Put Your Hand Out

At this past Forum we discussed our greeting practices. These make it comfortable for the newcomer to enter and feel at home in our groups. I asked two different ABF Leaders to go out into other ABFs and find the best practices out there. Both Denny Abbuhl and Mitch McKenney enjoyed learning what it was like to be a newbie. Here’s some thoughts from Mitch …
To start with, I feared I might be recognized by other class leaders if I went myself (I could picture being greeted with, “You here for the projector again?”), so I sent spies. Some findings:
1. The first couple went to an ABF, where class facilitator Kirk found them pretty quickly. They described the experience as being somewhere in the middle – not pounced upon like prey (with that car salesman vibe of hi Jim, can I call you Jim, what line of work you in, Jim…), but not ignored either.
2. Another class member tried out Mike Voigt’s class. This one is a smaller group in a circle, so it’s hard to be inconspicuous, and they were immediately discovering people they knew in common. Bob Robinson, who teaches the class next to mine, told me once that’s a blessing of being smaller – but the small group also can be more intimidating for a shy visitor.
3. My third team went to Dane’s class, The Summit. Dane recognized and greeted them, but then made himself scarce once he knew why they were there. Another three or four people approached and were friendly to the newcomers.
4. Finally, I watched how my own ABF, Common Grounds, did when a new couple arrived. I stayed busy up front getting notes together, seeing how long it would take someone to say hello. Oh, no! Fifteen or 20 seconds have gone by and nobody is approaching. I can’t let own class be the only one to fail this experiment, so I went up and said hello, only to find they were with us once before and liked it enough to come back. (Whew.)
5. As we discussed the results as a class that morning, one couple described a time when, at their former church, their adult Sunday school class made lunch plans and flat-out left them out. They said it wasn’t out of character, which is why that’s their “former” church. We’re glad to have them.
6. I noticed more of our people were “head’s up” about visitors the following week, so it was good that we talked about this in class.
7. One of my spies recalled being new to The Chapel’s ABFs, and how “minutes feel like hours” when you walk into that room the first time. We were all there once – it’s worth reminding our people what that knot in your stomach felt like, so people don’t abandon the idea of joining a community.
8. As I considered the results, I think it’s worth thinking about what happens after that first or second week, where we’ve made the small talk and done the follow-up to get them to come back. Maybe they’ll settle into their 3-out-of-4 (or 2-out-of-4) routine and put their name on the snack sign-up. This is where I believe we risk never going deeper. What are we doing to get in each other’s homes, to study groups or work projects, so we have more in common than that we like the Buckeyes and worship in the same hour?

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