A funny thing just came into my inbox: a newsletter from a church that I thought had forgotten about me.
It’s only been a month now, but my first Sunday back at church seems ages ago. I walked – late and sweaty – into a big and half-empty sanctuary. I enjoyed the service and thought that I might go back if I ended up finding an apartment nearby; there was nothing to make me think “this is the spiritual community for me”, but everyone was nice.
On my way out the door, the priest shook my hand and was incredibly kind and welcoming and interested in me. He asked me to leave my email in the guest book so that he could be in touch. I would have never signed that guest book without prompting; in fact, I had been strategizing ways to avoid the handshake line. But I surprised myself by agreeing, signing my name, leaving contact information.
I never heard a thing.
And my apartment search has re-located me to a very different neighbourhood, so I haven’t been back to that area on a Sunday morning. I only attended once, but I have a picture in my head now of that church and how it cares for its community.
I thought a lot, in those first few weeks of church, about churches and first impressions.
There’s a ton of stuff on the interwebs about this – a fancy video about creating a good brand for your church, and a list that includes pointers on traffic flow and tips for social interaction. The emphasis on cultivating good church first impressions is, in my opinion, mildly out of control.
It’s all well and good I suppose, but I don’t go to church with the expectation that I’ll be treated with the vigor and politesse of airline hosts. I don’t really care if you’ve sorted out the best way to direct visitors in and out of the service, or if you can sum up your child care system in less than 20 seconds.
I DO care, however, if you say you’ll be in touch and then you don’t follow up.
When you promise something and then don’t come through: I’ll think you forgot about me. That’s okay; we’re all busy.
When you promise something and then don’t come through, and THEN I receive a mass email newsletter that I didn’t actually want, I think that you couldn’t be bothered to give the personal touch you promised but you thought that I’d be charmed by more spam in my inbox.
So: I thought I didn’t judge by first impressions. But maybe I do. And maybe I’m hard to please.