Sunday Confession: 8 words I can’t stand hearing in church

I’ve grown up going to church all my life. I have been to many different churches, different denominations, different worship styles. With all the differences, most of them follow the same “program” each Sunday morning.

First, (if you are on time) there is a welcome from the music pastor/leader followed by a time of worship with singing. (This is usually when I stroll in.) Then about 10 minutes into the singing, a pastor or associate welcomes everyone again and gives a few announcements from the bulletin. Then, maybe they tell us to bow our heads and lead us in prayer.

As soon as I hear the congregation mumble “Amen,” I know the 8 dreaded words that follow:

“Now take a minute and greet your neighbor.”

Having moved as many times as I have, I know there is nothing more lonely than sitting in church surrounded by hundreds of strangers.

Oh wait…yes there is….sitting among strangers, then having to superficially shake hands and say hello. (that is unless, you enjoy doing this. If so, you may not want to continue reading)

But really… what do I say? “Hi. I’m Amber. I’m new.” Um, no.

And even if this is a church that I have been attending for years, I’m still not a fan. Never have been.

Do you just smile, shake hands, and say good morning? Do you introduce yourself? Include your last name? Introduce your spouse? Do you turn to the right or left? Do you wait for the person in front of you to turn around or be proactive and turn around to “greet you “neighbor” behind you?

And then there is the whole possibility of being stranded… standing there by yourself while everyone else is busy greeting each other. Do you stand and continue to seek out a “neighbor” or go ahead and sit down? I guess you could always do the “pretend like your waving to someone you know in the distance while mouthing Hey” thing.

Awkward. Can’t stand it. For reals.

Clearly I have thought about this way too much. And what’s so ridiculous is that this whole thing takes less than 30 seconds. Get a grip, Amber.

I guess it just seems so superficial.

The way I see it, I’ve already had to fake smile at the greeter at the front door, the one handing out the programs, the usher that will pass the tithing baskets, and eventually the one with the communion trays.

Anyone else feel this way? Or am I the only one that thinks about crap like this? Don’t answer that.

But, in case you are like me….

Here are my 3 tried and true ways to avoid these awkward moments all together:

1) when the announcements start, excuse yourself  “to the bathroom” or just to the foyer. Come back after you can hear it’s over.

2) when you hear the “greet your neighbor” cue, sit down (or stay seated) and reach for your purse under your seat. Start digging through it like you are looking for something important. Keep your eyes down and move things around in your purse until the time is up.

3) if you have kids with you…you may be annoyed they are in the service with you, but use them to your advantage during this time! You can either a) dig through your purse to find the coloring book or activity you brought for them and get them all set up or b) tell them to pretend to sleep on your shoulder for a few minutes. If they don’t want to…bribe with candy.

But really people…. what purpose does this “greet your neighbor” thing serve? What’s the point? I’ve never met my bestie in those 30 seconds.

If it’s just to fill a few minutes while they transition up on stage, why not try something else?

A ballerina flittering across the stage? Dimming the lights and blasting “Are you ready to rumble?” And there’s always the option of having streaker run down the aisle.

Anything but “greet your neighbor”…for the love!



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22 Responses to Sunday Confession: 8 words I can’t stand hearing in church

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  7. Pastor George McKain says:

    If you were saved, you would not be talking like that. You have been in the church for such a long time and you are not saved? To be saved is easy as:
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    B. Believe the Gospel that Jesus Died for your sins and HE was resurrected from the dead
    C. Confess Him as Lord of your life.
    Then get baptize, join a local church and become the greeter of that Church. You will become a great blessing to the Kingdom of God. May the Lord save you….

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  9. Jennifer Mobley says:

    Oh Sister! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Lets start a “no more greet your neighbor” movement!!!! I despise it. Seriously! 10 minutes before this craziness I have just walked into the worship area and greeted the EXACT same 5 people that I’m going to greet during the “greet your neighbor” song. Seriously.

