What is church hospitality? Is it unique from other hospitality? What about the rather significant emphasis on hospitality in the Bible? Let’s be honest, most churches are fortunate to have good hospitality, not great. Okay, most congregations have poor hospitality when it comes to loving the stranger, the first time guest.
For me, the pivotal moment when I saw the importance of church hospitality was when I noticed how different it often looks from what I do when guests come to my home. I have the inner door open to create a welcoming statement that I am expecting people. I look for cars to come up to my house so that I might go outside to greet them, helping them to see how glad I am that they are present, and then I open the door for them to usher them inside.
Next I ask them if they would like something to eat or drink. I make sure they find a good place to sit. I offer to hang up any coat they may have. And, the all important, I let them know where the restroom is – which I have made sure has clean towels and fully stocked with the essentials.
At some churches there might be no one to greet you. Materials may not be given to you. You’re not sure which entrance to use. Signage is poor to help you find that infamous restroom. Okay, we know the drill – I hope. But the title of this blog is taking hospitality from good to great. I am counting on that you have good hospitality at your church already. But how to take that to the level of great, to cherish the precious people of God in our midst?
To do that, I take you to my favorite place to meet people. It is another blog to talk about how pastors should not sit in their offices waiting for the unchurched people who will never come. Go somewhere where unchurched people hang out. Unfortunately, with how many such people there are these days, this is most anywhere where people meet in a setting which is not specifically religious based.
Okay, back to my favorite coffee shop where I seek to connect with people. I have loved this place for a couple years. Unlike some other places I tried where people bury their heads in digital devices, this place has a communal feel where people smile at each other and conversations between tables has been known to occur.
That was until there was a change in ownership and employees. No longer did I receive an extra cup of dressing for my salad. No longer did they come to ask me if I wanted a beverage refill. No longer did they call me by name. I still really like this coffee shop (where I am currently writing). But it is now only good, not great. (Okay, I have told the new owner that as well who listened kindly and has taken some action to move back to the potential of great.)
What does it look like in church to go that extra step from what is good to the place where people will notice and be drawn to over the top hospitality? Making sure people can call each other by name. Making sure the restrooms, nursery, and worship center are places of exquisite care. Going to people to figuratively refill their beverage rather than making them come to the hospitality representative.
Good is having friendly greeters inside the doors. Great is having greeters outside who have umbrellas and carry diaper bags for overloaded parents. Good is placing your hand out to greet someone. Great is making a physical movement toward people that says you really want to connect with them. Good is having friendly people in your church. Great is having church people who see the needs of the visitor as being more important their own preferences.
Do you have a favorite restaurant? A Cheers-type place where “everyone knows your name?” Analyze what connects for you there. Then take that learning and apply it to your church’s hospitality. I’d love to hear what that practically looks like in your setting.