Hospitality and Church Growth

By : November 10, 2018

This week I had the opportunity to meet with our Greeter Ministry. Below are my remarks:

We serve at a very critical time in the life of the Church. A time in which it’s easy to be disheartened and disillusioned, and, as a consequence, disengaged.

It is rather like a systems wide implosion going on with lawsuits, investigations, indictments, bankruptcies, closures, consolidations, clustering, twining…the whole organization seems to be all about closing in on itself. Even among the most committed there is the instinct to hunker down, parishes can become holy huddles just trying to survive, while thousands close each year.

You know the church doesn’t exist to survive…it exists to grow.

We are growth oriented, growth is one of our core values. And we talk about growth as going deeper and wider.

Everything we do is about making disciples of Jesus Christ, that’s the wider part, and about leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, that’s the deeper part.

When it comes to our member ministers, we want your service to help you to grow closer to Jesus Christ…that’s the deeper part, and lead others to Christ. That’s the wider part.

We hope by serving you are developing the character of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve…that’s the deeper part.

We hope by serving you are revealing Christ to the unchurched and the lost, whom Jesus came to seek and save…that’s the wider part.

Your particular form of service is all about hospitality. Hospitality finds its root in the Latin noun: hospital, the place where the sick go to find healing and wholeness, where they go to get better. In medieval times the people who ran hospitals were called hospitalers, they provided hospitality.

Hospitality is also one of our core values. It is how we propose to grow. Opening a door and greeting someone is a mighty simple things to do. It can also be mighty powerful things to do too.

When the average unchurched Catholic in north Baltimore shows up at church his number one question follows his number one fear:

Am I welcome? Will I be judged?

Your greeting can dispel that fear and answer that question in a moment with welcome and acceptance. And acceptance paves the way to influence. Guests will be far more willing to give my message a hearing if they feel accepted.

This is why our hospitality is not as much about function but feeling. It is feeling over function. When you step into a space, especially for the first time, there is always a feeling, a vibe, a spirit. As a greeter you are helping to form that feeling for our guests, invoking spirit, the Holy Spirit, into our fellowship.

We built the new church to create empty seats at optimal times. Now we have empty seats at optimal times. Not all the time, but certainly we now have room to grow. And one day, we hope to expand into our balcony too.

So this year we are working to fill those empty seats. Our basic strategy is called invest and invite…We challenge parishioners to invest in their unchurched neighbors, friends and family members, and when they have the opportunity invite them to church.

But think about it: the whole invest and invite strategy…comes down to your hospitality. Anyone can get a guest in the front door. Only you can shape how they feel once inside.

To increase the hospitality we have been talking about something called Wow One.

Every weekend when you serve look for the opportunity to wow at least one person with your hospitality. How?

  • Listen to people an give them your full uninterrupted attention.
  • Walk with people. If someone asks you for directions say, “Let me show you.”
  • Its telling people, “We’re glad you’re here.”
  • Get to know and call people by name. The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name.
  • Anticipate service. Be on the look out for people’s needs before they know they have a need.

We want guests to walk away so WOWed by our hospitality they can’t help but tell others about it. Wow hospitality will create conversations at schools, at sporting events, in offices and throughout our community. In other words, our guests become our most effective evangelizers.

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