Embrace Some Awkward: Empathize With Church Visitors

Embrace Some Awkward: Empathize With Church Visitors

October 30, 2014 by

Tim Challies wants to not die, so he’s checking out a gym.

It’s a good plan.

In the process Tim learned a valuable lesson about what it’s like to walk into a new place for the first time, like, say, a church:

“Let me explain. I am a pastor and I think, for the first time, I understand what an atheist feels like when he walks into church. I know that everyone is looking at me now and thinking, ‘That guy doesn’t belong!’ I don’t know what the expectations are here, I don’t know how anything works, and I feel like a total outsider.”

That’s exactly the lesson we share in our new book, Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm:

“Between offerings and altar calls, liturgy and communion, churches do some weird stuff. We see it all the time and it’s become normal, but to a visitor it can look a bit spooky.”

Understanding how out of place and awkward people feel is the first step to putting them at ease. Pastors, greeters, church communicators and lay people need to learn some empathy for church visitors.

“Between offerings and altar calls, liturgy and communion, churches do some weird stuff. To a visitor it’s spooky.”

In fact, Jonathan shares his own story of trying out a CrossFit gym and feeling equally lost (you’re not alone, Tim!). We can’t all join gyms for that experience, but we should find our own equivalent. Walk into a biker bar, volunteer in a high school or march in a protest you wouldn’t normally join. Find something that pushes you outside your comfort zone, then wallow in that uncomfortable feeling.

I don’t want to get too weird, but it’s kind of like a guy walking into Victoria’s Secret.

Embrace the awkward.

Then realize that’s what it’s like when visitors walk into your church.

“That’s the key for your church. Yes, there will be weird stuff newcomers won’t understand. Yes, they’ll even get a bit scared. But when we love our guests enough to walk them through it all, it makes them feel safe.” -Jonathan Malm in Unwelcome


Buy Unwelcome Digital: $7.49 Buy Unwelcome in Print: $9.89

Unwelcome Now Available

Photo by UNE Photos.
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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