it matters a lot, & we can get better

SMU, the campus I get to minister to the most here at home, starts classes today. I think lots of other campuses around the country will start today, too, and others will start over the next week.

One of the huge skills that comes into play RIGHT NOW is our hospitality toward visitors. And it’s something that I’ve gotten to understand first-hand all over the country …but my learnin’ didn’t come as the “host” (though I’ve played that role in my own college ministries). Most of my learnin’ came as the guest – in hundreds of college ministry large group meetings around the country. I also attended 165 weekend church services during my yearlong trip (and have visited quite a few more since then).

So hospitality toward visitors – especially in a ministry’s “front door” – is something I’ve gotten to think about. A lot.

Since it seems timely for all of us, I wanted to present some thoughts on how our Front Door Hospitality might be done even better. I’m just gnawing on this stuff, just “thinking out loud,” but I invite you to gnaw with me – which could include disagreeing, adding to my thoughts, asking questions, or otherwise collaborating.

This is an area that doesn’t seem widely explored; too often, I suspect, we just hand it off to extroverted and/or popular students and give them little (or no) exhortation and training for doing it well. And once it’s underway, it’s unlikely we audit, tweak, or get feedback to help our greeters do it even better.

Maybe we can explore these things a little bit this week. (And whether this is an area you’re particularly interested in or not, the principles involved will probably fit a lot of places within your campus ministry.)

If you do have students in charge of Hospitality (or “Greeing” or “Connecting” or “Frontlines”), I encourage you to direct them to read this series, too. Hopefully it will encourage them as they participate in one of the most important tasks of your college ministry.

Since this post is already running over 300 words (and your time is probably short this week!), let’s simply start with the statement that is implied by the series itself: The Hospitality your ministry provides at its “front door” is not only extremely important, but its effectiveness can be increased.

Even if you don’t read any of my suggestions this week on increasing that effectiveness, simply believing that statement will help your college ministry. You could probably come up with some great ideas for making Hospitality better, even if you didn’t read anything else from me on the subject. And if you believe that statement, you’ll make it a priority… and you’ll train and test and even strategize on this point.

Like most things in our field, our reaction to Visitors (new and old) isn’t something to just go “do.” Instead, skills come into play, we can (and should) learn to be more effective, and God holds us accountable not simply to doing what we know… but also growing in wisdom about what we don’t.

Click here for Part 2: “Outcome-Based & Hands-on-Deck”

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2 Comments

  1. Hey Alberto – that’s a great question.

    The first thing I’d say is that moments of “awkwardness” are pretty normal for everybody in the whole “greeting thing.” And as I’ll write in the blog sometime this week, it’s far more important that people remember things fondly than that they feel 100% comfortable the whole time. Any new experience will be somewhat uncomfy for most people!

    BUT, it’s still important that we don’t make people feel unnecessarily uncomfortable. I’m not sure if this is what’s behind your question, but in case it is, here are some thoughts on that:

    First, it’s key for ALL of us to remember that not everyone is JUST LIKE US. So if we’re extroverted, for instance, we shouldn’t assume everybody wants to have a big, fun conversation when they first meet us. If we don’t mind talking all about our lives, we need to remember that some people DO mind. And so on.

    Second, it’s good to admit that certain people are better at this “social skills” stuff than others, for sure. And this is a SKILL, just like so many others in college ministry. So just like other skills, we can learn to be better – and, if we care about people, we SHOULD improve if this is an area of weakness. It’s not good (and not godly) simply to say, “I am who I am, and other people can deal with it.”

    For those who might be a little less skilled in the social stuff, one big way to get better is to watch those who have these skills. Get to know those people, watch how they put others at ease. Study their actions like you would study how to perform surgery or how to argue a case before a judge.

    Of course, we can (and should) pray about this area like any other. There was honestly a turning point in my life when God clearly helped me get stronger in my social skills, and He can help any of us.

    Also, we should remember that growth will take time. At first, it will feel uncomfortable for us to act against our own personalities in order to make others feel more comfortable! But we’re not being “fake” or hypocritical – we’re being “all things to all people.” And as we practice, it will become easier and feel more natural.

    Again, great question, Alberto. If you’ve got any follow-up (or if there are things behind this question that I didn’t answer), feel free to comment back – or contact me directly! Thanks, man.

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