Eating dinner at a pub, and what it taught me about church

Last week my husband and I went out to dinner at a pub. We’d never been there before, but wanted to try something new.

It’s funny…going out to dinner at a place you’ve never been to before is a lot like going to church for the first time.

We felt pretty awkward and embarrassed after walking through the wrong door, not once, but twice. We were nervous about what we were wearing, after checking the website for a dress code, not finding anything, then reading on the door that sandals weren’t allowed in certain areas. After entering the room, we weren’t really sure what we were meant to do…do we wait to be seated? Do we choose our own table? Do we take a menu? Do we order at the front or will a waitress come to our table? There were even staff standing quite close to us, chatting amongst themselves, oblivious to how anxious and uncomfortable we felt.

All that being said, the food was delicious and we really enjoyed our night. But it became very evident to me how just a few small changes could have drastically changed my initial perceptions, emotions and personal sense of comfort.

What if that restaurant had been a church? There was no explanation on their website as to what to expect when I arrived. There was no signage pointing me to the correct entrance. There was no smiling face to greet me and explain the process of what was about to take place. There was no indication of where to go if I had questions. There wasn’t even a sign on the door telling me which room was the ladies’ toilet. If that restaurant had been a church, I would have felt awkward, uncomfortable, unwelcome and unimpressed. I don’t think I would go back.

It’s always interesting going somewhere new. It helps to put ourselves in the position of a newcomer at church. All those questions you ask about the new restaurant, new workplace, or new school, are the same questions the first-time visitor is asking about your church. It’s always a good idea to look at your Sunday gathering through the eyes of a first-time visitor. What questions will they have? If those questions are not easily answered (through a combination of your website, signage, brochures and people), put steps in place to make sure it happens!

Have you ever found yourself feeling awkward in a new place? What kind of questions did you have?

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