In my blog from last week, we talked about how the best organizations aren’t just valued for their products, but for their service. People will always flock to the organizations that emphasize making a difference over making a profit. These organizations value transformation over transaction.
The same applies to churches. We identified that one of the core ministries of a local church is its hospitality ministry: the teams of people devoted to creating a welcoming church culture for whomever steps through their doors. But if a church’s hospitality ministry exists solely for getting people to come back next week, then that service is transactional. It’s more about what the church gets than what it gives. On the flip side, as I alluded last week, the best hospitality ministries focus on meeting humanitarian needs.
So that’s what we’re tackling this week: What makes up a hospitality ministry that’s transformational? That focuses on giving over getting?
The starting point for having a transformational hospitality ministry is to know your why. Author and entrepreneur, Simon Sinek, writes that the key to successful organizations—but in our case, ministries—is they can identify a clear why behind what they do. Every organization knows what they do. But not everyone knows why they do it. Because, as it turns out, people are much more drawn to a clear cause you’re fighting for, not just the product you’re trying to sell.
When we translate this concept towards hospitality ministries, we have to go beyond providing churchy customer service so they can keep coming back. That’s what hospitality ministries do. The key in a transformational hospitality ministry, then, is why you do it. And if why you do it is just to get people to return, then that’s a pretty shallow why. Volunteers won’t give their lives and offer their time on a weekend to be a part of that, and attenders will smell that from a mile away.
This is where identifying the humanitarian need of a church’s attenders and new guests is the most crucial part. Once you identify the humanitarian need your hospitality ministry is meeting, then you can form your why. Once you have your why, then that will determine exactly what you do as a hospitality ministry.
So what’s the need? There are a myriad of needs for every person walking through a church’s doors, as sin abounds in a myriad of ways. But for the sake of time and the purposes of this blog, let’s hone in on one in particular.
Americans are ranked amongst the loneliest people in the world. Nearly 40% of Americans identify as lonely at any given time. Only 50% feel like they have a single friend they could trust and confide in. People in our country are lonelier than ever before, and therefore, are hungrier for community than ever before, whether they consciously recognize that or not.
That means nearly 1 in every 2 people entering our church doors is susceptible to the nation’s loneliness epidemic.
What new guests at a local church are looking for has completely changed from 10 years ago. Unless they’ve been a longtime Christian or has worked in the church world (like myself), only then would a new guest be hypersensitive to how a church does its parking lot ministry, how the bulletins are designed, how good the coffee was, and how much the ushers smiled when they entered the worship center. But new guests who are either new Christians or seeking answers have absolutely zero precedent of what to expect when they enter a new church. They have zero expectations but a thousand questions.
All new guests who step foot into a church for the first time in this new decade are hoping this place may have something that can help them with their questions, doubts, pain, suffering, sins, and/or curiosities—i.e., humanitarian needs.
All this said, new guests aren’t looking for a great church experience. They’re looking for belonging.
People are lonelier than ever before and are in desperate need of the saving friendship of Jesus Christ and the community of spiritual friends the church alone can provide. Therefore, all hospitality ministries must answer the question, “How can we make sure people feel they can belong here?”
Hospitality ministries exist not just to create a welcoming church culture. Hospitality ministries exist to create belonging.
Belonging is a crucial element for every human being to survive and thrive. Belonging is why we have friend groups. Belonging is why we have job satisfaction. Belonging is why we enjoy being with family. And, belonging is why people keep coming back to a church. Not because of any external service or coffee mug it gives, but because of an invitation for the individual to be a part of something so much greater than they could’ve ever imagined. The Kingdom of God. A saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The community of the church.
All of a sudden, a hospitality ministry that was always something tacked on to what a church does on a Sunday because it’s what Christian culture expects now has a very key missional role to play. I’d even argue that hospitality ministries’ mission to create belonging is more crucial than ever before given the social deconstruction of our greater society.
Creating belonging. That’s the why for a hospitality ministry. The church isn’t a product. The church isn’t a service. The church isn’t a hobby. The church is a community. And the hospitality ministry are those who create the culture that invites everyone to belong to this community so they can meet Jesus in a tangible way.
But what does a belonging-culture look like? What needs to happen to fulfill this why?
And that is what we’ll talk about next week