Don’t Avoid the Awkwardness…


I have been thinking a lot lately about awkwardness.

I watch people of all ages actively avoid situations they feel awkward in or aren’t sure how to engage in, and allow their uncertainty to hinder them.

I have started to realize that it seems that often we avoid things that put us in an awkward situation or scenario that we don’t know what to do… So, instead of viewing it as a hard thing we must step into, we avoid.

For example:

  • We get on our phones while we wait for coffee or food.
  • While waiting for a friend to arrive, phones are often our go-to awkwardness avoidance device. (I’m totally raising my hand as a guilty party)
  • The guy won’t ask the attractive, funny woman he is maybe interested in out for coffee.
  • Someone is struggling, but we don’t send them words of encouragement.
  • Even if someone doesn’t “need” help, but it would be nice, we don’t offer just to be kind or make it easier for them.
  • How about just eye contact and good morning?
  • What about a simple hello and asking the cashier how they are doing before you start literally issuing an order at them?

I have started making it a practice of my will to putt my phone away, or leave it in my pocket on purpose when I am out in public or waiting for something. – You know what I have discovered? I will reach for it about every 2 minutes.

So, my coping mechanism is that I have started just checking the time and putting it back away to slowly break myself of this habit.

What I find funny is, when I am at home or at work, I will walk away from my phone and leave it somewhere for hours at a time… When I am hanging out and talking with my friends; good luck getting me to respond to a text quickly…

Why the gap between compulsively checking every 2 minutes and going hours without it even on my body? – My ability to walk away from my phone for hours at a time shows that my struggle is not addiction related but rather situational awkwardness related.

On the flip side, I have been mulling over this idea that as a believer, a follower of Christ, how am I communicating that I love or even just slightly care about them if I never even acknowledge they are there?

“They will know us by our love.”

They won’t because we avoid awkwardness and uncertainty as a preservation and anxiety reducing strategy.

Awesome. So, will they know us by our eye contact and hello at least?
How am I supposed to show love or mild interest for someone else if I seek to reduce my own awkwardness and anxiety first?

In Romans it says that we are to “Practice Hospitality”. – I write more about my thoughts on that here and here.

But, there is a theory that if you want to become an expert or master at something, you must put in 10,000 hours of practice.

Have you spent 10,000 hours on any character discipline at all; let alone hospitality?

  • Have you gone above and beyond trying to hone your skills of engaging well with strangers?
  • Do you work at acknowledging and seeing people in any situation.. forget about “loving them well,” how about even just showing that you see them and they matter?
  • Are you trying to get better at speaking encouragement to those you encounter?

What if you fail?

Are you getting up and starting over? Learn from your mistake, evaluate how you can do better moving forward. It is simple, but does not feel great.


  1. Step into awkwardness this week. Dig down deep inside of you, and decide that today you will do one thing differently.
  2. Decide to willingly be in an uncertain situation and practice handling it with grace and patience.
  3. Choose to talk to the person standing closest to you when in a moment of waiting for coffee, an elevator, your food, the metro.

Here are a few self-development tips and topics to help you grow yourself.

Ask two questions of someone, and wait to hear the answer.

If you notice someone showing signs of emotion (joy, anxiety, frustration etc..) Ask them about it…
“You seem pretty upset, are you having a frustrating day?” – Wait for an answer and then offer a real word of encouragement: “I’m sorry, that’s so frustrating! Would you allow me to buy you a cup of coffee or tea to improve your day?”

A few examples of putting a simple spin on normal questions: 

  1. How is your day going?
  2. What do you do for work? – Do you love what you do?
  3. Are you doing what you dreamed of as a kid/teen?
  4. Your style game is spot on today! Where did you get ____ (jewelry or clothing that you particularly like)?
  5. What’s your favorite thing to do/order here? (Depending on if you’re at a restaurant or just in public)

First Impressions

My official job title is First Impressions Director for NCC. I love my job, it is challenging in a plethora of ways, but it also feeds into my strengths and passions and allows me to create space to learn more about people and how to reach them better; and then teach that to others.

