Why We’re Trying No Sharing of the Peace

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If you were at worship this weekend, you heard we are going to try removing the “sharing of the peace” from the beginning of the worship service. I wanted to take a few minutes and share with you some of the thinking behind the decision.

How We Got Here

We’ve been doing the sharing of the peace for a long time at First Trinity. At one point, it was traditionally done before the Lord’s Supper, but later got moved to the start of the service and done every week. Honestly, I had never given much thought to this piece of our service, even though I knew some people actually showed up late to avoid it. Then, a few week ago, we read Thom Rainer’s post titled Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First Time Guests. We felt like we were doing OK on most of the items in the list, and numbers 2 through 9 made sense to us, but the number one answer was a shocker. Here’s what Thom wrote:

Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

As I said, this was also a surprise to many of our staff members. A few days later, he wrote a second post on this topic: Should Your Church Stop Having a Stand and Greet Time? In this post, he laid out many of the reasons why guests (and members!) dislike the stand and greet time, known to us as the sharing of the peace.

We decided to do some informal polling of people who regularly attend our church and many of them also expressed similar reasons for disliking the greeting time. “Faked”, “Forced”, and “Awkward” were all used to describe this time. Some people said they liked it, but also admitted they were either generally outgoing, or that they sit around people they know, which minimizes the risk for them.

Based on Thom’s posts and (more importantly) feedback from our own members, we decided to try not doing the sharing of the peace through the end of the year.

What We’re Hoping to Accomplish

We believe fellowship is an important dynamic of a healthy church. The sharing of the peace, at it’s core, was really trying to create some authentic community. For some, it was working, but for many others, it isn’t. So instead of the sharing of the peace at the beginning of the service, we are encouraging people to stay and have some conversation with others after the services. The idea first came to us about a year ago from the Idea Team, a group that gives feedback when requested about how to best overcome a challenge in our ministry.

A few things to note about this new fellowship time:

  • We will be inviting people to be intentional in creating authentic community just prior to the blessing.
  • We will be giving permission to stay and have conversation in the sanctuary to make this possible. Organ postludes and the contemporary band’s sending song will provide some quieter background music so conversation can be heard.
  • Our goal is really to create an authentic fellowship opportunity.

What’s Next

Change can often be unsettling. We invite your feedback on how we’re doing with creating an atmosphere for authentic fellowship. As you consider your feedback, it’s usually best to try the change for a few weeks before forming an opinion–negative or positive. So give it a try, engage others in some conversation, maybe try to learn something new about someone. Then, towards the end of the year, let us know what you think. You can share it in person, but we’d also appreciate a written copy with your name on it so we can be sure everyone hears your feedback, not someone else’s recollection of it.

Whenever we make a change like this, one of the challenges is that there are always people who like the change and those who don’t. This will certainly be the case for this change as well. After we get some feedback, leadership will have a conversation and decide what to do moving forward to achieve our goal of authentic fellowship opportunities and a welcoming environment.

5 Responses to "Why We’re Trying No Sharing of the Peace"
  1. Cathy Mongielo says:

    It saddens me that people did not enjoy this greeting time and that they even felt so uncomfortable. Although there were times that the greeting/blessing felt a bit less than natural for me, I still liked being able to wish a blessing and give a smile to others around me. Hopefully, it will become comfortable and natural to seek conversations with others post service. Thanks for listening and trying new things in order to help us all!

    • There are others who like being able to greet and “give a smile to others around” them. We’d like to encourage you (and others!) to keep doing that. I’d love to know how that actually “feels” without us providing a specific time for it. Maybe warm greetings to those around you when you arrive? Or possibly watching for others to enter the pew near you and share a quick word of welcome? Curious to know how this impacts your start to worship over the next several weeks while we try this!

  2. Cindy Chamberland says:

    Thank you! We did not intentionally arrive late to the service but were not disappointed AT ALL when we did and we missed “pass the peace”. People that are outgoing probably like the peace greeting but those that are reserved or shy probably are very uncomfortable being forced to do this. Good move, First Trinity!!

    • How did you like the fellowship time at the end of the service? Were you able to stay and have conversation with people? What did you think of Pastor’s invitation for having fellowship with others?

  3. Mary Lou Hartnett says:

    While i understand and support the decision to discontinue the sharing of the peace, my personal experience is that I greet far fewer of my church family than when we had the sharing as part of the service. Because the sharing time was a very brief period during the worship, the greetings were limited to a touch, handshake, or hug with many whom I only see on Sunday morning – nonetheless the encounters were genuine and heartfelt. While greeting others after the service gives me an opportunity to have a more lengthy and, perhaps, meaningful encounter, these also result in my greeting fewer people because the individual conversations are more time consuming. Sharing during the service, gave me an opportunity to see others in attendance and identify more individuals I did not know. After the service, I could then focus on those “visitors” or persons I did not know. Again, I believe that God created us as unique individuals and my personal preferences understandingly may not those of the majority. The desire of leadership to make our church home a welcoming place for all is a gift and I give thanks always for that leadership.

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