Members of our church have been incredibly gracious and welcoming as my wife and I get settled as the new Co-Pastors of Fairview Presbyterian Church. When we arrived in Indianapolis a different church member brought us dinner every night for a week. The meals were so good that just yesterday our daughter asked when more people would be bringing us food. We received recommendations for doctors, babysitters, repair services, restaurants, etc. A church member even loaned us a metal detector and an auger for a few projects (don’t ask).
Our welcome in the office, at worship and in meetings has been great. So many people coming up to us, introducing themselves and saying how excited they are to see us. It has meant a lot to our family to feel so well received and appreciated.
Compare this to my experience at Gen Con. Gen Con is a huge gaming convention right here in my new hometown of Indianapolis. Tens of thousands of gamer geeks congregate for four days and nights of gaming. I eagerly headed downtown last weekend to experience it for myself, not really sure what to expect.
I first had to figure out where to park, where the entrance to the convention center was, and where I was supposed to pick up my badge. That was the easy part, because then I had to figure out what to do. There were thousands of people around, hundreds of different games happening, and I was given a giant catalog of the thousands of things I could participate in. But I didn’t have the first clue where to start.
When I would approach someone and ask them for advice they were always nice and willing to answer a few questions, but they usually had their own game they were going to and didn’t have the time to lead me by the hand. I did figure out how to sign up and participate in a few things, but I was still reluctant since I was on my own and brand new to the experience.
I can’t help but compare what it is like to being a newcomer at Gen Con vs. being a first -time visitor at a church. I’m willing to bet that for most visitors who aren’t the new pastor, my Gen Con experience is like their church experience.
- How often do we expect visitors to know where to park and where to enter the building?
- How do people feel when we give them a bunch of papers about the church and then just let them find their own way to participate?
- Do we spend just a few minutes with a newcomer before we move on to where we want to be or who we want to talk with?
- How many people in the church are standing on the sidelines because they feel too new or reluctant to jump right in and get involved?
As I think about these questions I realize that I will definitely give Gen Con another try, but I don’t know if most visitors to churches will do the same.