In this series of posts, we will consider the practices of other churches that share some similarities with the OPC, though also some significant differences. With some of the examples (ten in number), we may see some ways in which their practice is inconsistent with our doctrinal commitments, but also hopefully learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ. In particular, we hope to learn more effective ways to welcome new people into the language and culture of our worship, practice, and life as a church.
Sunday School Logistics: For the many churches that have Sunday School before worship, I’ve noticed a not infrequent occurrence. Sunday School ends way too close to worship to properly welcome visitors. It looks like this: Sunday School is scheduled to end 15 minutes before worship—that’s cutting it close. But it often doesn’t end on time. Teacher runs over. Questions are asked. Or it ends and people don’t leave right away. This can work out in two ways and I’ve seen both multiple times. One possibility: everybody in the church is in another area of the building and it’s 10 minutes before the service and the “sanctuary” is barren—only a couple of visitors or stragglers who didn’t go to Sunday School. Visitors, who might not have been welcomed by the early stragglers, are wondering if they are in the right place. Or another possibility: the Sunday School is in the same area as the worship service and visitors are held outside the room and not allowed into the area for the worship service even though it’s only a 8 or 10 minutes until worship begins because an unaware teacher has just one more point to make or a vigilant member points out one more time how he’s reminded this relates to his favorite doctrine.
Initial Reformed Reaction: Hopefully, how did we let this happen and not recognize it?
Principle that transfers: This isn’t how we would welcome new people to our home; let’s not do it at church. Barring an emergency, you wouldn’t tell someone to come for dinner about 5 and pull into your driveway at 4:55. Intentionality about being hospitable and the expectation of having visitors require us to think about these things. At bare minimum have your greeters always leave Sunday School early to be ready to greet people. But better than that, being hospitable may mean needing to start 15 minutes earlier (which we all know is a big deal) or have a shorter Sunday School for the sake of welcoming people into your church.