Your Greeters Might Be Too Scary

GOOOOOOD MORNINGCarlos Whittaker asked about our thoughts in the church lobby. Here’s my most frequent:

“If ONE more person offers me an over-the-top-cheesy-smiley-pretend-everything-is-awesome ‘GOOD MORNING!’ I am going to vomit all over his or her face.”

I’m not complaining- I’m merely stating the facts. If a number of people greater than nine gives me an over the top fake happy greeting, face-seeking puke will rapidly come out of me in projectile fashion. And I gotta say, nine is a pretty good number. I’ve built my tolerance up quite a bit over the last 10 years of church leadership.

To be clear, I’m not saying that happiness is inauthentic. I’m saying *inauthentic* happiness is inauthentic.

And yes, I’m being a little dramatic to make a point. You can scroll on down to the bottom for the points if you’re ready. They’re in bold.

Think about it. None of us would be ok with that behavior for any other emotion. If we were at a funeral and a guest was *clearly* faking her sorrow and making a scene shouting out with fake grief “WHY GOD? WHYYYYYYYYYY”  most of us would be disgusted. (Most of us- not all. The holiest people would probably think something like “poor little lamb” or “bless her heart.”)

I don’t see Jesus as a slick pushy salesman, so I don’t see why I should have to act that way to make people experience him. If something is forced down my throat, I’m going to gag, I’m going to feel barfy. Happiness included.

In my personal experience, which I understand you and I do not share, the pastor always (ALWAYS!) did a ridiculous over-the-top happy greeting when I walked into the building. It was a call to only be joyful- check your damage at the door. I mean, I know he meant well and everything (bless his heart). But I have pain. My life has dissonance. Something is bothering me, and I need to show my community those thorns in my heart. I promise you, there is no way for me to bring my damage to the altar if I am never allowed to bring it through the door.

church painSo church leaders, let me say this: Acting way happier than we know any human can be on a normal basis doesn’t help you relate. It helps you force your agenda of an all-happy church culture. Which I guess is totally fine if that’s what you want. I don’t want to be a part of a church culture that says I can’t come in with problems, sorrows, or stresses.

If you’re a leader, here’s what you can do: 

  1. Be real. Like, really real. Sad when you’re sad, happy when happy, excited only when you’re actually excitedblonde and spiky when angry. If you ever get a feeling like you’re acting, go pause somewhere more private. My favorite places always involve pipe and drape.
  2. Reveal your pains, struggles, sorrows. This gives permission to everyone else to be themselves and drop any temptation to be plastic.
  3. Remember your mission. You actually want burdened people to come in with their burdens, right? Evaluate what that means to your organization and change your methods. For me and my team in student ministry, that has meant to be perceptive of how people are feeling when they walk in the door. Just like I can see straight through the facade of an over-welcoming greeter, I can see when guests are trying to mask their pain. So I pull them aside, ask them about their life, and go from there. Sometimes listening is all that is needed. Sometimes I need to offer to beat someone up. Sometimes it’s a simple, “Bro. That really sucks. I’m sorry you’re going through that.” (not very perceptive? Following them on social media is a huge help here, by the way).
  4. Exist in community. Not just in front of it. When you engage with people at intimate levels, showing your true self will be difficult to avoid. Plus, you’ll have friends, better mental health, accountability,… You get it. My favorite greeter did always use the words “good morning”, but then he’d also try to pick a fist fight with me, ask about my new house, give me advice on fixing things, and make fun of my hipster clothes. That’s community.

Disclaimer – I know someone who is genuinely happy *most* of the time. She’s awesome. I’ll hang out with her and take a “good morning” from her any day- sans vomit. The difference is she never tries to force me to feel the same way she does. Existing together is easier that way.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. So I mentioned on Instagram that I’d share my thoughts here instead of there. My apologies for the delay.

    For those who did not see my initial reaction on Instagram, Chad posted a picture similar (if not the same one) to the one above that states “There is no way for me to bring my damage to the altar if I am never allowed to bring it through the door.” I reacted to that statement prior to reading his blog post. Now that I have read Chad’s entire post, I understand the context. And that changes things a little bit. But, then again, I feel like my initial thoughts on just that statement still apply too.

    With that said, I need to set this up a little bit. Chad, you have 10 years of church leadership while I have none. You have a degree in Communications while I do not. I want to be clear that I am not attempting to attack you or “set you straight”. As you wrote your thoughts based on your experiences, I write mine likewise.

    1. Greeters

    It is sad that some people feel the need to be fake at church. If I were a pastor, I would not want someone fake as a greeter at my church either. So, generally speaking, I agree that church greeters can be scary. Greeters are the first impression – for new people and for regular attenders alike. Whether they intend to or not, they can set the mood for people. That is why the position is so important. I get it. But, as you probably know better than I do, there’s always going to be people that react to things differently than you’d expect them to. You used an example of your favorite greeter. Well, you love him but, because of personality differences, situational issues, and a myriad of other possible reasons, there could be other people that don’t like him. They may even think he’s being fake.

