New, big churches are scary, especially when you are nervous to begin with. I went to a new church yesterday that runs about 2000 people on a Sunday. I had been in the church building before yesterday, but had never been to a service. Let me tell you, it was intimidating, and I knew where I was going. I got there at 10:10 just to be sure I was not late. I walked in ( I was not greeted by anyone) and stood by the offices waiting for the person I was to meet to come down after class. I stood there in the big, open, bustling lobby for 20 minutes without anyone saying one word to me. Talk about a first impression.
I recently read a quote by Jill Bremer and she said, “Impressions are based on instinct and emotion, not on rational thought or in-depth investigation.” My first impression of the church in those first few minutes that I was standing there was, “Wow, they’re too busy to even notice.” Now, that was, like the quote said, completely based on emotions. In that moment I was scared and intimidated and glued to my spot because that was where I was safe. I stood there while people walked back and forth and did not give me a second look. Later, I was introduced to several people who were genuinely quite welcoming. But unfortunately, I now have an opinion of the church based on my own impressions.
This may have just been an off Sunday for the greeters, but people still visit on off-Sundays. I do not hold anything against the people I am working with or even the church in general. If anything it gives me an insight that they probably do not have. After discussions with the ministers I have found that they truly are very guest focused, and I hope to help that even further. I wish that ministers could walk into their church and experience what a visitor feels like, but that would be hard without an elaborate disguise. It was a very interesting first Sunday, but hopefully I can learn from it and ultimately help to make the number of off-Sundays diminish.