May 30, 2014
By Phil Maynard
I recently had a coaching conversation with a church leadership team that has made a serious commitment to extending radical hospitality. Their planning has finally paid off in that just a few weeks ago a hospitality team launched their first ever ‘hospitality center’ where coffee and refreshments were available and conversation was encouraged. The Center was conceived as a way to create some intentional space for meeting new friends and growing relationships.
The only problem was that there were no new friends to meet!
Needless to say, there was a certain level of discouragement within the group.
As we talked about what was going on it became clear that hospitality was something that was offered to those who came rather than to those outside of the congregation.
If no one is inviting anyone to church and the congregation is not providing opportunities outside of the church to build relationships in the community it is not a surprise that there were no new friends to meet.
This congregation is getting a handle on the first two levels of hospitality: Interpersonal and Intentional. This is a great start.
But hospitality is much bigger than this. Hospitality, as Henri Nouwen puts it, is the making of space for others in our lives. This includes what I call Invitational Hospitality where we create opportunities for the congregation to connect with the community and Incarnational Hospitality where we encourage the building of relationships outside the church in order to introduce people to God’s love for them.
Hospitality is more than putting out a nice ‘spread’. It is spreading ourselves out as vessels of God’s love and grace to those around us.