I'm one of those people who actually love, and are highly amused by, adolescents.
I teach several classes of them and smile daily at their attempts to be noticed. Demure Charlotte writes with large, swooping cursive and submits papers usually about twice the required length. She seeks to shine academically. Juan, handsome but still gangly, cracks jokes and does a scan around the room to see who laughs. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed Ana has been told so many times (at the age of 13) that she's pretty that she's certain that batting eyelashes, bright lip gloss and elaborate attention to her hair are all that is required to keep those compliments coming.
I have no concern for these young people. They speak when they want to be heard, and they are heard. It’s the students who do not speak, because they do not expect to be heard, that I'm concerned about.
If I look around church on any given Sunday morning, there are “the regulars” who are up front, giving announcements, leading their ministries, inviting people to whatever activities that they meet the requirements to attend. It’s a happening place with lots to offer.
But what about the scattered church attenders who come in at the beginning of the service and leave as the last song ends? They were greeted when they entered, but they slipped out unnoticed, not connecting. Maybe they do not want to connect. But maybe they do. Is it their responsibility to come to events to meet people? I have heard that. Over time I have heard leaders say that people need to take initiative, and that it's basically their own fault if they do not connect at church.
Maybe this is true. But may I suggest that church should be a place where people are welcome and included, despite their initiative? Could it be that some people are just looking for a sign that they will be welcomed and accepted, should they take initiative?
I've recently visited a church, and I wonder if they have surveillance to track newcomers. I've seriously never been so formally or informally welcomed anywhere. It's made a significant difference regarding our desire to attend this church. We took no initiative. We were just simply welcomed. It's a beautiful thing.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." — Matthew 10:29-31
Jesus tells us that sparrows are important to Him. So is that sweet nameless lady in the beige jacket who sits in the 8th row every Sunday, the one whom I still have never once greeted. I actually know that if I took the time, maybe five minutes a week, to talk to her and affirm her significance to this particular church body, she would begin to connect, not with just me, but with others who do the same. But it hasn’t happened, because of me, perhaps, or maybe because of others who have not bothered. We're so busy! But she's so important.
Some of us are initiative takers, and some of us are not. Imagine if all of us took just a little initiative and reached out to someone who blends in and showed an appreciation for their being part of the church family. To tell someone that their presence is noticed and appreciated is priceless. To begin to know them, by asking basic questions about their jobs or families is so simple, but sadly, too rare. A person who feels welcome just may take more initiative. Every single person has something to offer. Each sparrow, brown or gray, common and small, has its own song. It could be that we are the ones missing out.