How Long Do You Stay at Church After the Service Ends?
The Best Christian Community Happens After the Service Is Over
Last week I asked, Why do people show up for church late? My wife and I try to arrive ten minutes early, a practice we developed when we visited fifty-two churches in a year. This allows for time to interact with others, to enjoy a bit of Christian community before the service begins and to prepare ourselves to connect to God.
Another thing we observed during our 52 Churches journey was how people acted after the church service ended. Some people make a beeline to the door as fast as possible without saying a word to anyone. And a couple of times we saw people leaving before the church service had even ended. But at most churches people take a few minutes to say “Hi” to their friends, talk with others, or attend to some church business. But within five or ten minutes most everyone is gone.
However, a few churches are a notable exception. There people hang out for quite a while after the church service ends. Sometimes this is for a potluck or a social time around coffee and snacks, but other times it’s simply for an extended period of connection with their church family. When Candy and I visited fifty-two churches, we determined to make ourselves available to linger in Christian community—assuming there was one. Several times this lasted longer than the church service itself, sometimes for a couple hours.
Some people think sticking around after the church service ends is foolish. But others—such as myself—think hanging around afterword is how it should be.
The reasons for these two perspectives stem from our reasons for going to church.
Three Reasons to Go to Church
1. A Duty: For those who go to church as an obligation, leaving as soon as possible makes sense. They performed their duty, now they want to get on to something else, something that interests them more.
2. To Sing or Learn: For people who go to church to listen to a teaching or sing to God or about God, they see no reason to stick around after the benediction. The purpose for being there has ended, so now it’s time to leave. Yes, they’re polite in their exit, but they have no reason to tarry. Other activities beckon, such as Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap. People who go to church for the community, realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. Click To Tweet
3. Spend Time in Christian Community: For people who go to church for the community, they realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. To realize the community they seek, they arrive early and are willing to stay late—sometimes for an hour or two. That’s when the real community happens. That’s when they can share life with each other. For me, that’s what church is all about: community.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.