If You’re Going to Assume, Just Assume They Don’t Know

So, Santa Barbara.
It’s a lovely city. Weather is fantastic, so far.
There’s are few things to get used to. The food here is far more expensive than Valencia. There’s just something wrong with paying $10 for some pho. (Google it, if you must).

Secondly, I’ve seen far more spiders in my two weeks here than in my two years in Valencia. I don’t really like that. Spiders are just… wrong, too.

Anyway, my wife was reading one of the local magazines and discovered this place where she could volunteer at.
She called and they wanted her to come in for an initial interview.
She tried to get the directions and the guy on the phone kept assuming we were locals. Or something. Even when she said, “We just moved here” he didn’t really clarify the directions.
He kept calling the street (a three word street) by it’s initials.
“Oh, it’s on ‘ABC’ street.”
Along with phrases like,
“Oh, you can’t miss it. It’s behind such-and-such. It’s a well known area. Everyone knows ABC street.”

Yea, maybe for the locals and the regular visitors.

So on the morning of our appointment, we asked Siri for directions and followed the google maps direction on my iPhone.
Guess what?
We couldn’t find it. Siri, my wife and I did not know the street that everyone knew about.

Now, I’m not the best with directions to begin with. I get lost easily. But even so, the ABC street that he was talking about, there were no street signs for it. It technically wasn’t even a street. It was like a private driveway. We circled around a bit, now running late. We finally called the place and the lady on the phone had to give us turn by turn directions on the phone.¬†Without her help, I don’t think I would’ve ever found it.

The guy who we initially talked to knew the area well, because he lived here. It’s only natural to think that it’s easy for anyone to find, because it’s easy for him to find.

And we think like that in our churches. We’ve been at a church for so-and-so years, so it’s natural for us to think that everything we do is normal.

But, it’s not. Church isn’t really ‘normal’ for those who’ve never really been. And each church has its own quirks and traditions that are unique to their own setting.

A friend told me of a church who, when it came time to do the Lord’s Prayer, would stand up, turn around and recite the Prayer. The new pastor, after a few Sundays, could no longer contain his curiosity and began to ask parishioners why they would stand, turn around and then recite the Lord’s Prayer. After digging, he finally found the answer from one of the older members of the church. Years and years ago, the Lord’s Prayer was on a banner at the back of the church, so to make everyone feel welcome, they would all stand, turn around and read the Lord’s Prayer together, just in case someone didn’t know it. The banner had been long gone, but the tradition remained.

For long time members: normal. For new comers: “What is going on? Why are we standing up? Why are we turning around? What are we reciting?” (That’s the other thing, we assume that everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer… that may not be so true anymore…)

It’s natural for us to assume that people know what we know.
But I think it’s safer to assume that they may not know what we know.

Not everyone may know where the bathroom is located on your campus.
Not everyone may know where the coffee fellowship is (if there is one) and if everything is for free after worship.
Not everyone may know why people are furiously writing their information on pads, and if you’re supposed to do the same.

And they may have been attending your church for years…
For many of us, everything about church life is normal, because we’ve been at a church for a dominant period of our lives. In fact, we can still get the hang of the language and vibe when we switch churches or visit a church on vacations.

But there are many more people these days who haven’t grown up in church and are finding themselves inside a sanctuary for the first or second time in their lives. They probably have no idea of what is going on and their anxiety may be made worse when we assume they should just know everything.

So just be open to the idea that not everyone knows what you know.

Especially when it comes to giving directions…


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