have come back again! Remember to look around after service each week and extend that radical hospitality to any new faces. It makes a difference!
You’re absolutely right–when people say “that was a friendly congregation,” it typically means two or three people went out of their way to make them feel at some.