Some people worry about cliques – people being snobby, stand-offish, clannish, closed to new people.  What we don’t realize is that many times we are read that way because we don’t reach out.  I have discovered that many people don’t reach out, not because they are snobs, but because they are afraid.

One of the things I’ve heard people say most often is “I’m not a conversationalist; I don’t know what to say.”  You don’t have to say much.  You just have to ask questions.

“Good morning.  I don’t believe we’ve met.  I’m Jane Smith.  What’s your name?”

We encounter the first crisis.  Perhaps the room is noisy, or the visitor talks in a low tone, or they have an unfamiliar name like “Thalina”.

If you didn’t hear her, you say, “I’m sorry.  The room’s a little noisy.  How do you pronounce your name again?”

For some people, this is an embarrassing emotional crisis.  Put the shoe on the other foot.  If a person said to you that they hadn’t heard your name and asked you to repeat it, would you think, “I’m never coming back here again!”
Or would you understand and repeat your name?

She repeats her name:  “It’s Thalina.”

Crisis #2:  You are thinking:  “Did she say “Falina”?  Or is she saying “Selena” with a lisp?”

Beads of sweat break out on your forehead.  You don’t want to ask her name again and you don’t want to pronounce it incorrectly.  What to do, what to do…

Ask a question:  “So how do you spell that?”

Do you think this is the first time someone wasn’t sure of her name and had to ask her to clarify it?  She’s not going to roll her eyes and get all huffy.  She’s going to smile and spell it for you (you’d better listen carefully) and after she spells it, maybe you re-spell it and pronounce it (“T-H-A-L-I-N-A.  Thalina!”).

And she smiles and says: “You got it!”

Let’s just stop there.

You may think this little conversation to this point is a horrible failure, a messy bumbling of a visitor’s name.

But what just happened?  What did you communicate?

First, you told her she mattered.  You didn’t allow her to stand awkwardly alone in silence, blending in with the fire extinguisher.  She was seen.  She was recognized. This simple step alone is refreshing and welcoming!

Second, you told her that we are not uncomfortable with mistakes and people who make them.

Third, you told her that we do not give up.  We persist in caring.

The only person that might be offended by a conversation like this is a self-righteous judgmental soul who would not be comfortable in our church anyway!




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