I had lunch today with my girlfriend Kristin and girlfriend-in-training, 5 month old Allison. It was nice to lunch with someone else's baby. She didn't roll her eyes or heavy sigh at me even once. **sigh** She was very well behaved and kept herself entertained. She even cracked herself up a few times. I'm not sure she realized Kristin and I were there. She just held court and cracked herself up. She's going to be a diva, that one.
Kristin thought I should share these rules with you guys. I have many friends and family members who, for one reason or another, are out visiting churches. Maybe you feel God is leading you to a new house of worship, maybe you have to visit Aunt Sally's church for Christmas. Now, I am trusting that you know the Lord. I don't share these with just anyone, only people I know are firmly in the body of Christ. If I'm iffy about your eternal status, I figure you need all the church you can get! If you don't know Jesus, stop reading now. I'm willing to let you sit through to the 12th altar call.
Terry and I are veteran church visitors (not to be confused with church hoppers.) When we have to go forth and track down a new church home, we have it down to a precision system. This took years of trial and error. I hope it helps make your church visiting experience a little easier.
Terry would like me to tell you that he used to dream of , just once, visiting a church incognito. His dream for years, was NOT to hear as soon as he enters the building for the first time ever: "Oh, you're Terry! I have just had a marvelous time getting to know your wife. She's a spark plug! I hear you're an amazing teacher. How is that toe healing up? We prayed for you on Wednesday, keep us posted." Terry always felt like the Christmas goose. They always knew who he was and he felt like he was at a job interview. He just yearned to be stealth.
How do you make an impression before you ever visit? I have no interest in visiting 300 churches. The way to avoid that, call first. If I can't get any information from the receptionist or secretary, end of call. If they sound like they don't attend said church...goodbye. Why would I attend if you won't? (I know there are lovely church secretaries who worship elsewhere...don't email me.) Needless to say, I usually get passed up the line until I end up in the Pastor's office so he can answer the questions on the Pastor Test. (I'm pretty sure they all stay on the line so they can all be amused by the crazy lady caller.) ***Yes, this is a real thing. Yes, it came about by necessity. There are just some things I don't want to learn on accident again. Yes, this MORTIFIES my non-confrontational and preferably invisible husband. NO, I have never had a Pastor object...to my face. They love it when you ask well informed, well-intentioned questions, respectfully in a cute lil' East Texas accent and end it with, "bless your heart." They usually tell me they wish other people would ask more questions. Yes, they do tend to remember the accent, and it does tend to leave an impression, and we were never incognito.*** In my defense, he knew me before he married me.
This has led us to come up with the following Rules for Church Visitation. These are foolproof and guaranteed to get you in and out without homework. Don't laugh, I have some dear friends who recently visited a church for the first time and left with homework. I'm still laughing myself to sleep over that one. These rules might require some sacrifice, but it will be worth it. This is serious business, after all. Under these rules, there are several churches who thought I was a single mom for years. He's stealth now.
Lawson Visitation Rules (tongue completely in cheek)
1) NEVER use your real names. Tyler= George. Ashley= Frieda. I just make a mean face and intimidate anyone who tries to ask my name. They never even notice Terry. The names George and Frieda are currently free. Feel free to use them.
2) Never, ever fill out a form! If they try to force you, just pretend to fill it out and put it in your Bible. If you give them one shred of information, they will haunt you for years.
3) Never be even 2 minutes early. This leads to awkward staring and forced conversation with strangers who you may have already decided you don't particularly care for.
4)The second the final song is finished, hit the parking lot at a run. You may have to leave your babies (George and Frieda) behind if they can't keep up. I know you will miss them at first, but someone will put their pictures on the news and I'll claim them and return them home. Our first Sunday at Stepping Stones, I ran out with Jeff running behind me. I beat him to my car and we were out of the lot before he caught us. It may sound rude, but I didn't leave with homework. (He forgave me.)
5) Make like a New Yorker (the only time I will say this) and NEVER make eye contact. If you accidentally look anyone in the eye who is over 55, you must abort and immediately enact rule #4.
6) Don't sing too loud, they will try to recruit you for the Praise Team. Never tell your friends named Donna that you sang in Carnegie Hall or or in the All-State Choir or you might be joined up on accident before you visit.
7) Never participate in a small group. You may attend, (don't forget rule 2 and 3) but don't show off the smarts or the next thing you know you have your own class. If you really wow em', they'll make you a deacon and then what will you do?
8) Use you caller ID and door peephole. Some of those pesky churches actually visit you even if you carefully followed rules 1and 2. I'm not sure how they do it.
9) Don't accidentally show interest in the babies in the nursery or you will be the new nursery worker. As a matter of fact, Your babies, George and Frieda, might need to learn these rules before you can trust them alone in the nursery. They might get a little blabby and speak of your love of children to those nursery ladies. Begin calling them George and Frieda immediately so they will be able to keep up.
10) If all else fails and it's heading downhill and you are about to get sucked into a class party or homework or some such, just say very loudly..."YOU KNOW WE ARE REALLY CATHOLIC!!"
And I would add as an amendment...
If you have a wife who is going to call first anyway and give the "Pastor Test" respectfully, with a cute lil' East Texas accent and end it with, "bless your heart," you may all need to learn a non impact Midwestern accent and duct tape the wife's mouth. IF YOU DARE!