By Brandon Lemons
During the past year, there have been many new people coming to Friedens. If attempting to quantify the number of newcomers, I might point to the fact that 23 people attended a newcomer lunch in October, and 16 attended a similar event last month. There are another 20 people who weren’t at one of these events but made Friedens their church home during the past year. That is a lot of newer people in the church family, which is terrific!
The Bible places a high priority on hospitality. For instance, 1 Peter 4:9 tells us to “Show hospitality to one another,” and Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” Hospitality can be defined as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
Providing a “friendly and generous reception” to everyone who comes through Friedens’ doors requires the intentional efforts of the entire church family. It’s not a responsibility that is reserved for staff or ushers; the entire church family has an important role in ensuring Friedens is truly hospitable and friendly!
From a guest’s perspective, it can be intimidating to venture into a place where you don’t know anyone – especially if you believe everyone else already knows each other. We can help replace these anxieties with a sense of warmth and belonging by taking the initiative to engage in conversations with newcomers. This is especially important in the minutes just before worship services and in the first few minutes after worship services. It is natural to gravitate to the people we already know, but with so many newer people at Friedens, it is vital that as many “regulars” as possible are making intentional efforts to connect with newcomers.
The food in Fellowship Hall after services provides a natural way to connect. However, most guests don’t step into Fellowship Hall during their first couple visits to Friedens; they frequently must be invited. For instance, this past Sunday, I was talking with a couple who was visiting for the first time; near the end of our conversation in the lobby, as they were about to leave, I mentioned that we have food in Fellowship Hall every Sunday; they looked at each other and decided to stay, which led to conversations with several people they hadn’t met before. Food provides a great way to connect, but sometimes people must be invited!
You may be thinking, “I hear that it’s intimidating for newcomers to come to a new place, but it’s also intimidating for me to talk with someone I don’t know!” Maybe you’re wondering whether the other person is truly new to the church. Perhaps they have been attending the other service, or maybe they just resumed in-person attendance due to COVID, or maybe they have been here for a decade and you just don’t recognize them. Maybe you recognize them but forgot their name (BTW, the next Nametag Sunday is on April 10). But still, if you see someone you don’t recognize, or even if you see someone you recognize but who isn’t connecting with others (e.g., they are sitting alone in Fellowship Hall), please make the intentional effort to reach out to them! I practically guarantee they will appreciate your effort and your care for them!
Showing hospitality is more than a step of obedience to God’s commands. It is also vital for helping the Friedens Family really feel like a family, rather than just a handful of cliques and a collection of individuals doing their own thing.
Showing hospitality truly makes a difference in the lives of others and in our own lives as well. Among other benefits, it gives us an active purpose beyond ourselves every time we go to a church activity!