“Why focus on church hospitality when you need to preach the word and trust in God?”
A well meaning pastor said this to me. Yes. You read that right. I do believe he meant well.
He doesn’t dislike visitors.
He doesn’t dislike servant leadership.
He isn’t a rude or belligerent person.
But he does represent a large amount of Christians who knowingly or unknowingly support this type of logic.
Communicating truth from Scripture doesn’t require that you stop welcoming people. You can create a loving environment and still ensure you are participating in the primary functions of the church.
Here are a few of the benefits of investing in church hospitality on a regular basis (don’t forget church hospitality outside of Sunday morning). As you read them, begin to imagine what a more welcoming environment would look like for when your church meets. Dream about how guests could experience the love of Jesus before they even walked in the door or heard a sermon communicated.
5 Reasons Every Church Should Clarify Their Vision For Church Hospitality
1) Church hospitality shows others you love them.
I did a very unscientific survey once where I polled 20-30 non-Christians about their perceptions of Christians. Many of them questioned if Christians cared much about others except for a desire to convert them and take their money.
The truth is, it wasn’t their fault. It is ours. We have to work to live differently than we have to the point of putting others before ourselves more frequently than many of us do. If my words describe you, take a bold step to make changes (these church hospitality ideas should help). The truth is that my words describe me and I know I have room to grow.
2) Church hospitality tells people you really believe what you say you believe about Jesus.
It is almost a bit of legend nowadays that Christians are hypocrites. I don’t think most Christians are hypocrites. Many have grasped onto a faulty belief that being a Christian means having your act together and living like Jesus or else you aren’t a true Christian.
On the one hand, people should see fruit in our lives from the impact of our relationship with Jesus. But on the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised when we stumble or when others stumble. If people don’t stumble and find themselves in need of growth, they have placed themselves into a theological situation that sounds as if Jesus isn’t all that necessary to their faith.
As we stumble along in need of one another and our Lord, we also have a great privilege of sharing the Gospel message with others when we gather as the church in any context, worship service, small group, or other environment. How well are you managing this privilege of creating a space where someone can experience life change?
3) Church hospitality prepares people’s hearts for worship and the message they will hear.
When we focus on doing hospitality well, we not only prepare the hearts of others for worship but we also eliminate obstacles to faith in the lives of others. It is convicting when I look back over my life and see all the ways I’ve created obstacles to others coming to faith, growing in their faith, or considering the claims of Christianity in general.
4) Church hospitality mobilizes your members or partners into service of others.
If you envision church hospitality done well, you will certainly have to place an emphasis on the recruitment, redeployment, and training of church volunteers for your guest experience teams. These teams will need quite a few people if you are going to do things well.
Some of the churches that do the best job I’ve seen with the Sunday morning guest experience are those who create multiple teams for multiple areas, provide training, emphasize coaching and discipleship on those teams, and regularly evaluate, redeploy, and optimize their Sunday morning parking lot outreach, digital and print communications, greeters, and others. As you optimize, you will need more and more people to serve. Get creative and get people involved that you may not have thought about in the past.
5) Church hospitality provides easy onramps to service for those who may not be members but would like to serve.
About a year ago a large non-denominational church ask me to help them navigate a conflict brewing among the leaders about what their criteria for serving would be. This church, based on the West Coast and growing faster than most churches I’ve ever seen, was at a crossroads and unsure if they needed to plant a church (think “peaceful split”) in order to maintain unity or if there was a different way they should handle things.
Some leaders felt strongly that only committed members should serve in ministry in their church. After all “you wouldn’t want those who don’t have faith in Christ to take on leadership positions in the church.”
Others questioned why a few of the leaders were taking such a hard line. They felt that anyone who wanted to serve should get to serve in the local church. They wanted to open the flood gates and mobilize everyone to serve and make an impact.
I knew there had to be some type of middle or common ground.
After some painful discussions, we realized what we needed was a more robust understanding of what the qualifications for service would be in each area.
- Rather than having non-Christians or very young Christians in teaching positions in small groups, classes, or the worship service, they decided that they needed to have strong qualifications required for any position that involved teaching.
- Rather than setting up a brick wall blocking anything but long-term members from serving, they identified areas that non-Christians could serve. Some of these were in the parking lot with the church hospitality team, during service days led by missional communities and small groups, and a few others.
- Rather than planting another church which normally would’ve been great but in this context would have been a bit of a coverup for what was truly a church split, they remained unified in their desire to mobilize more people to serve and keep proper boundaries around more spiritually influential roles. This has set them up for a multi-site expansion of a healthy culture rather than a multiplication of a conflict ridden environment.
How are you creating onramps (within reason) for those that churches have non traditionally gotten involved very well? When is the last time a non-member served in your church?
Some of you will read that question and think it is a no-brainer because you have 10-20 or even hundreds of non-members or non-partners serving in some way. Others will balk at the idea and question my orthodoxy.
You know what is best for your church. You know what will maintain unity and yet engage a world that longs to belong before it believes. I’m afraid for too long we have managed to overemphasize guarding who can serve where to the point that we have created a log-jam that blocks talented individuals created in God’s image from deploying their gifts in a meaningful way.
Don’t give up on what you belief in or compromise the teaching ministries of your church. But please don’t abdicate your role of equipping leaders, potential leaders, potential members, and even potential Christians as they consider where they can serve.
You never know what conversations your leaders will have with those who serve for the first time. You never know how showing hospitality in how you integrate people into service opportunities will impact not only those serving but the people they serve. Intentional church hospitality takes time and effort but it is worth it.
If you would like additional input on how to do this well, consider bringing in an outside mystery worshipper or Sunday secret shopper.