Jon Acuff has a brilliant article on How To Enter Church when you are late. Just a fore-warning, Acuff writes satire, so his humor is tongue in cheek. He gives us a comical look at how late arrivers work their way into service. Enjoy!
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you, lady who is making me late to church.”
I didn’t say that a few weeks ago when my wife stopped my speed walk to the sanctuary so that I could meet one of her friends after dropping off our kids in Sunday School. That probably would have been rude to proclaim, but that was what I was thinking. Standing there watching people stream in the open doors and fill up the seats, I could feel myself getting anxious.
“We’re going to be late. We’re going to be late. Oh the agony, so close but yet so far away. Any second now they’re going to close those doors and we’ll have to sneak in along the baseboards like some sort of rat or hamster scurrying for birdseed that the Acuffs may have left in the garage without thinking that a rodent the size of a small cat would find it, eventually get stuck on a glue trap, scream so loud you could hear it in the house and then get murdered by a grandmother across the street because you were at work and couldn’t come home.” (Whoa, that just got personal.)
And although we weren’t late that day, I know it’s going to happen. We’re going to show up behind schedule and need to sneak into church at some point, so I went ahead and wrote myself a guide on the best way to come into church late. Without further ado:
7 things you need to know about sneaking into church late …
1. Never come in during prayer
Rookie move. Strictly amateur hour. People often think this is a great time to come in, everyone has their eyes closed and no one can see you. Wrong. Lots of people have their eyes open and will see you. Plus, the people who do have their eyes closed have entered bat mode and have enhanced hearing. That’s lose, lose my friend. Never come in during a prayer.
2. Blame your kid.
If you’re so late you can’t sneak your kid into Sunday School and have to take them to big church, don’t miss that perfect opportunity to shift blame. As you carry them down the aisle to your seat, nod your head toward your child in a way that says, “This little guy made us late! What are you going to do though? I love this rascal. Kids will be kids.” Please note that this won’t work if your kid is in the habit of saying things like, “My dad caught up on all the college football scores this morning on ESPN and made us late to churchy.”
3. Pretend you’re a volunteer.
I’m not suggesting you wait until the offering is collected, grab an empty bucket when no one is looking and then come in late as if you’re an usher, but if that happens, it happens. You can also find someone else who is late and pretend that you’re seating them. Walk them down the row and point them to some empty seats, pat them on the back as if to say, “Just doing my job pal, try not to be late next week.” Then while people watch the person walk to their seat, you fade into the crowd and sit down. The bonus here is that you get to look helpful and holy in addition to finding a seat for yourself.
4. Wear black.
If you have to come in during prayer, it would help if you were wearing black and could act like you’re one of those magical stage hands who materialize out of nowhere and shift things around on stage while no one is looking. This might be a little extreme, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to keep a spare one of those little table and chair combos pastors are using in your car. When you show up late, just tell your wife, “Help me with this chair, we’ve got to put this in the sanctuary somewhere when we walk in.”
5. Don’t assume it’s best to walk in while people are singing.
Again, common mistake. Sure, the music is loud and everyone might be standing up which on the surface seems like a good time to walk in. But depending on how charismatic your church is you might have some physical worshiping going on. The last thing you want to add to the adventure of sneaking in to church is the need to dodge arm raisers. It only takes one person doing a quick unexpected double arm pound cake move to your diaphragm as you scoot down the aisle to realize you made a mistake. If you come in during a song, find a restrained section of the audience without any hand raising to sit in.
6. Army crawl if the sermon has already started.
A few weeks ago I spoke at a college that had rows of chairs that were elevated like a stadium. The stage was at the bottom and on the left side was a fire exit door a few feet from the podium. During the middle of my speech, I saw a shadowy figure coming through that door and essentially walk on to the speaking area with me. I was about 3 seconds away from launching a judo chop at what I assumed was a would be assassin when I realized it was just someone coming in late. If the sermon has already started, please army crawl in on your stomach less the pastor sweep your leg like a member of the Cobra Kai Dojo.
7. Aim for the meet and greet.
This is your golden moment. This is where the real magic of a late arrival happens. If you can time your entry to the meet and greet then you just look like any other church attendee that is walking along greeting people. Shake a few hands when you walk in, tell people you’re happy to see them and then sit down when everybody else does. Nothing to see here folks, just meeting and greeting.
Do those feel extreme to you? Perhaps, but then perhaps I just respect the sanctity of an already in progress church service more than you. I’ll pray for you. Is pretending to be an usher a weird way to respect the sanctity of a service? Perhaps. Maybe you should pray for me.
Those are my tips for coming in late to church, what are yours?
Have you ever been late to church?
What do you do when you’re late?”