Sunday is a really interesting filter. As I work with guests and new members at our church, I’ve noticed a couple of Sunday/not Sunday patterns. One is that people will tell me almost anything Monday through Saturday, but probably not very much on a Sunday. I don’t think it’s all that hard to figure out. On Sunday, we have a schedule to follow, are probably dressed up, and conditioned to be quiet. Friends don’t schedule activities where they sit in lines and look at the backs of other people’s heads. The other pattern I’ve noticed is that if a person is going to feel sincerely plugged into a church family, the cohesion process happens outside the church building and is highly dependent upon friendships. When I’ve seen a high rate of volunteer activity with no substantive friendships; the flame burns out pretty quickly and people leave. This isn’t exactly a news flash; we’ve always known relationships are critical. The newsflash is that it seems when people are together making church happen, it is just a different dynamic than allowing church to happen independently of the property.
Although new people are coming to check out our church family in surprising numbers, they are probably not filling out the visitor cards in the backs of the pews. This makes getting contact information a little difficult and following up after Sunday impossible. Some are quite gifted at sitting in the balcony and leaving before any human contact takes place. I have actually been known to chase people down in the parking lot because if people leave without making a connection, we will never see them again. The 15 minutes between class and worship is critical time for me to accomplish two things: spot the new people and get cell numbers. The hard fact is that people make up their minds in fewer than seven minutes about the possibility of a second visit. So during this time, I assume my Tigger position, eager to pounce on a new friend. I tell myself that I’m only Tigger on the inside. On the outside, I’m simply a friendly face with a lunch invitation on the tip of my tongue. After introductions and a bit of small talk takes place, I simply invite them to lunch or coffee and ask for a cell number. I’ve never been turned down.
On Monday I send a text, which is less invasive than a phone call and faster than a postcard. We begin a conversation which will hopefully lead to a relationship. Every once in a while, someone does not text me back, but it’s pretty rare. Over lunch or coffee, the conversation is easy, and who doesn’t appreciate a gift like lunch or coffee?
From there, I try to connect them with other people in a variety of ways. Again, the Sunday/not Sunday pattern emerges. When I’m introducing people at church, or have new people into my house for a small group lunch on a Sunday, the experience is pleasant and the newcomers do meet other people. However, when I have people over Monday through Saturday, the results are dramatically different. When my house is full of people, eating, laughing, talking, God is present and working to build this church family into a cohesive group who will be the hands and feet of Jesus. People are enjoying themselves and open to new people. Does God do this on Sundays? I’m sure he does, but I think people allow it to happen much faster Monday through Saturday because of their own perceptions and filters. These experiences in the infancy of someone’s life with a new church family are highly formative in laying a foundation for spiritual growth and mature service. And whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we might assemble at 10:30 on a Sunday with people we don’t like, but we probably won’t serve, invest, or sacrifice with people we don’t want to talk to Monday through Saturday.