Since Howdy Doody time is often placed in the middle of the worship service, in my experience it takes the focus off of the worship of God and places it on the fellowship of people. While fellowship between believers is important, it should never take the place of the worship of God. If a church really wants to have a fellowship time as part of their order of service, it should be done in such a way that it does not interrupt the flow of worship. For example, I was once in a large church in New Mexico that had a fellowship time right at the end of the service. After the closing prayer the worship leader asked everyone to shake hands with five other people before they left and said that two of them had to be people you did not know. The congregation, which was obviously used to that, did that very thing and I recall it feeling very authentic and appropriate, much better than doing it during the chorus of one of the songs sung during the middle of the worship service. It is important that nothing break the flow of worship once it starts. In the words of one worship leader I know, “Once you go vertical; do not go horizontal again until the service is over.”Another challenge with Howdy Doody time is that it takes up valuable time, which in some time conscious churches is more of an issue than others. For example, not long ago I was the guest pastor at a rural church and they had a fellowship time right before the sermon. I spoke there several times and it was always awkward as I stood in the pulpit and waited for people to finish. On one particular Sunday one fellow just kept talking and talking and talking. Everyone else was in their seat and I was standing in the pulpit waiting, and he just kept on chatting with his friend in the aisle. Since I was only a guest speaker, I was not quite sure what to do. Finally one of the deacons said something and the fellow realized he was holding up the service. When I asked about it afterwards, I was told it that was a frequent occurrence from that particular person. It seems unfair for the pastor to have to cut his sermon short, or to have to listen to complaints about the service running long, because a handful of people lack the ability to keep appropriate boundaries during Howdy Doody time. It is better to move the fellowship to some other place in the order of service, such as the end, so that it does not take time away from the worship of God or the preaching of His Word.
Finally, it concerns me that sometimes Howdy Doody time simply becomes a time for gossip about who is wearing what and who did what last week. Since gossip is rarely positive, and often sinful, having a Howdy Doody time during the worship service may actually be encouraging sin and perhaps stirring up anger right in the middle of what is supposed to be a sacred time of worship before God. Why in the world would we want to encourage that?After writing my last post, I heard from a few people who said that their church had a Howdy Doody time that was done right. While I applaud that handful that may be doing it right, I have yet to be in a church that was doing it right. I fear that we often only think we are doing it right because it feels good to us. Do our visitors think we are doing it right? Does God think we are doing it right? Perhaps we should consider those questions in our determination of whether Howdy Doody time fits into a God-honoring worship service or not.