Guest Post: Josh Cooper on Awkward Pastoral Interactions

Today’s entry is from Josh Cooper from The Bridge Community Church in Muncie, IN. Josh and I both have roots at Center Chapel United Methodist Church and the Delta High School. Josh began to stray from the path of righteousness when he decided to attend Taylor University. We should forgive him for this indiscretion…After all, he is Facebook friends with Bonzi Wells!

Nod. Smile. (Awkwardly) Say, “You really should… we’d love to have you.”

That is how most pastors respond to the well-intentioned but highly annoying statement of “I’ll come by and visit your church some time.”  I bet I hear this once a week.  And my response is always the same.  Nod. Smile. (Awkwardly) Say, “You really should… we’d love to have you.”

It’s not that we don’t believe you.  It’s just that we probably don’t believe you.  We hear it too often from people we will never see at church.  And the worst is when you run into people just a few times a year that have already told it to you multiple times and they keep repeating the same questions… “So where do you meet again?  What times are your services?” as if not having those answers are what kept them from visiting.

Here is the thing you have to understand…. It’s OK that you won’t be visiting our church.  Don’t get me wrong, we love visitors. New people typically bring an energy and great atmosphere to your Sunday morning, whether they are planning on staying long-term or just visiting. We really do want you at our church (specifically if you aren’t yet a part of a faith community). But our view of you (if we are worth anything at all as pastors) doesn’t change with you stopping by our church on a Sunday.

I get the sense some people feel obligated to make this statement to us.  You aren’t.

I can still love, respect, and have a great time with you even if you don’t come visit my church. (In fact, I may respect you more if you simply don’t tell me you will be visiting).  We are big boys and girls.  Hopefully our self-worth is not tied up in church attendance or who belongs to our church. So you don’t need to say a word about visiting.

In fact, some are being sincere when they say this, and fully plan on coming…. they just never get around to it.  So here is some advice. If you really do plan on visiting a church, just show up.  Just stop by and (hopefully) enjoy it, connect with some people, worship God, learn something and then go find your pastor friend and give them a resounding “Great Sermon! You were awesome!”  And if your pastor is anything like me, he will hear that statement, nod, smile, and (awkwardly) say “thank you.”

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Josh has been the lead teacher of the Bridge since it’s launch in September, 2006. He served for six years as a youth pastor and three years on staff at Youth for Christ, all in his hometown of Muncie. Josh graduated from Taylor University in 2003 with a degree in Christian Education and Biblical Literature. Josh is married to his beautiful wife Jill and they are the proud parents of two Puggles: Reno and Vegas. In his free time, Josh enjoys most any sport and watching the NFL in unhealthy doses. (borrowed from The Bridge website)

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Josh Cooper on Awkward Pastoral Interactions

  1. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it’s not that simple as just showing up. For those not used to going to church there’s an anxiety part to it. There’s also the part that they are just being nice when the person finds out you’re a pastor. Building a relationship outside of church is needed first. If there is already a relationship then you need to help them show up. Offer to meet before church somewhere so they can walk in with you and you can introduced them others before going off and doing the things you need to do. Expecting someone who does not go to church to just show up is an unreasonable expectation. How about instead of making an “awkward” statement you make a confident statement “That would be awesome. I would love for you to visit this Sunday. Why don’t I come by and get you or we can meet at _______ so you don’t have to walk in alone” (or something similar to that). I bet the person you are speaking to sees your awkwardness in response and feels it isn’t sincere.

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