Dear Aunt Sevvy,
When I went to an academy reunion recently, one of the first questions people asked me was, “”Where do you live now?” Then the second question was, “Oh! Cool! And where do you go to church?”
Here’s my problem. I don’t attend church anymore and haven’t for 25 years. So after a brief, occasionally awkward conversation about my “absence” from church, the conversation moves on to family, friends and work history (or, at my age, “How are you liking retirement?”)
I’m wondering: is there a better ice breaker question that you could suggest to my still-“churched” friends to make the getting reacquainted ritual less awkward?
Signed, Uncomfortable Reacquaintance
What you undoubtedly realize by now, since you have a history with our Adventist counterculture, is that the reason people ask questions about church is that it conveys a great deal of information for the rest of the conversation.
For example, one of our favorite things is playing the “who are our mutual friends in common?” game. There are likely not more than two degrees of separation from any two Adventists on the planet. And most people feel more at ease once they have established themselves within the Adventist network.
Furthermore, your church affiliation may tell me how to converse with you more effectively. Perhaps, for example, we’ll discover that we’re both fans of Adventist Today—which this week is having its spring fundraiser, in case you missed that.
But you’re right that there are better questions to lead with. Aunt Sevvy is proud to present this list to replace “Where are you going to church now?”
- How is your family?
- What are you up to these days? (General questions are great for conversation starters)
- What are the most unusual birds on your lifetime bird list?
- Do you have a garden?
- Did you catch the end of Game of Thrones?
- What great book have you read lately that you could recommend?
- Have you traveled to anywhere interesting since I’ve seen you?
- How are your kids? What are they up to now?
- What’s your favorite animal and why?
- What work are you in? Oh, you’re retired? How is that treating you?
Aunt Sevvy threw a few gratuitously fun questions in there for you. But I think you get my point: please try to avoid making churchgoing your very first stab at conversation. Aunt Sevvy enjoys a good round of “who do you know?,” but she does try to save churchgoing for later in the conversation in order to minimize awkwardness.
And, it turns out, there are actually important things about people other than whether they’re still going to church or not!
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.