Church 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:
- No One Said Hello
- I can’t silence the pain.
- I want to feel Jesus
- First Time Church Visitor Experience
- 1st Time Church Visitor Story
- The Secret Dress Code (two more first time church visitor stories)
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?
- 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 (ebook)
- Church Greeters 101 (ebook)
- Cast the Vision for Hospitality (Download MP3)
- Church Hospitality Review (Download MP3)
- Break the Barriers DVD set (4 DVD set aimed at helping you identify and remove barriers).