Forced To Be Sociable In Church
Monday, August 18, 2008
Today I thought I’d have a whinge about the way many churches force people to be sociable in a widely disliked practice often referred to as “meet and greet”.
For those not familiar, it’s a brief time in a church service when the pastor says “turn and greet the person next to you” or “introduce yourself to someone you don’t know“, or something similar. The idea is to get people mingling, getting to know each other, forming relationships and building community. It’s a worthy goal, but the trouble is, it doesn’t work like that … certainly not in the minute or so allocated. Although some people like it, most find the forced sociableness to be contrived, superficial, unauthentic, awkward and uncomfortable.
Anybody capable of starting a meaningful conversation with a stranger is surely able to exercise this talent on their own, without any pushing. Those of us who are a bit shy and introverted (like me) are extremely unlikely to make a friend or have any meaningful social interaction with a stranger in less than a minute. Especially when the band plays loud enough to make conversation difficult without megaphones and ear trumpets! It achieves little for the non-outgoing (other than discomfort), and I cringe to think how visitors not used to the practice might feel.
I’m not the only one to express this thought, as commented on in another blog (here, 10th paragraph down). Even socially adventurous people may have their off days, when they can do without being forced to make small talk.
To get this gripe out of my system, I visited the Church Sign Generator website and came up this sign for a fictitious introvert-friendly church:
In case the image doesn’t show, the sign text reads:
“Holy Hermit Church for Shy Folk
no meet & greet
no forced mingling
non-threatening for the timid and introverted”