Have you ever visited a small town diner where a few guys sat at the bar? The door opens, you step inside, and every head turns your direction. No one smiles.
Cue up banjo music from Deliverance.
How do you prevent the church from becoming like a small town diner? How do you make the stranger among us feel welcomed with open arms?
I spent most of the weekend learning some difficult hospitality lessons from a cooking class with Suvir Saran, a special friend I met through my wife Ellen.
Here are a few practical thoughts on what you can do to move someone from weird new guy to welcome friend (and, for the record, I prefer the latter status).
1) Expect her. When we set up the cooking class, we expected twenty-four students on each of two days. We prepared for their coming by rearranging a cluttered room.
We also prepared by setting up stations and the supplies necessary for a cooking lesson.
We thought about our guests and had a few special things available upon their arrival.
If you want her to be a part of community, expect her and prepare.
2) Let him in. On Saturday, the first day of the class, we had some bugs to work out. One of those was simply entering the building.
I walked out to the main entrance and discovered about two-thirds of the class waiting outside. The door was locked.
I posted an article about some of the ways we lock people out by our words and our actions. If you want him to enter into community, you have to provide an open door.
3) Orient him. We held the cooking class in the Home Ec room at the local high school. People wandered into this daunting building and looked around in confusion.
I smiled and said, “You go through the open doors over there then take the first right. You’ll see a table in the hallway. Go in that direction. Follow the noise and your nose and you’ll find the right room.”
If you want him to be a part of community, orient him to where he is and what’s happening there.
4) Offer her something. When people entered the room, we had water with lemon slices at the ready.
Hospitality offers the guest something to eat or drink or both. When I’m on my game at home, I ask, “Would you like something to drink?”
When I’m really on my game, I say, “I’m going to have a cup of coffee, may I get you something?”
Why do I tell someone what I’m going to drink? Because I know how I am if asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
I feel I’m putting the person out and don’t want her to go to any trouble. If she says, “I’m having coffee,” I jump at the offer. I love coffee.
If you want her to be a part of community, offer her something.
Twenty-four people arrived for the class, most of whom were strangers to Chef Suvir and to those of us who organized the event.
From the welcome to the farewell, the event was designed to introduce people to Indian home cooking and to one another. We may have started as strangers but we ended as friends.
If I happen to travel out your way, I’d appreciate it if you’d expect me, let me in, orient me, and offer me a little something.
If you’re out my way, I’ll do the same.
As Tom Bodett would say, “… we’ll leave the light on for ya.”
I’m curious. What would you add to my hospitality list? Whether positive or negative, what experiences have you had of being the visiting stranger?
“That Upon Which Morality Depends” by Margaret Manning at Slice of Infinity
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
What people are saying:
”Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination.–Ron Fruit, GM, WRCO Radio
Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius.–Linda Rondeau, Author of The Other Side of Darkness
… like watching two trains heading towards each other on the same track. You know they are going to collide, you just don’t know when or how it happens. Heaven and hell are going to collide and you won’t want to set the book down until you find out when and how. Masterfully written!–B. C. Jones
My novel can be found at:
If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox.
I love the post! I think you have covered a lot. I would only add one thing – which can almost be assumed from your other points, but is often forgotten – Remind yourself of the whole purpose of the meeting!
In the case of your cooking class, the purpose was to invite students and teach them how to prepare Indian food. That requires the hospitality you described. If you forget the purpose and just view it as an event on your already cluttered calendar, then your attitude toward the visiting students changes. You are no longer concerned about hospitality.
In church, the purpose is community, worship, and teaching people about the love of God. This also requires hospitality and awareness of people looking to join the community. If we remind ourselves of this purpose, we will be more intentional about our hospitality toward those visiting.
If we forget the purpose, we tend to view church as the once-a-week chance to catch up with our friends. We then ignore those visitors – not out of malice, but more out of misdirected focus. Reminding ourselves of the purpose of the meeting should help us avoid that trap.
Excellent thoughts, Chris. I’ve visited churches where hospitality really shines through. I’ve got 2 coffee cups in my cupboard that remind me I was welcomed as a guest in someone else’s church home (2 different times, two different churches). Hospitality at the door leads to a sense of excitement inside the door.
I like that you are taking a different look at Christian community than what I am doing with the adult class at my church. We are looking at our parts as “seasoned Christians” in the sense that we need to be a part of the body. It seems like we feel like we can act independently as we become more seasoned, which just isn’t true. We tend to think we don’t need the other parts as much. I’m just seeing too much falling away from those who are supposed to know better. My church is great at hospitality, but we struggle and fail all to often at continuing to grow once we reach a comfortable point. Hope that makes sense.
On another note, I JUST finished your book and LOVED IT! Couldn’t put it down. Just had a hard time making the time to read it, but I am so glad I did. See what a deadline does for me? Anyway, I left a review at Barnes & Noble, and I recommended it to my mom and a reading friend of mine. I’m going to suggest that my 13-year-old read it too. Great job!
Two things to cover here. First, I’ll cover your comments related to the post. Hospitality is an essential part of being a community in Christ. It’s not a “we do this hospitality thing first and get folks in, then move on to the deep stuff.” You’ve got that nailed in your comments. You’re prompting me to go even deeper on this in an additional post (ah, so that’s what I need to write about …). Your words really act as a catalyst for a lot of ingredients coming together. Thanks.
Second, I appreciate the enthusiasm about the book. I’d love to have a sentence or two from you as an endorsement for my other website that I’m dedicating to Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes. Your comments above do a great job of getting me excited as a reader (I’m convinced I should do more than write the story; I should read it!). In all honesty, your words lift me like water floats a boat. My brother in a phone conversation today said teenagers should read the book. You confirm his advice. Thanks.
My church is great at the hospitality and getting folks in, but it’s the getting on to the deep stuff that we seem to be lacking somehow. And it’s not even so much that the opportunity isn’t there; it’s that people don’t choose to go deeper. They seem to want to be continually fed with milk instead of moving on to solid food. I look forward to reading your future posts. I may be doing some at some point on this topic too as the class I am teaching progresses.
About the book… check out my review on Barnes & Noble. Will that work for an endorsement? If you want me to write a unique one just for the web site, I am happy to do that too. Just let me know. If my son reads the book anytime soon, maybe he can write an endorsement too.
Would love to have you write on the topic of community here. This is an open invitation–need a deadline? 🙂
It’d be great to have a teenager comment on the book.
Thanks for the invitation. I will work on putting something together as I prepare for teaching on the topic, which I will be doing through the end of October. Not sure I actually need a deadline for this one, believe it or not. The topic is going to be a major focus for me, and I have a feeling that some posts will naturally come out of that focus. On the book, I will have him write a review when he reads it. With achool starting, I am not sure he’ll do it right away.
I’ll keep the door open and the light on for both ya’ll. 🙂
I’m thinking of writing on the essential elements of Christian Community. I would include a strong root system, a symbiotic state and continual growth. It’s what we studies in our adult class this morning. What do you think? There are other options…
Sounds like you’re moving in the right direction. I look forward to seeing the piece when it comes together.
Pingback: Are You Playing in the Spiritual Kiddie Pool? | A Curious Band of Others