Church Is Like a Clinic
Yesterday, I went to a walk-in clinic because I was having a bizarre pain on my left side. (Our normal doctor was out for a week.)
"Have you ever been here before," the lady in the window asked. "Nope," I replied. She said I would have to fill out these forms and she would need to make a photocopy of my driver's license and my insurance card. OK.
Then I waited. And waited.
Finally, my name was called, and I was taken back, weighed, and the young lady asked me a bunch of health questions. "Any history of chronic illness?" "Any bloating?" That sort of thing.
Then she handed me a cup and asked that I visit the bathroom and fill it up. Hmmm. Never done that before. But I obliged.
When I came out, she was gone. Hmmm. Where do I put this warm cup of pee? I thought. So I went back to the exam room I came from and sat it on the counter in there. Seconds later, another lady popped through the door, chuckled politely as if she was irritated I had put it in the wrong place or that she had to chase me down or something, I don't know. She grabbed the pee cup, and left. Weird. I didn't know I was supposed to give the pee to someone in particular, because no one told me. There wasn't a sign that said All pee cups go to Ann (or whatever her name was). And for that matter, there wasn't any signs in the bathroom regarding how to pee in a cup. I mean, I thought I would get some guidance. But then again, I'm sure you're supposed to be taught these things as a child, and my parents just forgot to tell me how to pee in a cup or something.
Then I waited. And waited. In fact, I waited so long, I had to pee again (my wife is chuckling now because she has always said I have a tiny bladder). As I opened the door to go find the restroom again, the first lady spotted me and had an Oh crap, I forgot about him look on her face. Yup. They forgot about me.
About a minute later, the doctor was in the room ready to talk. Coincidence? No, I think they really forgot I was even in the building.
He asked me more questions, well actually, he asked me mostly the same questions the other lady asked me. All the time I'm answering these questions, I'm thinking why don't you just look at that piece of paper the assistant lady filled out with my answers? But no problem. I'm sure he's really just confirming what he sees so he'll have something to say. Silence is awkward for some people.
He felt my side. He felt my belly. Then he said he would have to do a hernia check. You know, the one you had to do to play high school sports (one of the reasons I didn't play sports in high school was I heard some guy had to touch my private). If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry; I didn't either. I won't go into the details, but it was awkward for sure. That's all.
He told me he wasn't sure what was wrong with me, except that he knew it wasn't a hernia, and he gave me a few things to try. "If the pain isn't gone in 7-10 days, then come back," he instructed.
Finally, the first lady reappeared, rattled off all the things he had said I should do, and said to follow her. So I did. She walked down the hall and straight into the reception area, except she went to the other side. She started making copies on a photocopier. I almost followed her in, wondering whether she meant I was supposed to follow her until she stopped, or just until I felt I had gone far enough, or what. Right then, another lady behind a counter, in her irritated voice, said "Overrrr herrrre."
Man I felt stupid. Again, no signs, no instruction. Well, actually the instruction was to follow her, but she forgot to say stop. She probably didn't play green light, red light when she was in school. Or she forgot how to play maybe.
OK, so my point in this excruciatingly detailed account, is to talk about the church.
What? The church? Yup.
It's been awhile since I was new to a church. It's been a long while since I was new to the church. And I can't remember last week, let alone several years ago. But I have to imagine that church is like a clinic for some people.
They walk in, get no instruction on what they're expected to do. Sure, they might get a bulletin if they walk toward the worship service (but only if the worship service is about to start). They do get a smile and a handshake, though. Great. Problem is, those greeter people don't want to make someone feel stupid, so they don't say "Is this your first time to church?"
If they head for the welcome center (clearly marked of course), they might see 20 or so upcoming ministry events and sign-up sheets. Places to put checks and buy books. A computer to sign into the members-only website and look up fellow churchgoers. But is there anything that really tells them what to do? Where to go?
I don't mean a list of Sunday School classes. I mean something that really says, hey this is what church is all about, you're welcome here, and for your first time, you may wish to just attend the worship service; it starts at 10:30. If you're early, feel free to check out our cafe and grab a bagel and coffee.
I don't know. I'm not an expert on these things. I just imagine it must be scary to someone who's never been to church before. I know our church building is quite large, and we have several other buildings, and it would be overwhelming to see everything all at once and not know where to go. Signs are good. But not enough.
Back to the clinic thing, remember I said when I first got there, I was bombarded with forms and they wanted copies of my stuff? Is church any different? As soon as we spot someone new, we have them fill out all sorts of forms so we can get their information. It's scary to some. I wouldn't do it if I were brand new to a church. First, I'd want to know what they're going to use my information for. Are they going to send me stuff in the mail? Is someone going to stop by my house in the middle of the week and ask probing questions? Are they going to call me at dinnertime? Are they going to spam my email all the time? What if I want to get the heck off their mailing list(s); would I be able to?
Jennie I visited Saddleback Church in California awhile back. It was quite neat and very large. The campus was huge and there weren't a lot of signs as I recall. Anyway, I filled out a form with my name and my email address. To this day, years later, I still get email from their pastor regarding upcoming sermon series. We didn't even attend normal services; we visited the college service on Wednesday night. I never saw the pastor when I was there. The emails have no indication of how to be removed from their mailing list. So, I replied directly to the pastor and asked to be removed from their list. No reply. Next month, another email about an upcoming sermon series. Thank you, but I'm not interested in your sermon series, because I don't live in California and I'll not likely be visiting your church any time soon. Would you remove me from your list, please? No reply. It went on like this for a year. I would reply each time, directly to the pastor who sent the email, get no reply, then get another mass mailing a month later. Finally, I just set up a filter in my email to move it directly to the trash. Not cool, Saddleback. Shame on you.
If I give an organization my personal information, my prized and sacred personal contact details, I want to know what they're going to use them for. I want to know I can easily get my stuff out of their database if I request it.
Clinic: I was asked the same questions more than once.
Church: People have to give their name and address when they drop off their children at Preschool, then they have to provide the same information and answer the same questions on the attendance tear strip.
Clinic: People assumed I knew where to go, what to do.
Clinic: You get weird looks when you do something wrong.
Church: Check. Don't believe me? Just try taking a baby into the worship service. You'll get looks.
Clinic: The doctor was unsure what was wrong with me, but gave me some things to try.
Church: People are told to use their "gifts" in service to the church and it's programming. Find a place to serve, and jump in. I'm not sure what your gifts are, but keep coming, and I'm sure you'll figure it out.
This rant could go forever, so I'll stop here. Ponder this much. I'll save the rest for another post.
Church is like a clinic because everybody assumes you know what you're doing. You've been there ten times already, no doubt, and I don't want to make myself feel stupid by asking if it's your first time (because that would show whether or not I actually see people).