3 Keys for Cultivating Hospitality at Your Church

Hospitality isn’t a strategy. It’s a lifestyle.

Great hospitality isn’t a strategy; it’s part of a lifestyle.

It begins within the hearts of a few who have a gift of hospitality and catches like wildfire in everyone it touches.

Any kind of hospitality is great.

If it’s a job description fulfilled by cheerful people, that is absolutely wonderful.

But I’ve traveled to enough churches around the country that it’s now easy to notice the difference between hospitality that is a program and hospitality that is more of a spirit within the people.

The churches with a true spirit of hospitality still catch me by surprise. The moment I drive onto the parking lot, I not only see it, I feel it.

It might be a cheerful parking lot attendant who literally makes eye contact with me as he waves to greet me and welcomes me in. Or a greeter who walks with me, learns my name and genuinely tries to assist me with anything I might need.

It’s authentically a joy for them, which makes it a joy for me, and I haven’t even been to the worship service yet.

That spirit of hospitality is contagious. It makes me want to jump in and help.

That kind of hospitality is like a spirit in the air rather than training from a handbook.

From the moment you pull into the parking lot and throughout your experience, you feel noticed, cared for and like you matter.

How can you tell if your church has that?

Here’s three quick questions to help you assess:

• How much initiative do the hospitality ministry leaders take?
• What is the morale like on your hospitality teams (ushers, greeters, parking, coffee, etc.)?
• What percentage of your guests return?

Of course there is more to it. Your actual worship service really matters, and your children’s ministry is vital. But you just can’t overemphasize the significance of genuine hospitality.

This really makes Romans 12:9–13 come alive in a practical way.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:9–13

The biblical underpinnings of hospitality are love, generosity and a genuine heart to serve.

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Your guests often make their decision to return or not based simply on how they are treated.

How are your teams doing from the parking lot to the nursery, ushers, greeters, coffee teams, etc.?

THREE HELPFUL INSIGHTS FOR YOUR CHURCH TEAMS:

1. Hospitality Is Not Duty. It’s a Passion.

Hospitality is less about doing the right thing and more about being the right person.

There are many ways to be gracious and welcoming, but having the right heart and authenticity that loves to serve makes all the difference.

You can know that the “right thing to do” (job duty) is to take good care of your guests, but if you don’t genuinely care, people know it.

You can literally see a spirit of hospitality in the way someone opens a door for you. One is doing the right thing; the other does it in the right way.

One is a learned task, (open the door for new people), the other is pure joy and delight to serve.

You’ve experienced this in many restaurants.

When you walk in you are made to feel special. You’re not just a customer who will spend a few bucks for a meal. You are someone who matters to them and they would like a relationship with you. They want you to connect, enjoy, feel cared about and yes, come back.

2. Hospitality Is Not a Strategy. It’s a Way of Living.

It’s true that hospitality as a strategy is helpful. If you treat your guests better, they are more likely to return.

But more than a strategy, if you treat your guests well just because that’s who you who are—in fact, you can’t imagine not treating them well—the difference is staggering.

If you treat guests like kings and queens because you are honored they would come to your church, and you care about them, and your goal is to serve them—not merely to get them to come back—the difference is palpable.

You might be thinking that’s a fine line. Hospitality so someone returns, and hospitality because you care. Perhaps. And yes, we all want our guests to return, but you can feel the difference. There is something special when it’s just who you are.

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Let’s go back to the restaurant illustration.

I’ve also been to places where within 10 seconds at the hostess check-in station the experience was already unpleasant and a few where I wanted to just leave.

The same thing can happen at our churches.

3. Hospitality Is Not Corporate. It’s Personal.

We all need to plan for guests, organize our teams, and train the volunteers. That’s important. For them, it’s not just sent down from corporate. It’s personal.

Culture and method matters in every church. And if you follow a multi-campus model, alignment to scale becomes very important. But ultimately hospitality is personal because it’s about people.

The best hospitality is experienced when one human being engages another and the experience is lifted to a higher level because of the love and care given.

It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Chick-fil-A is a fast food chain, and their practice of saying “It’s my pleasure,” sets them apart.

Recently at a Chick-fil-A, an associate walked up to me and asked how I was and if I would like anything. I told her I was fine, but had forgotten to get one of their killer chocolate chip cookies. But also confessed I didn’t need one, so I was all set. This person saw through me and brought back a fresh hot cookie, and simply said with a smile, “It’s my pleasure.” Now let me ask you, do you think I’ll be going back?

Ummm, that would be a yes.

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:1–2

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:8–10

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This article originally appeared at DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.