This is the fourth part of the “Front Door Hospitality” series, for college ministers AND their students to ponder together how to best host the people who come to our college ministries this year. To see all the posts in the series, click here.
non-awkwardness as a lower priority
After seeing lots of college ministry Large Groups and hundreds of church services in the last few years – and discussing all sorts of efforts to greet, host, and otherwise show hospitality – one conclusion I’ve come to is that we place too high a priority on avoiding awkwardness.
Yes, I think providing comfort is an important part of our role as Hosts. But too often, we seem to avoid “awkwardness” at all costs – and one cost is often Hospitality itself!
A personal example: As a natural introvert, it is nearly always my natural, internal preference not to be talked to when I visit a ministry. So when people do engage me (which they should), it’s very honestly a little “awkward” for me. It’s a little awkward when they ask good questions, a little awkward when they want to sit with me, a little awkward when they help me find my way or help me get information I need. That’s just because I’m an introvert.
But when I leave those ministries, I don’t remember the slight awkwardness (or don’t care); I remember the friendliness. I remember the hospitality. I’m more likely to return – not less – because they didn’t worry about the “awkwardness hump” and instead showed true Hospitality.
Relationships, shepherding, community-building, spiritual discussions, and other facets of college ministry will always provide some awkwardness. Throw in the fact that many of our Front Door guests are strangers, and we double down on that fact.
But often the fond memories – not the awkwardness – will be what lasts. And that trade-off is certainly worth it!
In other cases, efforts to build community mean getting over the “awkwardness hump” – like nametags, for instance, or breaking into a group to say hello, or asking students to fill out an info card. Sure, that initial interaction may be slightly awkward. But do you think ANY students wouldn’t return to our campus ministries simply because they were encouraged to wear a nametag? (And honestly, I think college ministers find these things far more “awkward” than students do.)
Likewise, how many times do we (college ministers and students) avoid a student we’ve met before because we don’t remember their names? My brothers, this should not be! It’s one of many examples where awkwardness-avoidance actually DESTROYS community! No good!
Yes, being good hosts means comfort for our guests IS a priority to a certain extent. And there are aspects – like a feeling a safety and an avoidance of true “creepiness” – that we absolutely must cultivate. But momentary, insignificant discomfort is simply part of life, part of college, part of being a new visitor anywhere… and it will be part of our college ministries, even at the Front Door.
When we get too focused on our efforts to avoid it, we’re often fighting against the very Hospitality we’re hoping to provide.