Grow Your Church: Hospitality

Throughout this month, we are looking together at four elements of church growth. Each of the elements of growth are from a current Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches research project.

The first stop on discovering what are the characteristics of growing churches is hospitality. This is so much more than the welcome on the door, though obviously this is extremely important.

Hospitality in the church is deeper, more encompassing then a warm welcome on the door step. It is an attitude that permeates and ripples across her life, through advertising and signage, the buildings architecture and room design, decisions made at committees, and of course hospitality is shown in that smiling welcome as you enter into the church on a Sunday morning or indeed any other time of the week

Hospitality-wordcloud

The word in english has its origins in the word hospital, this broadens our understanding of what the word means, and perhaps challenges our thinking on what that might look like going forward.

Our experience of good hospitality causes us to physically relax, smile and respond in kind, long term it causes us to make a home in that place, whether that is a coffee shop, restaurant, relationship, or church.

The pastor sat listening to the welcome of the steward, who announced to the congregation gathered, how appreciative that they were to have him and offered a warm welcome to him for however God would use him in their service.

An unnoticed expression appeared fleetingly on the pastors face, as he recalled how he was welcomed on arrival 10 mins earlier. An observation occurred to him, that what he was listening to, though perhaps sincere in the moment, was quite faraway from the experience as he arrived at the church, flustered, later than he wanted to be due to a road closure next to the church. No-one had greated him, or even looked up from their conversations.

We will all have our stories of unwelcoming churches and congregations, there are far too many such encounters. Lets hear instead for a moment where welcome is good. The young missionary arriving at Treforest Methodist Church in south wales, a church which would a few years later, invest itself lock stop and barrel in its church plant on a council estate near Pontypridd. The church had its ‘characters’ but which church doesn’t.

The missionaries who went there were warmly welcomed, upheld in prayer and for two of them their call to ministry was inspired and confirmed. As a church the hospitality included the door welcome, the delightful welsh cakes for refreshments, but structurally at its core, it served its community welcoming all, loving all, and helping all find home there.

A church who is growing is hospitable it enables people to grow, spiritually and more than that, its welcome, its architecture its DNA is predisposed to putting you, me and everyone at ease.

After all what did Jesus say again, ‘what you do to the least of these you do for me…’

Next week we look at inclusivity, see you next Monday.

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