All to often, we leave a new service with some questions or comments about how things went. They could be simple things about the way that the church received you as a visitor, or they could be more complex things, like some bit of theology in the sermon that seemed off to you. Of course, for the latter to be true, there is the obvious expectation that you paid attention to the sermon. But do not let these questions go unasked. Most congregations and pastors would love to talk to you more about their church and why they choose to go there. They may even bring up an issue that had not yet crossed your mind.
For the more socially reserved among you, this part of the church search is a little more difficult, but it is still necessary. You have to be able to approach strangers even if it makes you uncomfortable. If this is not something that you will be able to overcome, it might be a good idea for you to visit new churches with a close friend. It should be someone whom you trust as a person and as a believer. That person can then ask the questions, or help you identify additional questions. But it is important to ask the right people.
Because I know that you have been looking into your own doctrinal beliefs (having read the last blog), there may be things that caught your ear that the average listener missed. So, for theological issues, those things that you never really thought about earlier in your faith-life, it is best for you to go to the pastor. Unfortunately, even some questions about simple biblical content are best directed at the pastor. While there may be plenty of people in the congregation who could answer you correctly, there is also the chance that the one person you approach does not engage in much study of the Bible.
On the other hand, you should ask the people what is normal for the services. Did what happened today reflect what normally happens? The congregation will be able to answer you honestly and their perspective will be close to your own, at least until you become part of the leadership team. ? Also, sometimes pastors will answer your questions about the service based on how they want it to go, while the congregation will talk about trends and be able to offer realistic expectations for the service. That is not to say that the pastor is naïve to the reality, but that he or she will be projecting the church’s vision.
There is another, slightly less obvious benefit to these follow-up conversations. In your questions, you will be able to provide feedback that is valuable to that church. If there is something that you did not understand, or that was unclear, the church would be wise to find a way to address the lack of clarity. Of course, they cannot fix every issue for every visitor. Visitors will have different issues, after all. They may be able to listen well enough to identify trends that should be emphasized or altered moving forward, however.
Next week, we will discuss why you should visit a service multiple times. Also, if you are not coming back, you need to be prepared to let them know why you are not intending to return, even if they never ask. It is important for you to articulate it, and they may need to hear it. The visitor is not the only person in this scenario trying to figure out if there is a good fit.
May Christ guide you,