Mary and I have found a wonderful retreat center at the Cove. That’s shorthand for the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, Asheville, NC. We have had the opportunity to attend Bible conferences there a couple of times. The conferences have been very good. Great speakers on timely topics. You sure can’t beat the scenery, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. But, what sets the Cove apart is their hospitality. Everything there is designed to make guests welcome and comfortable. The fellowship in the dining room is wonderful, centered around huge round tables with food fit for kings. It isn’t “camp” food; it is pretty close to five-star dining. At every building there is a host or hostess who checks on you, offers to help you and encourages your spiritual growth while you are on the grounds. The Cove feels like home to us. Interested? Check out their website here.
My point here is not to promote the Cove (although you ought to go sometime). My point is hospitality. Small group leaders should develop skills in hospitality and help group members to do the same.Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 ESV Click To Tweet
My ESV Bible has seven uses of our word “hospitality.” One use is to describe someone who displayed hospitality (Acts 28:7). Three of the uses were written to young pastors, urging them to practice hospitality and look for potential leaders who practice hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8). There are obvious connections to small group leaders who often function as pastors to their groups. Three other verses are commands to practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Again, these commands are to disciples, so they apply to us as well. I think while all of us are commanded to show hospitality, some are particularly gifted at it. Many Christian writers today also recognize hospitality as a spiritual discipline. I have read that our word hospitality comes from two concepts in the NT; “love” and “strangers.” In the strictest sense of the word, hospitality is showing love to strangers. But, hospitality should also be practiced among the family of God.
For small groups that meet in homes, hospitality is a given. Homes are opened up to guests and food is shared. Sounds like hospitality to me. If your group is a more traditional Sunday School group, you might wonder where hospitality fits in. Hospitality is about opening homes and sharing food but providing a warm and sincere welcome is also a part of hospitality. Helping a guest feel valuable, comfort, and welcomed is a bedrock idea for building community in groups. Every group, on the church campus or off the church campus, will benefit and grow in fellowship as hospitality is practiced.
- Find times to share food with your group. You might get to set the example at first, but everyone in the group can help with food.
- Plan fellowship times. Kick back and party together in Christian fellowship.
- Extend warm welcomes to everyone. Using nametags often helps newcomers feel welcome.
- Invite group members to take turns playing host and hostess. They can be the ones who introduce the guests to everyone in the group, help newcomers find their way around the building, and initiate relationship building.
- If you have a traditional Sunday morning group, develop a plan that lets you or someone in your group invite guests out to Sunday lunch after church. Some will not accept the invitation, but I think making that invitation and following through speaks volumes to our Sunday morning Bible study guests.
- Follow up with contacts to guests. Guests will gauge that a group is open to them and thinks them valuable if a group member makes a contact with them in at least 24 hours.
- Look for other opportunities to be hospitable: after funerals, during crises, during times of sickness or other reversals, and during times of celebration like birthdays, anniversaries, and births of children.
When we practice hospitality, we welcome people into our groups, our homes, and our hearts. We act out the ways we have available to us that mimic the welcome Jesus provides us when we come into His family. Treat every opportunity for hospitality as an opportunity for kingdom building and as a time to be blessed in sharing God’s blessings in our lives.
Scripture: Read Titus 1:8 to see what Paul taught Titus about hospitality. How are you growing in hospitality and the other traits listed there?
Dig Deeper: Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adela Ahlberg Calhoun to learn more about practicing hospitality as a discipline.
Now It’s Your Turn: How does your group practice hospitality? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.