Sermon, prayer, song, postlude. The worship service ends and the scramble begins—get the children, get the jackets, head for the door. It’s time for lunch.
Though we exchange brief "how-are-yous" with the folks in our pew, our pleasantries make it clear we’re not sticking around. We have food to eat, sports to watch, and naps to take.
My friends, this ought not to be. After worshiping our Father together, should we dash past our brothers and sisters?
The church is a body; we need one another. In order to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), we need honest, deep relationships and this takes time unavailable on Sunday mornings. Small group ministries pop up like prairie dogs for just this purpose.
But this doesn’t mean time after the worship service is worthless. Here we have an opportunity to meet visitors and connect with friends. And if we want to build vibrant, heart-level relationships, we must make the most of the time. We need questions that probe beneath the surface.
What is a Good Question?
Asking good questions is a skill, and we all have room to improve.
There are at least three ingredients to a good question, and the first one is invisible: prayer. God is sovereign over your conversations. Pray that the Holy Spirit would prompt others to take a risk and answer your inquiries honestly, even when it’s uncomfortable. Prop up your Sunday morning interactions by praying before you leave the house.
A good question is also open-ended, leaving space for the responder to jump in the pool or stay dry. "How is work?" This isn’t a bad question, but potential answers fall along a narrow path. "What are you looking forward to this week?" This question is better because the answerer can engage on different levels. You might learn she’s dreading a visit from her sister. Or you might hear how eagerly she’s anticipating a break from her children on Thursday afternoon.
Finally, a good question is one you are willing to answer in a self-revealing way. This is the measure of a loving questioner—when there’s dead air or the question is turned around, will you model the honesty you seek from others?
Meet the Visitors
If you don’t recognize the person next to you in the pew, begin with the obvious question. "Is this your first time here?" If you’re anything like me, prepare for the possibility you met this person months ago. I keep a few honest, self-deprecating remarks in my pocket for just these occasions.
If your pew neighbor is a visitor, take the chance to welcome and get to know them. Express how glad you are they came and that you’d be happy to answer any questions they have.
You’ll naturally ask about jobs, family, and brief personal history in your first conversation. But, if time allows, here’s a question that might plant some relational seeds. "What brings you to worship with us this morning?"
This question leaves room for a just-the-facts answer like, “It’s Sunday, and you guys are in the neighborhood.” But you also leave the door open for something deeper. My daughter is in the hospital. I just lost my job. I grew up going to church but haven’t been in 25 years.
Connect with Friends
If you’re sitting next to a familiar face after the service, you have an even richer opportunity. Take those five minutes to connect with them for your mutual benefit and encouragement.
Use the service as a springboard. Be honest with your own thoughts or reactions and invite them into a conversation. When I remember that Jesus has all authority, evangelism becomes much less scary. But I forget so often! "What did you take away from that passage?"
You might discuss an application from the sermon or maybe an honest question it raised. "How can we apply that as a church?" "What would that look like in our town?" A genuine interaction like this may lead to a follow-up phone call or a cup of coffee.
When in Doubt, Pray
If you’re trying to get to know someone better and you’ve exhausted your supply of questions, there’s always a foolproof fallback. Ask how you can pray for them.
This is a simple, concrete way to love. If you’re talking with a familiar person, it builds your relationship and gives you a chance to follow up with them. If you’re talking to a visitor, it communicates some of the core values of your church: concern, love, and dependence on God.
When the worship service ends, put off thoughts of your Sunday feast for just a bit. Take advantage of the time to connect with the people around you. Who knows—some of the relationships you water during these few minutes might end up blooming for years to come.