  10. Saundra says:


    Perhaps look at this time as an opportunity to grow. Let God use you to touch the life of someone else. We are all called to minister for the Kingdom of God. Your handshake may be the only physical contact an elderly person has the entire week. It may touch the heart of a person who just lost a loved one. You needn’t introduce yourself but offer, instead, a word of encouragement, a ‘nice to see you today’ or, better still, a scripture. As others have expressed here they feel the same, you can also choose to be honest and say ‘I never know what to say when we do this’. Its disarming and genuine. My Pastor is quite famous. You may know him, Rick Warren. He wrote The Purpose Driven Life. He says God gives us a weakness to balance a strength so that we rely on Him. Pastor Rick has a very real fear of public speaking yet he travels the world giving presentations, speeches, media interviews, etc.

    God may be trying to teach you something during these moments at your church. Perhpas its time you ask Him.

  11. Victoria says:

    Amber – I couldn’t help but comment. If done well this is a lovely part of worship. I think if it makes you uncomfortable maybe it’s not the right church? It’s like when random songs are sung and there’s no plan or purpose behind a worship service. We went to a church in VA that put such thought behind all aspects of the worship service. For me, I like this. If its done in a meaningful way it’s wonderful.

  12. Leslie says:

    One of the ways our pastor tries to make it easier is to give everyone a question to answer…what’s your favorite food, what book could you not put down, where did you grow up. That helps a little because it gives you something to talk about, but it’s still awkward and contrived, whether you are the visitor or the long-term member. The worst is when I greet someone and welcome them to the church and they say they’ve been coming for years. Oops!
    Leslie recently posted..Saturday Through My Lens: Caribbean CruiseMy Profile

  13. Cheryl says:

    When I hear those eight words in our church, I cringe, too. You are not alone. What is so irritating, besides it being a contrived, have to thing, is that just a few minutes before, the entire congregation has been chatting and visiting. Why do it again? Many people have discussed this issue but the pastor (he’s an introvert) thinks its wonderful. I’d love to send your post to him, but I doubt he’d change.

  14. Hahahahaha. So funny. I grew up in a church that didn’t do this at all. But now I’m worshipping with a congregation of about 10-15 people during the week. We greet each other with peace at the end of prayer service. And I’ve found it to be an amazingly meaningful experience. I’m not sure if I’m just a bigger fan of gestures than you are. Or maybe there’s something personal when it’s just a small group of us. ( But I like the idea that God accepts us for who we are and that His love reaches us no matter where we may be and one of the way He reaches us is via other people.

    I’m not sure that this will actually help, but just some thoughts. 30 seconds doesn’t have to be profoundly meaningful… but it could be a little. :) And, if it’s more meaningful to you by digging through your purse, I think I can be okay with that. I’ll still sit next to you.

    Hoping that you find your own way to peace,
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  15. HopefulLeigh says:

    You are so not alone in feeling this way, Amber!
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  16. Peggy says:

    I had to laugh about this… not because of your stance but because it really is so true of so many churches. Our present church included…. which is really big. I will give our current church this…. it is the first thing that is done right after announcements but not every week. I just stand there and talk to my husband and give the two elderly ladies sit with a hug. However our last church… definitely never done. But then we had 11 short pews, and averaged 25 to 30 people…. yep one of the advantages of living in a small rural community (in Alaska!)

    I’ll be praying that you guys find the perfect church home soon.
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  17. Kelly says:

    Hilarious!!! You are definitely not alone…I have often wondered the same thing!! I’ve also tried those little tips if I’m visiting a new church. They usually work great;-)

  18. Thats funny! I’m Mormon, and we don’t do that at our church. Sounds like you just need to convert to Mormonism. Ha ha ha! We don’t pass around tithing baskets, either.
    Jillian @ Hi! It’s Jilly recently posted..Cruise Recap- Part 1 of 3? 4? (However many it takes!)My Profile

    • Amber says:

      Every church is different, for sure! I’ve been to a few who don’t do this and ones that don’t pass baskets or do communion every week. I guess that’s what’s nice about having variety :)

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