This post is being written from the in-laws house, so it is chock-full of insight into what is easily one of the most difficult games of a support-raisers life: visiting home for the holidays.
The thing that’s unique to us on the support-raising trail is that we met with nearly everybody at our church, on an individual basis, and many of them still support us financially long after we mentally detach name from face. So they remember us, because we send them monthly(ish) newsletters. But we couldn’t pick them out of a lineup with an answer key.
I can still tell you most of the people who came on my team in 2002, how much they gave financially, and in most cases their street address. But none of that matters at the Christmas Eve service when a supporter of 6 years hands me a candle and asks how I’ve been doing, and I don’t remember if he is Frank (husband of Charlene, lives at 133 Robinhood Cir, 27106) or Jim (husband of Susan, lives at 352 Pine Bluff Ave, 27104).
It seems matching names and faces is far more crucial than matching names to addresses. It also seems that narrowing it down to 2 names isn’t helpful.
See, there’s a place on our donor management software for us to put a picture of people, but I think I used that function exactly one time, in 8 years. In hindsight, that may be the most valuable aspect of that program, as it relates to Christmas Eve services everywhere.
In case you ever find yourself in the (purely hypothetical) situation of not having visited your home church in 7+ years, and then making an appearance, I’ve got a few suggestions that will make the trip a bit more palatable.
Use side entrances.
The good thing about visiting a church where you spent your teenaged years is that you know exactly how to pick the lock on the side entrance. Put that knowledge into action on any (purely hypothetical) decade-later visits. Slip in the side entrance, sneak past the foyer, and make your way to your seat. That will ensure at least one “I saw you at church, but couldn’t get over there to talk to you” email on Monday morning.
Fully utilize your wing-spouse.
If you are fortunate enough to have a spouse from a different hometown whom you met after you finished raising your initial support, this tip is pure gold. Under no circumstances should you walk the halls of your church without your wing-spouse. (S)he should be fully briefed on the protocol for approaching a “familiar face.” My (purely hypothetical) procedure involved introducing my child and/or wife and then feigning interest in a spot on the carpet that needed spot cleaning. Another go-to involved pointing my toddler toward something shiny just before introducing my wife, and chasing him toward said shiny object. In the meantime my wing-wife was able to introduce herself and ascertain the appropriate firstname lastname.
In case of singleness, feel the freedom to take a friend with you to serve this purpose, or find a regular attender and have them conversationally bail you out all morning.
Feel the freedom with Christian “sibling” labels.
One of the perks of Christian subculture is the fact that we can always fall back on sibling terms for acquaintances. “Brother” is a perfectly acceptable way to address someone. The rules for sibling nomenclature are as follows:
- male more than 10 years older than you–“brother” or “sir” interchangeably.
- female more than 10 years older than you–“sister” or “ma’am” interchangeably.
- male less than 10 years older than you, but more than 15 years old–“bro” exclusively.
- female less than 10 years older than you, but more than 15 years old–“girl” or “girlfriend*“
- Male or female more than 20 years younger than you, or younger than 15 years old–“buddy” or “sweetie” respectively.
These tips should make for a situation-free experience for you. I should also add that it’s easiest to just not do what I did, and visit your home church more than once per decade. But in my defense, my parents moved. And I couldn’t remember anybody’s name. And I was a bit of a coward. Ok, maybe that’s not my defense.
*heterosexual males are going to want to take it easy on referring to anyone as “girlfriend,” just, you know, because.