Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hospitality 101

“Welcome each other, in the same way that Christ welcomed you, for God’s glory.” (Romans 15:7)

Each late summer and Fall as children and teachers head back to school, it’s always the time when people start visiting churches again.  Here at East Cobb UMC, on any given Sunday, for the next few months, we’ll have an average of 2-3 first-timers and between 8-10 regular guests worshiping with us each and every Sunday.  

It’s therefore most important that we all be extra conscious not only of the presence of our guests, but also of the needs they might be bringing with them.  We may or may not see the outward, physical needs that bring them here:  a recent change in their life like a move, a divorce or separation, or a death in their family; “no longer getting fed by my current church”; “just looking around”; etc.

What we almost will never see or hear about (at least at first) are the deep inner, spiritual needs that actually motivated them to “try us out” in the first place:   their search to make sense out of a tragedy that happened in their lives;  a search for meaning and purpose and “more” than what their life currently offers;  a desire for more than “pat” answers to complex life issues.  And sometimes these inner needs are not even known to our guests themselves -- they think they’re visiting us for one reason, but God knows that their real need is something different!

This is why it’s essential that we be extra sensitive during this season to not only the presence of our visitors/guests, but of their need for us to offer to be a true community with and for them.  Recently I ran across an article by Jessicah Krey Duckworth that encourages churches to focus on at least three priorities in welcoming newcomers:
            #1 - LISTEN to the newcomer’s questions -- some may be trivial, some very weighty, some may be practical, and some  deeply theological, but by listening, we’ll gain their respect and show that we truly care about them.
            #2 - FACILITATE the newcomer’s participation in church ministries and programs alongside existing members -- when guests are invited and encouraged to participate in this way, they feel a part of our community, and it connects them to us, and us to them, in a truly relational way.
            #3  - Help the newcomer to learn the CULTURE & WAYS of doing things in our church -- every church has some unique things about it: what it does; how it does them; and why.  Helping guests learn these not only includes them as part of our current reality of ministry but helps them feel an integral part of something important.
            [--Taken from Jessicah Krey Duckworth’s article “Welcoming Newcomers to Your Congregation” in the 7-31-13 online issue of Leading Ideas cited from HERE

So, as you see guests and newcomers in worship and around our facilities the next few months, I pray that you’ll take time to LISTEN, to FACILITATE, and to help others learn our CULTURE & WAYS.  How hospitable are you????  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

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