If you were at worship this weekend, you heard we are going to try removing the “sharing of the peace” from the beginning of the worship service. I wanted to take a few minutes and share with you some of the thinking behind the decision.
How We Got Here
We’ve been doing the sharing of the peace for a long time at First Trinity. At one point, it was traditionally done before the Lord’s Supper, but later got moved to the start of the service and done every week. Honestly, I had never given much thought to this piece of our service, even though I knew some people actually showed up late to avoid it. Then, a few week ago, we read Thom Rainer’s post titled Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First Time Guests. We felt like we were doing OK on most of the items in the list, and numbers 2 through 9 made sense to us, but the number one answer was a shocker. Here’s what Thom wrote:
Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.
As I said, this was also a surprise to many of our staff members. A few days later, he wrote a second post on this topic: Should Your Church Stop Having a Stand and Greet Time? In this post, he laid out many of the reasons why guests (and members!) dislike the stand and greet time, known to us as the sharing of the peace.
We decided to do some informal polling of people who regularly attend our church and many of them also expressed similar reasons for disliking the greeting time. “Faked”, “Forced”, and “Awkward” were all used to describe this time. Some people said they liked it, but also admitted they were either generally outgoing, or that they sit around people they know, which minimizes the risk for them.
Based on Thom’s posts and (more importantly) feedback from our own members, we decided to try not doing the sharing of the peace through the end of the year.
What We’re Hoping to Accomplish
We believe fellowship is an important dynamic of a healthy church. The sharing of the peace, at it’s core, was really trying to create some authentic community. For some, it was working, but for many others, it isn’t. So instead of the sharing of the peace at the beginning of the service, we are encouraging people to stay and have some conversation with others after the services. The idea first came to us about a year ago from the Idea Team, a group that gives feedback when requested about how to best overcome a challenge in our ministry.
A few things to note about this new fellowship time:
- We will be inviting people to be intentional in creating authentic community just prior to the blessing.
- We will be giving permission to stay and have conversation in the sanctuary to make this possible. Organ postludes and the contemporary band’s sending song will provide some quieter background music so conversation can be heard.
- Our goal is really to create an authentic fellowship opportunity.
Change can often be unsettling. We invite your feedback on how we’re doing with creating an atmosphere for authentic fellowship. As you consider your feedback, it’s usually best to try the change for a few weeks before forming an opinion–negative or positive. So give it a try, engage others in some conversation, maybe try to learn something new about someone. Then, towards the end of the year, let us know what you think. You can share it in person, but we’d also appreciate a written copy with your name on it so we can be sure everyone hears your feedback, not someone else’s recollection of it.
Whenever we make a change like this, one of the challenges is that there are always people who like the change and those who don’t. This will certainly be the case for this change as well. After we get some feedback, leadership will have a conversation and decide what to do moving forward to achieve our goal of authentic fellowship opportunities and a welcoming environment.