Every week at our Church there are a group of about 215 people who gather to worship God. It is the highlight of my week as we worship, pray and share what the Bible says. Each week we see new faces, familiar friends and old acquaintances. You are never really sure who will be here on any given day.
Unfortunately, the variety creates some awkward situations and conversations. Here are a few phrases and activities to avoid this Sunday or any time you see people from Church you know.
1. “I never thought I would see you here.” This could also sound like, “You lost?” “Did you lose a bet?” Maybe even, “Will miracles never cease?” No matter how you say it exactly, it still communicates a lack of joy at their attendance. Usually, it makes people feel like an outsider who is not only new but is unwelcome. It sounds better to say, “I am so glad to see you.”
2. “Where have you been stranger?” This can also be stated as “I never thought I would see you here again” or “I thought you moved.” Yes, I know I have not been here, but I am here right now. Instead of your judgmental words how about you talk to me like an adult. Focus more on the person and their presence rather than their recent absence. How about, “It is so good to see you again. I have missed you.”
3. “You’re in my seat.” This may not come out verbally, although it sometimes does, it is often communicated in condensing glances. People feel like they are an intruder rather than a welcome guest. No one has a reserved seat, and it is far better to say, “Here take my seat.”
4. “Do you want to hear all about me.” Of course, no one says this directly, but it can be communicated in other ways. You can ask questions without listening to the answer. You can talk all about yourself and never ask any questions. You can ignore the person when they try to share something that matters to them. Good communication includes being able to speak, plus listening to the other person. How wonderful it is when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.”
5. “I don’t care about you.” Once again this is one of those things that is communicated non-verbally. When you see a guest or someone, you do not know, and you walk by them without saying a word this statement is clearly heard. If you see people sitting alone in the auditorium and you avoid them and talk to people you already you know it is loudly spoken. Each week we have the chance to welcome people to our community and make them feel happy to be here. It takes effort and can be a little uncomfortable but take the time to tell people, “I am so glad that you have joined us today.”
What we communicate every week sends people a message about what we believe, and it either pushes them closer to Jesus or further away. Some people have been praying that a family member or friend will come to Church or back to Jesus and this is our chance to share the message of Jesus in our words and deeds. I hope this Sunday we will be a group of people who are welcoming others in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus.