Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am writing about a change I have seen in church. I accept the loud guitar music and informal settings, although I do miss the traditional hymns and formal altars.

What I cannot get used to is the forced “friendly” greeting and handshaking. I attend church to meditate and worship with my family. I do not go to shake hands with strangers and give them a greeting dictated by a pastor.

I like people. I am naturally caring, outgoing and friendly. However, I believe that a greeting or handshake should come from my own heart.

I have mentioned this to friends and family from all faiths, ages and walks of life. None of them like this scheduled “greeting” either. Many say they head for the restroom at that time, turn their backs or just shake hands with the people they came with, come to church late to avoid it, or don’t come at all. Others feel the practice is unsanitary.

I suggest that church leaders take an anonymous poll and ask how many in their congregations agree with me. What do you think, Abby? — MINISTER’S DAUGHTER, CAYUCOS, CALIF.

DEAR DAUGHTER: Thank you for asking my opinion. Here it is: Something is wrong in our fragmented society if, for one moment in a house of God, people cannot find it in their hearts to reach out and make sure that everyone feels included and welcome. And for those who fear it is unsanitary — bring small bottles of hand sanitizer.



About pastorrobin

Hello. I pastor PromiseLand Church in San Marcos, TX. I am married to Erica, and we have 3 kids: Kennady, Jude, and Avery. All little ones! Visit our church site at

Posted on September 10, 2008, in Daily Word. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. WAY TO GO, ABBY! You go, girl!

    by the way, this is the 1970th comment on my blog. should we do something special for the 2000th comment????

  2. I think it is a good practice to meet, greet and be sweet to all members and visitors. If shaking hands is offensive to them their problem goes much deeper than the hand shake. I agree with Abby’s comment.

    Blessings to all that read this!

  3. I am in agreement with the ‘forced’ idea. However, I mentioned it to our pastor, and he said he loves it, because it gives him an opportunity to go directly to someone who is new or hasn’t attended for awhile.
    I understand the various reasons for wanting this during the service; but let’s understand why it originated. It came about because the church was becoming a dead place to visit. People weren’t friendly.
    Unfortunately, this practice does not make people more inclined to be friendly. Visitors are put on the spot, as they don’t know who to go to, and they must smile at everyone who comes their way.
    Would it not be better for the pastor to teach the people how to be friendly? To make sure that no one visits their church without getting a friendly smile and “Welcome!”?
    I have been opposed to ‘band-aids’ for the church for decades. Rather than cover up a problem with a simple program, I would rather see the problem addressed and cured.
    It has been my experience that when you offer people a crutch, they will use it.

  4. I agree with Abby, and with Pastor, and with Laddie. If people have issues shaking someones hand or they are not or do not know how to be friendly something is wrong….The GOOD news is when they walk through our doors they are in the RIGHT place, a place where we, with love not force, show them the way to being a happier person. I hope more of the non “friendly” folks come to our church, before they know it they will see it all in a different light and then THEY will be helping others who were like they once were. God has a way of working it ALL out….

  5. Dale,

    Most people who are “seeking” (known in some circles as “seekers”) are known to be seeking connection. Some are not necessarily seeking connection to God but to people. The exciting thing is, if we connect with these people, we can then connect them with the living GOD!! What an opportunity.

    I would go on to say that God is a people person. Or as Bishop Kenneth Phillips would say, “God is in the people business”. God loves people and so should Christians.

    I will even take it a step farther….not only should we meet new people we should show an interest in them. When someone new begins attending, we should take a moment to find out about them.

    What ever happen to having people over for dinner. Or taking someone out to eat dinner?? Meet someone new. Get out of your circle and make some new friends.

    And that’s all I’m going to say aobut that.


  6. as a visitor to new churches, i have not really enjoyed the hand-shaking segment of the service. all it is, is….hi, my name is….and that is all. no connection with anyone in several months.
    on the other hand, we are about to start participating in a small group and i think connection will for sure be happening then!!! woohoo.

  7. I understand Dale’s position on the band aid concept and agree that it is much better for everyone to be friendly before and after the service than to do something because the leader says to. This is also relevant to worship. We should worship God because we love him, not because a cheerleader is in front telling us to. On the other hand, I do not find offense in somebody telling me to be friendly or to worship because I understand there are some folks who may never participate in either activity unless prodded.

    One final thought, if we only give the visitors a brief handshake all they know is our name which they forget as soon as they sit down. If we really are interested in knowing the person, take them to lunch after church and show some real interest. The same is true with God. If our only contact with Him is a song and a handclap, we will never know who He is. Instead, take Him to lunch with you, ask Him about His kingdom, study His Word, and talk to Him daily. You will be rewarded with a relationship with a friend that sticks closer than a brother and that will last forever.

  8. Brother Rob I couldn’t have said better myself!!!

  9. I just wanted to say that I LOVE our church! I’m so grateful that we have such loving and Godly people who are willing to go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. You can truly feel the power of the Lord as you enter our church. Sometimes that handshake or hello is what makes or breaks someone’s decision to join or return…it’s that friendliness that we ALL need…member or visitor. It’s AGAPE love!

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