A few months ago, my husband and I made the difficult decision to switch churches. We’d been at the same church for more than 20 years. We loved (and still love!) many people there and we had been involved in various types of leadership during those years. But we both began to feel that we needed to make a change, and after lots and lots and lots of prayer, we began visiting other churches in our community.
It’s pretty interesting to be the new person. Even though I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years and have, as a pastor’s kid, gone to church every Sunday since the day I was born, I still found myself feeling nervous each time we went to a different church. Would I see someone I knew? Would I know the songs? Was I wearing the right clothes? Would I be called out in some way and feel embarrassed? Would I be able to find the bathroom?
Every church has its own personality and does things in unique ways. These things aren’t right or wrong—just different. For example, one place we visited wanted everyone to wait out in the lobby area until a specific time (I think this was so the worship team could practice) and then go in to find seats. We didn’t know about this expectation, so we went in and sat there alone in the sanctuary for about 10 minutes (listening to the worship band on the stage) wondering if we had gotten the time wrong. We felt awkward and out of place. We didn’t know the way they did things there.
But that same church also had a cool breakfast potluck with lots of yummy homemade foods, and we were invited to join in for breakfast and to meet others. And their information about small groups that met during the week included all the details and info we would need and matched the info on their website, which added pictures of the small group leaders and maps to the locations these groups met. Those things made me feel welcomed.
After years and years of being in the same church, sitting in the same pew (admit it—you sit in the same place every week too!), greeting the same faces, and knowing the culture and personality of my church inside out, it was a real eye-opener to be the new person. It drove home to me how incredibly important hospitality is in the church.
In their book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How 4 Acts Will Make Your Church Irresistible, authors Thom and Joani Schultz say the first act of love that makes a church irresistible is radical hospitality. The book goes into great detail sharing what radical hospitality is and is not (I highly recommend you get a copy!), and one part that really stuck out to me is that radical hospitality is never judgmental. The Schultz’s say, “Churches are notorious for their lists of do’s and don’ts concerning food, music, dress, looks, jewelry—whatever. All of these rules exclude others and are just one more sign that we’re judgmental and have our priorities wrong. We have a friend whose daughter was reprimanded for showing up at her on-campus Bible study wearing running pants. Really?”
It’s a sad fact that many women inside and outside of the church avoid coming to women’s ministry events because of the judgmental atmosphere. My husband and I have found a new church, but I haven’t gone to any women’s gatherings yet. Will I be welcomed? Is it okay that I wear jeans? Will I be bored listening to a speaker? Will I be able to find the bathroom? This is a new issue of a new mini-magazine for women’s ministry leaders. I’m new here. You’re new here. We’re all new! How can we be radical in our hospitality to each other? To the women in our churches? To the women in our communities? Let’s band together and challenge ourselves to be more and more like the most radical guy of all time—Jesus! It’s an adventure to be new—let’s keep that in mind as we journey ahead as women’s ministry leaders!
How can we be radical in our hospitality to each other? To the women in our churches? To the women in our communities? Let’s band together and challenge ourselves to be more and more like the most radical guy of all time—Jesus! It’s an adventure to be new—let’s keep that in mind as we journey ahead as women’s ministry leaders!
Discuss this with your team, or reflect on it yourself:
- What is the actual experience of a new person in our church or our women’s ministry? (Be honest as you think about this. What is it really like to be in that person’s shoes?)
- What might we be doing that communicates we are judgmental instead of loving?
- What’s one thing we can try at our next Bible study or other gatherings that would demonstrate radical hospitality?