Making People Feel Welcome, Without Embarrassing Them

At church this morning, the pastor was leading the congregation in singing “Happy Birthday” to the people with January birthdays.  Ordinarily, we sing “Happy Birthday” to each person, one at a time.  Today, however, we sang it to all of them at once rather than one at a time.  The reason was that we were behind on time, and we still had to do the Lord’s supper.

I don’t like it when the entire congregations sings “Happy Birthday” just to me.  I would prefer for it to sing “Happy Birthday” to all of us with a birthday in a given month, all in one song.  I just don’t like for everyone’s attention to be on me.  I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to respond when people sing “Happy Birthday” to me.  Should I put on a big grin throughout their singing?  When people sing “Happy Birthday” just to me, I feel like hiding.  I don’t mind when people’s attention is on me as I am delivering a sermon, for, in that case, I’m not sitting there, wondering how exactly I should respond.  Rather, I know what to do, for I have a script.

I don’t think that I am the only person with this sort of issue.  I remember reading one of Rick Warren’s books, and he was talking about reasons that some people don’t like going to church.  One reason he mentioned was that they don’t want to stand up and introduce themselves to the entire congregation when they are there for the first time.  That’s probably because they’re private people, even if they may have more social skills than I do.  Speaking for myself, I’ve had good experiences of standing up before a congregation and introducing myself, and I’ve had embarrassing experiences.

I’m very, very hesitant to say that churches should get rid of asking new people to stand up and introduce themselves, though.  The reason is that I have been at churches or groups that did not have that feature, and the result was that people didn’t know who I was, and I continued to feel like an outsider.  Asking people to stand and introduce themselves at least gives the impression that the church is welcoming, that it cares about new people who come.

I’ll leave the comments on because I would like to read feedback.  I won’t publish any snarky or insulting comments, though.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Making People Feel Welcome, Without Embarrassing Them

  1. Judy Redman says:

    I think you can be careful how you do the introduction thing. Instead of “all newcomers and visitors should stand up and introduce themselves now” to “this is the time in our service where we invite newcomers and visitors to stand up and tell us their name, where they’re from and maybe what brings them here if they would like to do that. If you’d rather not do that, you might like to introduce yourself to one of the door stewards on the way out so they can help you to get to know some of our regulars.” This gives both the opportunity to opt for a less public way of making yourself known as new and also tells people what they need to say, which makes standing up less threatening. The “introduce yourself to one of the door stewards” only work if the door stewards know that it’s part of their job to introduce newcomers and if they have some idea of who’s who in the congregation.

    Re the happy birthday thing – I just don’t tell anyone when my birthday is because having people in church sing happy birthday to me doesn’t make me feel special. I would seriously hate being part of singing happy birthday to 8-10 people one after another, which could easily happen if you have birthdays by the month.

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks for your comments on this, Judy. I especially like your point about helping newcomers to feel welcome by having them introduce themselves to the door steward.

    On birthdays, my church usually has 3-4 birthdays in a month, since we’re kind of a small church.

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