Mary Adamski

View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship

By Mary Adamski

Saturday, May 26, 2001

Pastor stresses giving
visitors VIP treatment

IF YOU VENTURE into a new church some Sunday soon and find yourself greeted more quickly than on your trip to Wal-Mart, sweet-talked into taking a seat up front and shepherded into a chat with an old-timer, chances are you have met a graduate of the Dan Chun school.

"You may have the greatest preacher and the best music, but if you have people treated rudely at the door, they won't come back," Chun told 475 people who spent three hours Saturday morning in a Hawaiian Islands Ministries training workshop for ushers and greeters.

Chun, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu and founder of the nondenominational ministries organization with a mission to provide educational resources for Hawaii churches, displayed a show-biz streak that also reflected his past career as a television newsman.

From videos -- the "Be Our Guest" animated musical routine from the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast" and documentary interviews with White House butlers -- to Federal Express, Nordstrom and Standard Oil customer service strategies, Chun provided the members of 87 churches with an eye-opening perspective on the most basic volunteer job in any congregation.

"Put yourself in the position of the visitor," Chun told the group. His scenarios brought murmurs and chuckles of recognition: waiting in a store while the employees cluster to gossip among themselves, walking into a party not knowing another soul there. "You don't want your church to be a clique."

"People are not coming as much for the theology, the theatrics, the denomination ... people are coming where they feel welcome," he told the crowd.

He described the role of the people at the church door as "working the crowd like a good sheepdog."

Beyond the practical customer-based viewpoint, there is a spiritual, scriptural dimension to the "high calling of greeter," Chun said. "There is a lot more to it than passing out the bulletin and collecting money."

He segued into preacher, citing scriptural references about the "spiritual gift of hospitality." In Genesis, there was Abraham greeting visitors by washing their feet, and even killing the fatted calf for a feast. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

There were women and men "students" in the workshop, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens.

Many churches paid the $20 fee for several members. They filled in a workbook during Chun's lively lecture, taking it back to the parish as a manual for their peers.

Don and Doris Huddleston from St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Kailua said they were carrying away some new ideas.

They disagreed with Chun's advice to avoid putting the spotlight on first-time visitors by making them stand or hanging a lei on them.

"Most of our visitors are members' families or military. We give leis. It's a friendly touch," she said.

Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at

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