The Welcome Mat

Yesterday I spent the day visiting area churches. I was delivering promotional items and speaking to pastors about an upcoming event in Maury County. I visited about 25 churches and most were unfamiliar to me. I’d driven by them but had never stopped by the office. As someone who works in a church office five days a week it was interesting to experience it from the other side. My main observation is that church offices are not very welcoming. Here’s a few reasons why…

  1. You can’t find them. Few churches have directional signs in the parking lot and most doors to the church are unmarked. At more than one building there were cars in the parking lot but I never found the entrance to the office.
  2. When I did find the right door it was locked. I had to knock or push one of those intercom buttons and ask for permission to enter. What other office environment requires you to push a button and state your business before entering?
  3. The decor is not very inviting or welcoming. Most of it says, “We spent all the money on our sanctuary and couldn’t afford any comfortable chairs or nice pictures so here’s an old metal folding chair for you to sit in as you stare at the wood paneling.”
  4. Secretaries are too good at their jobs. I would ask, “Is the pastor in today?” They would reply…”What’s your name?””Is the pastor expecting you?” “Do you have an appointment?” “What do you want?” “Does he know what you want?” “Do you know the pastor?” (All are actual replies). I realize it’s their job to be a gatekeeper but I started to feel bad for infringing on the time of such a very important person.

The pastors themselves were usually friendly and welcoming. And the secretaries warmed up to me once they figured out I wasn’t selling anything or asking for money. But it got me to thinking about how churches conduct their offices. Why do we make them so hard to find? Why do we lock our doors and interrogate people before entry? Why do we decorate them like 1950s bomb shelters? Why are pastors so hard to see? I mean if ever there was an inviting and welcoming office environment, shouldn’t it be a church office?

Just some thoughts to ponder. By the way, Sherri, if you’re reading this I’ll still ask you to cover for me when the pictorial directory salesman comes around. 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Welcome Mat

  1. A few years ago our college mission trip got stranded in Niagara Falls, New York. We didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel so we got out a phone book and started calling the “Church of Christ” in the listings. No answers for 10 congregations, one did have an answering machine and we left a message with a call back of one of our cell phones. With it beginning to get dark, we opted for the next listings we found “Community Church”. First number we got someone. They gave us a key to their multipurpose building, after calling Harding to confirm we were who we were, and left us alone for the evening. In the morning the Associate Minister came in early to visit with us, and our problem was fixed before the Minister arrived. Later that morning as we were several hundred miles away, the congregation that we left a message for called us back, we told them our story, and then said they were glad it worked out for us.However, I don’t know the answers to your questions. I have wondered along the same lines; if I were to ask a gas station clerk where could I find the Followers of Jesus, who would they send me to?

  2. I hadn’t seen it yet. Pretty good. I’m glad to see a little balance in terms of the “Christian vote.” We need our voice on both sides of the aisle. Here’s the prayer in case others haven’t seen it…”Father God, This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.Hep us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.Lastly, father, unify us.Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.God we know that you are good.Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.Let Him be our example.Amen.”

  3. The church i used to attend had a building project. when they finished they moved the offices to the back of the church and put in a buzzer system. Unsolicited by me the pastor told me putting the door in the back and the buzzer system cut down on people asking for donations. In defense of the church they were inudated with that sort of thing due to their location down town. Sorry for posting anonomously I forgot my log in. Jon Amonette

  4. Most churches feel that the “frills” would not be good stewardship and so they are cheap when it comes to supplying and decorating the offices. I think this is terrible because it makes our church and pastor look out dated and out of touch. He may be the most brilliant scholar but if he has teal carpet it give the impression of old, irrelevant, and out of touch.We have a buzzer system at our church and it was put in after the church was vandalized and robbed in the middle of the day on separate occasions because people were able to walk in at will and roam the building.In an ideal build from the ground out situations I would put the offices in a sealed off from the rest of the building location. It may be on the side where people entering could only have access to that area. It would be nice to keep them up to date in equipment and decor to let people know that we are modern and relevant. I would also suggest adding a prayer chapel in this section to allow people a place to come and pray and retreat to a quiet place to meditate on God.

  5. Good thoughts. I have a confession to make. Our church installed a buzzer system as well, although we’ve never used it and I’m not installing one in the new offices. We’re building offices right now and we able to plan a sealed off area so the only entrance open is the one directly to the office. At our old building someone “roamed” into my office one day and stole my cell phone. I then bought it back from them for $10. A story for another day. To my readers (if there are any left), sorry about the absence of posts this week. I’ve said “Yes” to too many projects and they’re all hitting at the same time. I keep repeating to myself…”it’s OK to say No, it’s OK to say No.”

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