(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Yesterday we covered the six times in a weekend service that you should strategically plan to address your guests. But what about times when you should strategically plan not to talk to them?

Any time you would single them out.

True, the whole point of yesterday’s post was that you should recognize guests. But not if it means turning the spotlight on them in the service. Recognizing them in a general sense (“If you’re a guest with us today…”) is great. But getting too specific in a service can turn people away faster than you can imagine. (“Hey, you’re new. Stand up and tell us your name, who invited you, and the sin you’re currently struggling with.”)

I’ve got horror stories for days of how I’ve seen this go bad: “Welcome times” when members stand and guests remain seated. “Introduction times” when guests stand and members remain seated. Ushers handing out name tags or info cards to seated guests as a part of the service (i.e., all eyes are on them). I’ve even seen a church that played “Name That Mystery Person” at the beginning of the service (and no, I’m not making that up, and yes, the details are worse than you can imagine).

The key to interacting with guests is that you want them to set the speed for interaction. You should provide multiple opportunities for them to connect and take a next step, but ultimately you should leave the option to them. Some are ready to make themselves known from day one. Others want to remain more anonymous for a time. Neither of those things are wrong, they’re just deeply tied to an individual’s personality and comfort level, so respect it.

Think through your guest’s experience from your own perspective as an outsider. When you visit a restaurant or retail establishment, when you show up for the first day on the job, when you’re called on to give an impromptu speech at a big meeting, how do you feel? Harness that. Multiply it by ten, and then you’re starting to imagine what it’s like to show up at your church for the first time.

So how about it, readers? Are there any other times you shouldn’t talk to a guest? And better yet, what are your horror stories? Comment below.