Okay...I'll start with my first attempt in attending, "Small Group Day"(not the actual title), where church visitors are encouraged to attend an event highlighting the many groups run by various church members. Let me first start by saying that I am an average, single white guy, very clean cut, conservatively attired, and quite friendly. This is not unusual, as even the preacher had said one day that most of our congregation is single (and though he never admitted it, lily white...)
This was held in a large room. All against the wall, tables were set up to represent each group. A representative stood behind the table to welcome any interested persons, introduce themselves, and tell them a little bit about the small group, i.e. when they meet, what you will need to participate, etc. You are given the impression by the preacher that this event enables you to evaluate the many exciting things one can get involved in connected with this church.
However, I noticed a few strange things:
1) Although there were many display boards erected upon these tables depicting snapshots, etc., NONE OF THEM DISPLAYED THE TITLE OF THE SMALL GROUP. This made it very hard to find the particular group you were interested in, so you had to ask around. This church is in a very prominent area of town, and I found it strange that Mon-Friday business people had suddenly forgotten the most simple aspects of promotion.
2) There was one particularly busy area, toward the end of the line of tables against the wall. I was about to approach the several tables which had seemed to all be connected with this one particular group, when I was stopped by a guy who greeted me, and SEEMED to be very interested in helping me find my way around. I asked what the busy area was all about, and he replied in a kind of bored tone that this was just a group where people worked out their problems with the help of other group members, etc. My impression was that he was trying to divert me from going over there.
3)I have this sense, I guess someone might call it a gift, that subconsciously tells me when someone is staring at me. I sometimes find myself in a mall or other public area, looking up suddenly to find myself looking directly into the eyes of someone. I finally figured out later in life that I can sense when someone is staring at me...call it the "eyes in the back of my head". Anyway, as I spoke to this guy, I would instinctively jerk my head over to this group area, to find two very well attired women staring right at me. They quickly averted their eyes as I looked directly into them. Another guy came up to join the first, as if to "help" me in finding the group I was looking for. I explained that I was interested in studying the bible, so they directed me to a display where a man stood who would be teaching his class on a certain book in the bible.
I walked up to him, shook hands, and he immediately executed the tightly - crossed - arms across - the - chest- body- language - thing. He said he was a lawyer by trade. We talked a bit, and I signed up for the class. I had many strange experiences in this class.
4)FIRST DAY- As I was searching for the classroom where the study of James was to be held, I noticed a tall man attempting to secretly keep an eye on me. This was a man who had asked me many sundays ago what I did for a living. When I told him, he said incredulously, "And you like that?!!!" I found this same man standing directly in the doorway of the classroom as I approached. He stared directly into my eyes, as if to stare me down...not in a menacing fashion, but in such a way that any reasonable person would know not to do so as to avoid causing the one stared at discomfort. My suspicions that he was deliberately trying to make things hard for me were confirmed when he stood in the doorway so I had to actually squeeze past him to step inside. Was his intent to bar my way? I noticed just before class had started that he was engaged in a very hurried and covert discussion with our teacher, with his back turned towards me.
5)This, by the way, is not the first time I had tried to join a small group. However, this time there were group titles on display tables. I did, however, search desperately for the particular group I was interested in, and a tall guy gestured to the man representing the group, and pointing to me. He looked at me, and continued his conversation with another man. When I approached them, they basically ignored me, engrossed in their conversation. I had to ask where the sign-in list was, and they begrudgingly moved to reveal the list, and I signed it.
The first night of this meeting was during a very stormy night, and I had given my cell phone number, as well as my phone number, but no one representing the group had ever called.
CONCLUSION: SMALL GROUPS IN LARGE CHURCHES ARE CHAMPIONED AS MORE INTIMATE CHURCH EXPERIENCES WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND HELP WITH YOUR PROBLEMS. HOWEVER, I THINK THAT THE TRUE PURPOSE OF "SMALL GROUP DAY" IS NOT SO MUCH FOR YOU TO EVALUATE THEM, AS FOR THEM TO EVALUATE YOU.
IF THEY DO NOT LIKE YOU FOR ANY REASON(A SINGLE, WHITE MALE WITH NO WIFE AND SNOTTY-NOSED KIDS IN TOW, OR AT LEAST A GIRLFRIEND, IS LIKELY ALWAYS SUSPECT), THEY HAVE ESTABLISHED, VERY DIABOLICAL WAYS OF LETTING YOU KNOW, WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A SINGLE WORD, THAT YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.
There is more, so much more, I will share with you later.
ISN'T THERE ANYONE ELSE OUT THERE HAVING THESE DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES IN BECOMING ESTABLISHED IN A CHURCH? TELL YOUR STORY!