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The Definition of Church Hospitality

Hospitality is not EvangelismChurch Hospitality is not evangelism.

I’ve written in the past about the connection between Christian Hospitality and Evangelism, particularly as to the connection to welcoming first time visitors.

I’ve published stories of being a first time church visitor and experiences of welcoming church visitors:

But I want to develop a little more depth on church hospitality with regards to helping welcome church visitors who may be coming for the first time.

The Definition of Church Hospitality

In this context then let me define church hospitality as

Taking the initiative to welcome others and

inviting others to share in our community life.

This can extend beyond our group gatherings for worship and easily move into other areas of Christian Hospitality:

  • our small groups
  • our families
  • our home
  • our lives

However, for our purposes here at EvangelismCoach.org, we’ll focus specifically on the connection between church hospitality and Evangelism.

What I learn from the Hospitality Industry

All sorts of corporations that interact with the public have studied hospitality, implement training programs to improve their public interaction, and spend millions on hospitality consultants.

We see its effects in store personnel trying to greet us as we walk in the door, training customer service reps to speak gently on the phone and check out clerks that smile (in many stores anyway).

These corporations want you to remember the good experience that you’ve had in their presence and will likewise want to return.  They want to remove potential bad experiences so that you willingly spend money on their product, experience, or merchandise.  By creating a “good experience,”  you’ll want to return and spend more.

While the church is not to imitate a corporation, nor even mimic one, nor our our worship services a product to be sold or even consumed, a good question for the church is:

How can the local church lower the barriers to hearing the message that will be proclaimed?

Church Hospitality is only one tool in the church’s ability to be evangelistic.

Hospitality is not the only tool and should not be confused with evangelism itself.

Rather hospitality can lower and remove the potential barriers that can harm the gospel message during the worship service.

Church Hospitality is part of Pre-Evangelism

As I think of my experience visiting churches for the first time, and as I’ve listened to others who have made first time stranger visits, one thing has consistently risen to the surface.

Lots of anecdotal evidence suggests that the ability of a first time visitor to connect to the worship service was directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome experienced.

  • When no one says hello, the perceived coldness hinders your ability to remember what the sermon was about.
  • When people are staring at you for not dressing right, you want to hide, but feel trapped.  Can’t pay attention.

In both examples, the ability of the first time hearer to interact with the sermon (the central part of most worship experiences) is hindered.

However, when a guest is given a warm welcome, a greater openness and ability to engage and comprehend the sermon remains in place and a greater likelihood (from a human point of view) of greater connection to the local church during that stage of their spiritual journey.

A warm welcome is thus part of the pre-evangelism work necessary in a church’s mission to help people find faith in Christ.

Do You Welcome Church Visitors?

Take a personal moment and examine your heart on this matter.

  • How do you come across to others?
  • When people meet you for the first time, how do you think they perceive your personality, disposition or attitude?
  • When you extend a hand to shake when a guest walks through the church’s front door, are they interrupting your conversation with someone else, or do you offer them genuine interest along with a hand shake (a typical greeting in the US)?
  • How do you treat the unknown person who sits next to you during the worship service?
  • How do you welcome the visitor who sits behind you, or in front of you?

Do you

  • Ignore them?
  • Talk around them?
  • Look at them and say nothing?
  • Take the initiative to greet them?

Remember, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5.20). Our actions and reactions communicate who we are and who we represent.

Next steps I can help with

Do you want help developing your church hospitality?

In the EvangelismCoach.org store, I have several products for immediate download or on DVD that you might find helpful:

How To Welcome Church Visitors

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About EvangelismCoach

Chris wants to help you increase the number of conversations that lead people towards Christ. He has studied evangelism and church growth ever since working for a Billy Graham crusade over 20 years ago, and has led countless training seminars throughout North and South America in many different denominations.

Comments

  1. In the Arab World is always practical to offer snacks and tea and have some time of fellowship following the gathering. This lets everyone get to know each other a bit better as opposed to everyone rushing out.

  2. @Johnny:

    Thanks for dropping by and adding your comment.

    In many Hispanic contexts that I work in, that time of fellowship after the gathering doesn’t exist.

    People simply leave. Last week, however, I was in a church as a guest preacher and they had a time of fellowship after the gathering. In 10 years of ministry over 5 countries in the Latin/South America, this was the first church I had been to that had that fellowship time.

    Perhaps it’s an idea that needs to be exported to other parts of the world?

    Chris
    http://www.evangelismcoach.org

  3. Very well said. I have been to churches where no one said hello. It was difficult to tune in to the sermon.

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  1. [...] Church Visitors And Christian Hospitality [...]

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  3. [...] Church Visitors And Christian Hospitality [...]

  4. [...] Hospitality itself is not evangelism — rather it’s an environmental factor that allows the gospel to be heard without distraction. [...]

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