A great children's art piece, created by Andreas in 1993 has these words .... "I was never good at hide and seek because I always make enough noise so my friends would be sure to find me. I don't have anyone to play those games with any more, but now and then I make enough noise just in case someone is still looking and hasn't found me yet."
When I attend a church for the first time I want to play hide and seek. I want to get there right at the start time for services. I want to sit near the back for ease of entry and getaway. I avert my eyes so as not to encourage interaction with assigned greeters. (you know those "God loves you and I do too" people.) I want to check it out without feeling pressure from strangers. I want to sit back, estimate and evaluate. I want to observe from afar.... how many people look like me, talk like me, think like me, and feel like me? Many pastors understand the game of first timers hide and seek so they back off, give folks their space, no pressure, no expectations. Many pastors practice the principle "When they are ready to talk about taking a step into this community, they will let me know, they will tell me."
Yet pastors and laity have forgotten one very important thing. In this game of hide and seek, I want someone to look for and find me. I want a warm energetic person to ask me questions like "How did you find us? Do you have a church background and, if so, what is that background? In what part of town do you live? What made you decide to come today?" As I have played first time visitor hide and seek, I have rarely ever had a conversation like this. There is a great follow up or bonus question too..... "What is your passion in life? What do you love to do?" If persons respond positively to the first set of questions then there is permission to ask the follow up. These are the questions that help us build relationships. Giving people their space will not build desired relationships.
This Sunday look around. Someone is playing hide and seek in the back of your church and they are wondering if someone, anyone, cares enough to look for them and find them.