The following is an excerpt from our upcoming book, 21st Century Strategies for Church Growth.
The golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” has been the hallmark of the church for nearly two millennia. However, the rule has lately been misapplied to mean, “We’ll do unto others as we would have done unto us… so all those ‘others’ will have to like what we like.” However, that’s a far cry from what Jesus meant and from how Paul interpreted it in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 when he said he was willing to “be all things to all that some might be saved.” In other words, Paul reinterprets the golden rule as what we call the platinum rule: “Do unto others what they would have done unto them.” This is a missionary’s heart – to reach the community in the most effective way, not the most personally palatable way.
When it comes to hospitality, the church must decide whether it’s more important to reach the community or more important to cater to the membership’s whims, preferences, and desires. In most circles, organizations that exist for the members are called clubs. The church is the one organization that exists solely for the sake of those who are not here yet. Yes, that means the church must be relevant to the membership, but it primarily means that they must live, breathe, act, speak, and take the Great Commission and the Great Commandments to the community. But so long as the Sunday worship is considered to be the “front door” of the church for visitors and those beyond the reach of the church (and so long as it is treated as such), maximum membership relevance must be limited to training opportunities. Certainly the worship services should be relevant to the membership, but their personal preferences must take the back seat … unless, of course, their personal preferences are to reach those in the community for the Gospel by embracing Paul’s admonition to do “Whatever it Takes” (1 Cor 9:19–23).
Therefore, the Platinum Rule of Hospitality goes beyond membership privilege to membership responsibilities.
The Platinum Rule of Hospitality:
- Thou shalt not embarrass thy guests.
- Thou shalt not confuse thy guests.
- Thou shalt not ignore thy guests.
- Thou shalt not overwhelm thy guests.
The practice of these “thou shalt nots” is well covered in the Hospitality DVD Training Set available online, but here are the basics. (Note that none of these are all-inclusive, exhaustive lists, but they highlight some of the faux pas we see regularly in churches.)
A guest may become embarrassed if:
- They are identified or singled out during the service. (“Let’s have all our guests stand up so we can greet them.”)
- They need to use the restroom during the service and have no idea which direction to go.
- Everyone around them knows the words to recite, but they don’t know them.
- Everyone else stands (or sits or kneels) and they find themselves sticking out because they don’t know what to do.
- Everyone is engaged in conversation during the meet and greet time except them.
- They get lost in your building or on your grounds.
A guest may become confused if:
- The bulletin or the screen doesn’t reflect what’s actually going on.
- The rest of the congregation seems to know what to do, but they have no idea.
- They don’t know how (or if) to take communion.
- They get lost in your building.
A guest may feel ignored if:
- No one talks to them.
- Only the greeters and/or ushers talk to them.
- People don’t meet their eyes and acknowledge them in a friendly manner.
- Only the pastor speaks to them.
- The pastor doesn’t speak to them.
- Very few or no people greet them during the greeting time or after the service.
A guest may become overwhelmed if:
- They are identified or singled out during the service.
- Too many people make their way over to speak to them – especially during a greeting time or after the service.
- They are expected to hold hands with strangers (or anyone, for that matter).
Question: What can you do to encourage church members to follow these tenets of the “platinum rule of hospitality”? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.