My friend Rusty Pettus has a series on visiting churches that I thought was excellent (read the latest one here) but since we were on vacation I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts/experiences of visiting a sister congregation. First of all, it is humbling visiting other churches because as I am critiquing every move this church makes I am reminded that visitors are doing the same thing when they come to Main Street. That is humbling! Here are some things that the church did well on that I was thankful for:
- The “seasoned” elder – This guy was amazing and went beyond simply introducing himself as he looked at my daughter Amelia and said, “You have a beautiful dress sweetheart.” She blushed and smiled like she had been asked out on a date for the first time. It was great to see. He also announced our names before the congregation and other names of those visiting as well. We were amazed at how friendly this church was in introducing themselves to us.
- Familiar patterns – It is good to be able to visit a church and not have to worry about what will pop up next in worship. Not that I disagree with what other churches are doing but sometimes it is easier to just worship in a familiar way without being uncomfortable in another setting.
- Family oriented – I could tell that these people loved each other very much. Some churches I have visited I could tell immediately that these people did not get along as they dispersed immediately after the closing prayer. This church family stayed after a while and talked to each other, to me and to other visitors. It was really warm and welcoming.
Although they did a lot of things very well some things could have been improved on…
- Facilities – this is where Main Street struggles as well in that it was like a maze getting to classes since it was an old style building. To make matters worse we were a little late and there was nobody to direct us to class so we had to find our own way using their mapping system. At least they had a map…Main Street does not.
- Mediocre Class – This is very important to me as a father and as a minister. I asked my kids what they learned about and they could not tell me a single thing. I asked them what did they do and they said, “We ate crackers…sang…and that was it.” The auditorium class I went to was done in an old style way where they handed out lessons (done by Gospel Light in 1989…1989!!!) and the gentleman talked for a few minutes trying to moralize the text. To me, the bible class is the meat of our discipleship and too many people treat it as a “necessary burden” and do not approach it with precision and planning. My kids know that Jesus loves them but they need to know more than that.
Other than that the church was very loving and I would recommend the church to anyone. It hit home with me because I immediately realized some of the things at Main Street that need to be changed immediately. We are not geared towards our visitors and too often people come in and leave without even a handshake or phone call. It is sad and even somewhat pathetic. We need to get better in how we treat/welcome visitors and I thought the church we visited did an excellent job.