Tuesday, October 30, 2012

fine print

What does it mean when a church says "everyone is welcome?" Or if an event brochure says that "Anyone and everyone... can come and enjoy!"?

Does it really mean anyone and everyone? Or are there exceptions?

I think there are some reasonable exceptions: for example, the person who comes to church only to hassle and intimidate their ex-spouse, or a satan-worshipper whose only reason for attending is to disrupt the congregation.

But what about the man who has poor social skills? Or the woman who tends to ask awkward questions during the discussion time? Or the young person who is defiant? Should they be excluded?

Whom would you be willing to exclude?

Ironically, many of the people who are on the "more likely to be excluded" end of the spectrum, are the kind of people Jesus hung out with...


  1. This is an interesting one. I think there are different considerations:

    1. The person being invited. As you mentioned, are they someone who is going to support the nature of the weekend? Or are they coming and planning to, or have a history of, disrupting it? And since none of us are perfect and we all have baggage, to what extent is it expected that that person will be disruptive?
    2. Are the other people able to cope with the person? There will always be some that say “I can’t stand…. the person over there”. But are there at least some that can help support or minimize any disruptions? If a baby cries all the time, that can be disruptive, but if there are people willing to care for the baby then it might be okay to include that baby. Similarly, if there is a person who is prone to making loud outbursts, are there others that can help to minimize the disruption (whether the disruption is intended or not)?
    3. Are the leaders able to cope with it? There are some people that need things very structured to cope well, and if the leadership needs that, then this is an additional factor. How prepared are the leaders to deal with an expected disruption? And if they need to step out to help handle a situation, are there others that can step in to help lead?
    If there is a specific person that impacts the leaders, then some care should be taken to see if there is some unresolved personal issue that needs to be addressed.
    4. What are the outside factors that might impact the above? How suitable are the facilities to accommodate different people? (Rock climbing weekend… all are welcome. Is it then valid to ‘exclude’ someone with a wheelchair? Perhaps.) Are there extenuating circumstances that might reduce the ability for other attendees and the leadership to deal with disruptions – death of a close relative, major job change, significant impact to a community of some sort? If so, then someone (or some action) that is suitable one day might not be on another day.
    Just my $0.02. I’m sure that someone that has studied more Organizational Behaviour could give this a much better do-over than I have.
    How was the weekend, anyways? I heard that the Synod threw a bit of a curve-ball into things the week before.


  2. In this post, I'm really asking two questions:

    1. If our invitation / sign / etc. says "Everyone welcome", shouldn't that mean *everyone*?
    2. If we are going to exclude some people, on what basis do we decide when and whom to exclude?

    The considerations you sent have helped in answering the second question. As for the first question, I'm reluctant to say "well, everyone knows that 'everyone welcome' doesn't mean people who are this or that or the other." I don't think everyone would know that, as people come from different perspectives and backgrounds. But more importantly, shouldn't our signs and invitations be honest? In keeping with "let your yes be a yes", shouldn't "everyone welcome" mean "everyone welcome"?

    As for the actual parish weekend, it was pretty good. Missed you and your family!