Here are a few suggestions for cultivating a meaningful greeting time.
• Break the ice with outgoing, friendly front-door greeters. This sets a hospitable tone and facilitates conversation before people even sit down.
• Suggest conversation starters. As you encourage people to greet each other and extend God’s blessings, provide a place for them to start. Go with the obvious. If it’s spring, suggest wishing your neighbor “Happy Spring.” If a well-known sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, is on TV, suggest that people ask their neighbors, “Who are you rooting for, or do you care who wins?”
• Truly pause. Provide enough time for people to not only say ‘hi,’ but to converse. Build the greeting time into your church service instead of trying to squeeze it in if there’s time.
• Set the example. Don’t just approach those closest to you. “While I do head down the center aisle to greet people who are sitting near it, if I see someone who has just come back after surgery, or someone I recognize as a visitor, I make it a point to walk to a side aisle or to the rear of the church to extend a greeting to them,” says Schmiege.
• Shake hands, but also give hugs when appropriate. “The issue is making people comfortable and welcome at the same time,” explains Schmiege. “Some people may find even a handshake an invasion of privacy; others would consider a hug from a stranger just as much or even more so. But we try to recognize and approach people within what appears to be their comfort zone, while being sure to share Christian friendship.”
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