Thinking Out Loud

September 13, 2011

Greeters: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

I can’t think of a worse way to begin a church visit than one we experienced recently.  The greeter at the door had a slimy hand that made me want to head for the nearest restroom, but we were late and I wanted to get a seat. The woman who was his co-greeter was equally dermatologically challenged.

“I think,” my wife said, “This all began with someone who they couldn’t fit into any other ministry position in a church, and so they said, ‘Why don’t you stand at the door and welcome people as they come in.'”

But that was then. The idea of a handshake is become increasingly archaic. My son’s generation does fist pumps. Certainly a tad more sanitary.

I suggested to my wife that we take a small ice pack in our pockets and then reach our hands out of pockets at the last minute.

“They’ll think you’re dead;” she replied.  She then suggested Vaseline, which you would then remove after the critical moment.

I thought if you did this sort of thing for a month, most church greeters are on a four week rotation and you’d eventually get them all to quit.

“You really should blog this sometime;” I said to her.

To which she shot back, “I already did.”

Dodge the Greeter

This week, my family went to visit a large Pentecostal church we used to attend (two of us did, anyway) long long ago in a galaxy far far away.

The more time I spend doing church at the Motel, the more I enter these services feeling like an “anthropologist from Mars.” But it all comes back to you.

It was much as we remembered it, with a few things we’d forgotten about. One of which, for me, was the greeters.

If you aren’t familiar with this particular ministry, greeters are people who stand just inside the main entry of the church building, for the purpose of shaking hands with those arriving, smiling, handing them whatever documents they’ll need and then turning their attention to the next through the door.

If you are a greeter, I’m sorry, but I only consider my visit to your church a success if I manage to avoid you altogether.

It’s a game I play. I’ve developed several strategies over time, which I’d like to share with you.

1. Choose a path that cuts exactly halfway between two greeters. This only works if they’re not working in tandem (married couples, for example) but if there’s room, each will assume the other is going to get you and, before they realize their mistake, you’re through.

2. Assume a facial expression of urgent concern and walk quickly, looking past and over the heads of the greeters. This creates the impression that you’re trying to find someone in particular right now and won’t brook any delay, and greeters will respect your personal crisis, whatever it is, and let you go.

3. Carry a load that requires both hands. For example, a child and a diaper bag, if you can be rummaging through the diaper bag for something as you slip past the greeters. This may backfire if you look like it’s something they may be able to help with, so use this one with caution.

4. Walk side by side with an accomplice and, just as you reach the critical threshold, turn to speak to your companion, heads close together. Try to look like you’re communicating something “in confidence and just for prayer”. This is also effective if you’re a parent and can look like you’re scolding the child walking beside you for having done something unspeakable just as the family was getting ready to leave for church, without actually humiliating your kid in the church lobby.

5. Skirt closely behind a stranger as they are being greeted. Timing is tight on this one, and if someone is standing in your path, you may be delayed long enough to find yourself face to face with the greeter, so plan your route.

So that’s me.

~Ruth Wilkinson

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