First Time Guest at First United Methodist of Little Rock, Arkansas

That service was weird!

Both of our kids agreed. They weren’t really sure why.

When we entered the property, a greeter welcomed us outside. He had a sign around his neck that said “Ask me for Help” or something like that. That was cool. We told him we were looking for the Contemporary Service, and he walked us down the street a bit and showed us the door. There were other greeters there who were talking to each other. One said “Hi” and opened the door for us. Missed opportunity. The first greeter should have handed us off to the second. The second should have walked us in, shown us around, helped the boys get some donuts, and introduced us to someone inside who would have a conversation with us.

But it’s ok, we found our way into the worship space, and the boys found the donuts! Score!

FUMC Little Rock - Donuts

Donuts!

The worship space was very clean, modern, and inviting. They had set up an area in the back for families with small children. Very nice!

FUMC Little Rock - nice display

A nice display.

This was a nice display, but thought they should have it set up as you walk in maybe.

The music was quite loud, especially for such a small space – our youngest didn’t like that part 🙂

FUMC Little Rock - band

The worship band played during the Contemporary Service. They were loud!

We sang several songs, and I began to notice something. There were 9 members in the band. Each had plenty of space between them. But only one looked like they were worshiping and into the worship service. Now I am not expecting hooping and hollering and dancing, but my heart would have felt warmer if they were at least smiling 🙂 Maybe looking at each other like they enjoyed being there together using their musical talents to praise God. What I saw was a lack of relationship.

They didn’t engage the congregation, and they didn’t engage each other.

Overall the service just felt very serious. There was a little levity at the beginning of the service, but not much.

I want to also say that the worship service seemed very “new” to us. Like they hadn’t been worshiping together very long. Like they hadn’t found their groove yet. I hope I am right about that.

The preaching was good. Some person named “David” preached the sermon. Not sure who he was. The Associate Pastor had introduced herself early in the service to say that she and Austin (who was filling in for the normal band leader) would lead the service that day. But no one even introduced “David.” Not even he did. During his sermon he referred to himself as David so at least we knew his name. We did LOVE his sermon. Partly because he had a very good “preacher” demeanor to him. His delivery was awesome. But also because his sermon was about that the worst thing a person could be is “invisible.” He told of a time in his life when he and his brand new wife moved to Atlanta from Arkansas, and they experienced going to school and even working in a church where they felt “invisible” and this began to wear at their soul.

We can certainly relate to this! What God has been teaching me ever since we left our church home at Lake Cities United Methodist Church is that everything we do in life and certainly in “ministry” is about RELATIONSHIPS. And you can’t truly be in ministry or feel part of ANYTHING without relationships. We are truly loving our time of travel, but I have to tell you we have the most fun when we are in a town where we know someone! We have spent many evenings with friends along the way – my best friend Ted who lives near Boston, our friends Gary and Janie who just happened to be in Gatlinburg the same week we were in Tennessee, and my brother-in-law David who we saw last night here in Arkansas for dinner. (We had a great time sharing war stories of “truck driving” incidents.)

Ok, so anyway, the service ended and we filed out of the service. No one said much of anything to us as we left. We then had to come back in to use the restroom and left again. We gave them TWO chances, and still no one even said bye. And there were people at the door who were supposed to be doing that, but they seemed busy in conversation with someone they already knew.

My takeaways from this worship service and things God has taught me along the way:

  • It doesn’t matter how fancy the worship space is.
  • It doesn’t matter if you have a contemporary service.
  • It doesn’t matter how many or the quality of musicians.
  • What matters is that EVERYTHING is designed around relationships!
  • If you want to GROW your church, you have to be intentional about making people feel WELCOMED – as if they came to your house for dinner – not “welcomed” like you do when passing someone on the street and you smile and say “hello.”
  • What matters is that your church authentically worships the God of Love and this permeates everything you do in worship AND during the week.

I have no doubt that if we lived here and wanted to become part of the family at First United Methodist Church of Little Rock that we could. But it seems like it would take a long time before anyone knew our name or recognized the gifts we have to bring. Ironically, that is exactly what the sermon was about today.

Yes, there was something “weird” about this service. But it wasn’t the building, low ceilings or contemporary everything. It wasn’t the band or the music. I felt the presence of God in this Church. But I just didn’t feel like this church has yet to figure out that growing your church doesn’t mean if you build the right “show” the people will come. It means making new friends, finding common ground, making them part of the family and THEN together working to “do” God’s love together. If only SOMEONE had truly welcomed us into this house of worship.

You want to grow your church this Sunday? Make sure and shake the hand of anyone in your church that you don’t know their name and find out their name AND their story. You may just make a new friend.

Comments 2

  1. I agree. Went to church yesterday for first time since Johnny passed away and still don’t feel like I belong.

    1. Post
      Author

      So sorry Barbara!

      Thanks so much for your comment. It helps encourage me to keep up this ministry going!

      Perhaps you can tell the church about my upcoming workshop – they can read about it here:
      http://www.10xchurch.org

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