An Open Letter to American Churches

by Mentanna Campbell

A writer returned to the States after years abroad, and started looking for a church. Here’s what she found:

Dear church members,
I am looking for a church. I’m already a believer, so I’m an easy catch. You don’t have to convince me that God exists or that it is important to come to church regularly. I’m even one of those in the 20th percentile who will be actively engaged, eager to serve in my giftedness. I really want to find a church home (and soon), but I confess this search has been harder than I expected.

I see so many things that make me want to turn around and walk out the door.

Oh, I know that no church is perfect. I’m not searching for that. I guess I have just been surprised at how awkward it feels to be a visitor, and I wonder if you really remember what it feels like to be in my position. So this letter is just to give you a peek into what I have been experiencing as I go from one church to the next. I know those of you who have been in church for a long time forget how hard this searching process can be. So take a moment and hear me out. I think I might have some helpful suggestions for your church.

Please don’t set up a visitor welcome center and then not welcome guests when they show up there. Pick wisely the people who staff that center. I know it is easy to get talking to people you already know, but I really think the welcomers should keep themselves available so they are ready to help a newcomer the moment they show up to ask questions. I mean, I’m happy to eavesdrop on your conversation about Sally’s driver’s test for a couple of minutes, but after that I get a bit restless. We visitors already feel a bit conspicuous, so don’t make me wait too long to find out where the sanctuary is and if that coffee you are offering is free or not.

Please don’t offer me cheesy gifts for coming to visit your church. I don’t need Starbucks gift cards or fancy pens. And for sure don’t offer me a copy of the U.S. Constitution along with a 10-minute diatribe on why I need to vote biblically and morally. Your gifts feel like bribery to me. They make me feel like you are selling an image instead of offering a place to belong. I want your authenticity and commitment to Christ to be that which draws me back, not the promise of another book or CD. Give me a Bible if you want because I might not have one. Offer me information on your church to take home and read. But please don’t treat me like the only single girl in a room full of ready-to-marry bachelors…

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