(I split this into two posts...I hate reading really long posts. See Part 1)
> The band went into two more songs. The first song was up-tempo, and the second was much slower. The words were on the screen, and everyone was standing now, and most people were clapping and/or singing. I didn't sing or clap because I did not know the songs. I did tap my foot a little. The music was similar to what you might here on an adult light radio station. Not really my cup of tea, but not bad either. The percussion guy was sitting on a box drum really low to the floor...he played that and some other hand percussion things...it was a little distracting just because he looked out of place sitting on that box and leaning over to play into his mic.
> The preacher came up after the third song. He mentioned that they were going through a "series" called "Retro", and that they were having a retro dress contest that morning, and the winner was going to get a new iPod. Fortunately, I had looked at their website ahead of time, and wore some retro cllothes. The preacher told everyone to sit down except for those who were wearing retro. I sat down because I didn't know anybody there and I didn't feel comfortable standing up with just a few other people. That sucks cause a new iPod would have been cool.
> The preacher started his sermon...he walked around on the stage some and sat on a chair some while he spoke. He talked about living with thankfulness and gratitude to God. Good stuff. He quoted Bart Simpson...that was cool.
> The band came up as he was finishing talking. The guitar guy asked us to stand again, and they played another song that I didn't know.
> The preacher came up again and finally told us the name of the guitar guy. He told us about a few announcements, and then they asked everyone who dressed retro to come up front so they could decide the winner. Again, I wasn't cool with putting myself out there like that, so I missed out.
> After giving the iPod away, the preacher prayed for the offering. I didn't come ready to put anything into the offering, so I was happy when the basket somehow skipped my row (again, I was the only person in my row)...BUT, I felt really uncomfortable when the girl walked backwards with the basket and offered it to me...I shook my head. That was awkward, and I felt guilty for not doing something.
> The band played one more song that I didn't know, and then the preacher told us to live with gratitude, and then it was over.
> As I turned to leave, one of the guys who was sitting behind me saw my white bag and told me his name and shook my hand. I walked out to my car and drove away.
> After I left, I looked in the white bag. The contents were:
> A yellow and blue water bottle with the church's logo and name printed on it.
> A big magnet and a small magnet with the church's name, logo, website and phone number.
> A couple of business card size "invitations" to a series that the church did in September and October (not sure how that helps me...)
> An info card about their "growth groups".
> An info card about their "purpose".
> A postcard with info about that same series in Sept./Oct.
> A yellow piece of paper about their children's ministries.
> A green piece of paper about their student ministries.
> A white peice of paper listing their ministry groups.
> A white pieced of paper listing their growth groups.
So, those were my thoughts as best I could as a first-time, unchurched guest.
A few thoughts to add:
> Not once was anything about the church or the service explained to me as a guest...nobody told me what to do about the singing, the offering, the seating, the information card, etc. The only time anyone talked about "guests" was when the preacher mentioned guests in a "them" way, not a "you" (me) way.
> The website gave me conflicting info about service times. When I called the church number, the answering machine did not tell me anything helpful either. I guessed and was lucky about which time was right. If I hadn't promised my wife I'd check this church out, I probably would have gone somewhere else.
There were a lot of good things about the church. The band was good. The preacher was likable and relevant and engaging. The worship center was comfortable. The lighting and video were all good. But, the things that would have made the decision for me if I really were a first-time, unchurched guest were mostly lacking. I felt targeted more than simple welcome as a guest. I felt lost as to what was going on. I felt a little lonely.
I'm glad I went this morning. There are some things at NHC that we need to change. We do a lot of things well to make out unchurched guests feel welcome, but theres' always room for improvement.