Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus 1:7-8.
The Greek word used in the New Testament for hospitality literally means “love of strangers.”
As a pastor you wear a lot of hats. One that may not have been mentioned in seminary is host. As the pastor or church staff you are called to be hospitable. What does this mean in the context of the modern church. Below are 5 ways churches can be hospitable, but first I want to answer the question why. Why is being hospitable so important?
Think about visiting someone’s house for the first time. What makes a good host and why does it matter? Imagine walking into someone else’s house and they assume you know where everything is? Imagine they don’t welcome you at the door? Imagine they are so consumed with what is going on in their life that they don’t acknowledge you? Would you go back? Most likely you wouldn’t. Now imagine you go over to someone’s house for the first time and they meet you at the door. They tell you where the restroom is. They let you know when dinner will be served. They give you a tour of the house. They take initiative to try and meet your needs. They ask if you want a refill on your drink. Imagine how at every turn of the evening they take your needs into concern. Now imagine they invite you back? You would most likely go. Way too often, when it comes to church, we forget to be great hosts.
Every Sunday has the potential to be someone’s first day. Whether or not they want to come back has a lot to do with how they are hosted. If you don’t feel this yet, go visit a church that you are not on staff at. Specifically try to change denominations for one Sunday only. More than likely when you are an outsider coming into a new environment churches forget to be gracious hosts. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a first time guest. It’s crucial to remember to be hospital at every moment in the service.
5 WAYS CHURCHES CAN BE HOSPITABLE
- Meet 1sttime guests. Depending on the size of your church and the amount of first time guests you have you may not be able to meet every first time guest. Some won’t want to be identified, and that’s fine. Just because some don’t want to be identified doesn’t mean we should ignore those who do. Provide a way for first time guests to self identify. Some examples could be parking spaces designated for first time guests. When someone parks there they should be greeted and shown important areas that interest them. Some churches have a sign that asks guests to turn on their flashers on their car as they enter the church parking lot. Some ideas may be better than others, but the point is to allow those guests who want to self identify to do so. Once they do show them around, answer questions they might have, and help them feel welcomed. Simple things like showing them where the refreshments are, restrooms are, where kid’s check in is (if they have kids), and where the sanctuary is are incredibly important for the first time guests.
- Think through transitions from a first time guests point of view. Here are a few things to think through. Introduce anyone who is speaking. Whether it’s a worship leader, staff member giving the welcome, or the pastor don’t assume that people know who each person is. By simply saying, “Hi, my name is _____ and I’m the ____ at ______(Church name)” helps first time guests feel welcomed. When it comes to the welcome let first time guests know it’s a welcome. At the church I lead we say every week, “In just a few moments you’ll meet our pastor as he continues our series, but before he comes I have some special announcements you’ll want to know about.” It’s a small statement that has guests in mind. Way too often churches act as if everyone knows everyone. Helping guests feel welcomed by explaining who everyone is and what is happening is a great way to host.
- In the sermon do not assume everyone agrees or knows Biblical history. As a host I want people to understand what is going on. If someone visits I cannot assume they already accept the authority of Scripture. It takes a little extra time, but every week I explain who the major characters of the text are. For example, who is Paul? Why does he matter? A little context goes a long way. I say something to the degree of, “Paul was a missionary that went from persecuting Christians to meeting Jesus and having his life completely changed. So much so that he wrote over half of the New Testament and ultimately died for his faith.” This is not necessary if you don’t have any guests. The same is true with showing people where the bathroom is when you invite them over to your house. If they have been your house a dozen times you probably do not need to show them where the bathroom is. Just remember that every Sunday is potentially someone’s first time. To assume everyone knows the context is failing to be a good host to first time guests.
- Let guests know what their next step is. A good host walks people through how to be connected. If a visitor comes and loves the Sunday experience don’t assume they know what’s next. What is the process a first time guest should go through? Do you want them volunteering first, joining a group first, going to a membership class, or something else? Defining the next step on a regular basis is a great way to be hospitable to first time guests.
- Invite guests back. As a host it should not be assumed that guests know they can come back. Some people feel they need an invite to come back. Some people feel they can go to church once or twice a year and they are good. At the church I lead we have a Stick For Three Challenge. You can read about that here (Link – https://churchboom.org/the-stick-for-three-challenge/).
A few times a year I try to visit other churches. We need all types of churches to reach all types of people. I believe no matter what denomination, or style of church service one of the biggest things lacking in the churches I visit is hospitality. Thinking through how a first time guest will feel welcomed is crucial for hosting. No matter what size church you lead being a great host is a command from Scripture. For some of us we’ve been a part of church for son long we’ve forgotten what’s it like to walk into a church for the first time. Thinking about church as a host helps make sure first time guests are welcomed.