    My issue with this is that “being fake” is determined through our individual filters. Yes, there are some common identifiers, but for the most part, it is based on what you personally think. You talked about the “holiest” people (which is really funny) that would probably not think someone is being fake at all. My mother is one of those people. Through her eyes, everyone is good and there is more to be happy about in life than there is to be sad. She might think judgmental thoughts but it doesn’t stop her from being nice to them and assuming that they are good initially. So, for her, a greeter that may be hiding how they are really feeling inside because it was their turn to be the greeter this week and they didn’t want to back out of their commitment, she would see the happy, smiling face and think “That is such a nice man.”

    One other thought on this is that people can be genuinely happy to see you at church but still be dealing with junk in their life. Not everyone is comfortable with people knowing that they are hurting or dealing with something. For some people, greeting people at church is a nice escape from dealing with their junk. Greeters can still be very effective in welcoming people to church without being 100% real. And, I’d even venture to say that you may not want every greeter to be 100% real with visitors. You certainly don’t want Bob greeting people like: “Hi guys, welcome to Blah Blah Church. My name is Bob. Please forgive me for not being in such a great mood today. I struggle with pornography and I am feeling guilty because just a moment ago when I went to the bathroom I pulled up some stuff I shouldn’t have looked at on my phone so I am dealing with that sin at the moment. But this is a great place to be able to deal with sin so come on in and we’ll all deal with our stuff together.” Ok, so that is also being dramatic to make a point.

    More than anything on this topic, though, you mentioned that you “don’t see Jesus as a slick pushy salesman.” Well, my immediate thought was, what would Jesus be like if he were a church greeter? This may seem strange at first, but I don’t think we need to be asking that question. We are not Jesus. We need to welcome people to come worship, meet, or experience Jesus. It shouldn’t matter what’s going on in our lives. We need to push all of that aside and let God work through us. He can, and I believe does, prepare people to be there at that church on that day for what He has in store for them. In the end, nothing we do or say will get in the way of God doing what He is going to do.

    That’s a fine segue, if I do say so myself, into number two.

    2. “There is no way for me to bring my damage to the altar if I am never allowed to bring it through the door.”

    This statement, by itself, seems good enough. Even within the context of the rest of your piece, on the surface, it makes sense. The point I think you are making is that we should be very aware of anything that could possibly stand in the way of people – both non-Christians and Christians – getting to the altar in order to deal with their stuff and make every effort to prevent anything that we are causing from being a hindrance. While I wholeheartedly agree that we have a responsibility to make sure that we are doing our part, I think that this statement insinuates that God can’t do what He needs to do if we allow our imperfections to get in His way. He doesn’t “need” us to do anything. He doesn’t need greeters to be perfect. He doesn’t need the worship service to be a rock concert. He doesn’t need the message to be presented by an eloquent orator. We are not screeners that allow or disallow someone from getting to the altar. In fact, the physical alter is merely a representation of kneeling before God and talking to Him about whatever you need to talk to Him about.

    So, if He doesn’t “need” us to do anything, what is our part? I believe that our part – regardless of “position” in the church (staff or volunteer) – is to make sure that our hearts are right when serving. That doesn’t mean that our lives have to be perfect. God knows that my life is not perfect every time I serve. Our prayer, prior to serving, should be that God uses us to help point people toward Him regardless of where we are, what kind of mood we are in, or whether life is perfect. Be willing to be used in whatever way He has in store for you. It is normal for us to worry that our faults and imperfections can get in the way of what God wants to do but, in the end, He is bigger than our faults and imperfections so He doesn’t need us to be anything other than willing to serve. Yes, some will look fake, but God will use fake if He wants to.

    The more bothersome part of this statement, to me, is the “allowed” part. As I stated in the Instagram comment, this wreaks of victim mentality. “Your door greeter was too scary so I couldn’t get to the altar and deal with my stuff. It’s all your fault.” Um, no. If you are so compelled to get to the altar (hmmm, maybe that’s God working in you), then why would you let a greeter get in your way? I understand that there are fears surrounding the concept of going to the altar to begin with. You probably don’t want to publicly announce that you have issues. Nobody does. But I really think that if God is dealing with you to the point that you feel you need to go to the altar then you are going to get there. It may not be that day (because of the greeter or not), but you will get there. If God is dealing with you then He probably isn’t going away that easily.

    Anyhow, I value your opinion and welcome your response.

    Jeremy

  2. I enjoyed the whole post but what stuck with me most is the reminder to intentionally be perceptive of how people are feeling.

    Yesterday a coworker of mine dropped the smallest hint that something was going on in her life.

    I thought back to this post and especially this part:

    “For me and my team in student ministry, that has meant to be perceptive of how people are feeling when they walk in the door”

    And I’m so glad to have been reminded. I asked one other question and she confessed a whole mess of stuff going on in her life. I’m glad I didn’t just shrug it off and say “hope your week gets better”


You're thinking it. Spit it out.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s