Have you ever noticed a difference between the kinds of conversations that go on before church & the ones that happen after church?
Before church, conversations feel forced & awkward, and all surface-level.
"How are you doing?"
"Pretty good... you?"
Just "How're ya doin'." We might move on to talk about the weather if we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel of subjects to address. But we beware of going too in-depth for fear of the beginning of worship interfering with our conversation.
And after our awkward hello's, we then go stake out our seats. It's like making sure you have a good spot in the movie theater. The folks who get there early really just want to make sure that they have a nice seat before the show starts.
After church, however, people feel more loose. The tension that something important is about to start in a couple of minutes isn't hanging over everyone in the place. People hang out, have longer conversations, play with each other's babies, and generally shoot the breeze for as long as they want.
By and large, however, I've noticed in my congregation that folks are either one or the other. The early-to-church folks will fraternize with the other early folks. But within 5 minutes of the end of that closing prayer, they're off. If ever I'm standing by the door, they can't wait to get by me. They might as well say, "Outta my way -- I got some sinnin' to go do." However, the after-church-loiterers are usually the same folks that have a hard time getting to church on time. Once church is over, however, they're not in a hurry to take off -- in fact, they might stay all night if they didn't have to go to work the next day & get the kids ready for bed and school the next day.
One of the challenges of preaching, to me, is that I have to be both. I don't have the luxury of showing up early & then quickly scurrying away after my "performance." And it looks really bad if I come rushing in to the auditorium only a couple of minutes before the first song.
And I can't play favorites with one group or the other. If I'm not locking up the building with somebody else from the congregation, people may give me a surprised, "Oh!... Goodbye then" as I walk out the door earlier than they do. And if I'm not at the building at least 15 minutes before the hour, the early-to-church time-sticklers tend to give me a colder shoulder. I imagine it's because I'm not giving them their due "pre-show glad-handing."
(There's another word I thought of to describe this part of ministry, but it is blatantly off color. I'm sure you can figure it out. Rhymes with "doorway." Oh, and the standing by the door while folks file out... I might as well be smoking a cigarette & asking them, "Was it good for you?")
Anyway, I've learned it's just better if I'm the one unlocking the door before church & locking it up when it's time to go home.
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