The number one question I get asked is “What is a First Impressions Director?” – The  simplest way to explain it is: Anything that would be your first impression when you go to church; all of that falls under my responsibilities in one way or another. Meaning, it includes Hospitality, Connections, safety, setup and tear down, lobby, signage and of course coordinating volunteers that make all of these things possible… “and other duties as assigned” haha

Thankfully my more than a decades worth of marketing background lends itself quite nicely to my role, as does my research for marketing clients that I do on the side.

Two or more times a month someone from  another church will contact me looking for resources, trainings, general help, and sometimes just for someone to know how hard it is. The thing I find amazing is that these people are from around the country of varying sizes with different denominations, backgrounds and so many additional factors that play into their church. I love talking to and helping these churches. I love learning from and collaborating with them because there is always something to be learned for me as well!

I have found that there is very little out there in terms of resources for churches on the who/what/where/when/why and how of First Impressions/Hospitality. – That is NOT to say that churches haven’t created amazing teams, resources, trainings, or programs themselves; it is just not a topic that others can easily learn from like pastoring, discipleship, leadership, or worship in the church. There is significantly less available in terms of resources on the topic and there are no conferences that I have found.

Some questions I get often (and my answers):

Why First Impressions?
If you read through scripture, it actually is very clear that God cares very much about First Impressions. I think the reason behind it varies depending on where you read in scripture, but it is clear, for a dozen reasons it is important… But, it also looks different in different cultures. Read Exodus and Numbers about the creation and descriptions of the Temple… There is a RIDICULOUS amount of attention to detail. God cares about the colors, metals, fabrics, people, location and frequency of the Old Testament Temple. – In fact he cares so much, that if it is handled or approached inappropriately He MAY CHOOSE to kill you instantly. Dang.

Included in First Impressions is Hospitality, which scripture actually talks about as required character trait for Elders (1 Timothy 3:2) and Bishops (Titus 1:8) as well as being a command for all believers (1 Peter 4:9).

But, it is also something we are to PRACTICE and learn how to extend it (Romans 12:13). (wording is different depending on translation for this verse)

Is First Impressions just a fancy hipster name?

Maybe the title itself to could to some degree be considered a trend, however the cultural relevance, spirit and motivation behind it are based solidly in scripture.

How do I know this?

The care that God took with the Temple.
How Paul was careful to learn about the cultures he went to in order to spread the Gospel more effectively.

Included in First Impressions is Hospitality, which is not as simple and fluffy as we can make it to be in church ministry world.

The word “hospitality” is directly descended from the Latin “hospitalitas,” which means, “to be friendly or kind to strangers or guests.”

The Greek words φιλονεξία and φιλόξενος are translated “hospitality” in scripture, and literally mean “to show love to strangers.”

In order to love, be friendly or kind to strangers, you must know and understand them. – If you do not understand them, you risk the chance of offending them, making them feel awkward, creating anxiety or giving them a bad experience… And ultimately this means they are more than likely going to miss the encounter with Jesus because their focus will be elsewhere.

Know the culture of those you are engaging with.

Remove any and all barriers that you can, so that satan cannot use stupid and simple distractions to prevent them from hearing the Gospel.

We are also commanded to show hospitality to one another without complaint. (1 Peter 4:9)
Hospitality is a way we “may entertain angels” without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2) – (uhm what?!)

But, WHY is First Impressions important?

Because, as believers, it is our job to do whatever we can to spread the Gospel. If that means paying special attention and changing our presentation, approach, signage, language, lingo, and adjusting it so that people (who do not currently know Christ) have the chance to hear the words of Jesus without hinderance: Then do that. – No excuses.

When you are in ministry, in the church world (or in everyday life), it is my personal (views are my own) belief that it is YOUR responsibility to be like Paul, and adjust yourself to reach those around you better.

If we have to change the words used in order for people to better understand the life changing message of Christ. Then adjust.

Changing the language was the whole purpose behind The Message translation of the Bible.

Instead of fighting someone’s culture, as believers, it is our job to use their culture to help us communicate effectively and clearly with them. Changing the language to communicate clearly is found throughout scripture: Jesus did this, Paul did this, the Holy Spirit did this in Acts so that people could take the Gospel back to their cultures in their language and understanding.

First Impressions matter, it works diligently and hard with a passion for others in creating space for people to encounter and know that they belong and are loved exactly where they are today.