revel in the messiness (FDH #6)

This is the conclusion of my “Front Door Hospitality” series, a start-of-school series focused on being excellent Hosts at our Large Group Meetings, Beginning-of-the-School-Year activities, and other “Front Doors” of your college ministry. I hope you – and your students! – have found it helpful. To see the whole series, click here.

I want to close out this series with one of the most important principles (I think) of good Hospitality. The principle is this: The best college ministry Hospitality is a “messy” one, a Hospitality that responds to real people as individuals and takes each opportunity as a new opportunity to host people well.

Three thoughts on what this means:

beware the machine

It’s easy for Hospitality to get reduced to simple tasks, forming a sort of machine in which guests are “inputted” and “outputted” as efficiently as possible. It’s all the more tempting because many of the actions we do are indeed redundant: handing out programs, greeting at the door, serving snacks, writing nametags. But even these parts of hosting can be done purposefully and hospitably… if we’re willing to treat this ministry as a ministry indeed. “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God…”

When’s the last time you prayed about how you greet at the door? When’s the last time you pondered – even for 15 minutes – about how passing out programs can be done even better? Are we serious about Hospitality, or are we just running plays?

where people are

It seems to me one of the most common mistakes is forgetting to Host people where they are, not where they “should” be, or where they are “in theory.” Some examples along these lines:

  • Why do we stop greeting visitors once our Meeting is underway? Some of the people running late may need the most encouragement or the most information… or may just need a smilin’ face to let them know they’re in the right place – and they’re welcome here. Meet them where they are.
  • How sure are we that things are being explained clearly enough – both inside our meeting and before / after – for first-time visitors? Have we audited every single piece to make sure we’re not assuming they know more than they do? Meet them where they are.
  • We need to be willing to submit our personality and greeting “style” to whatever the person (and situation) demands. It’s not okay if our greeting style would only be attractive to people like us! Meet them where they are.
  • With announcements, teaching points we want to be part of our DNA, next steps, and other things, we have to be willing to be redundant. Yes, they should catch everything the first time. But they won’t. Meet them where they are.
  • What else? What are ways in your college ministry where y’all can better meet people where they are?

a high “failure” rate

Part of the messiness of Hospitality in college ministry is the high “failure” rate – especially if we only count as “wins” things like:

  • non-awkward interactions
  • visitors who come back to our ministry
  • sign-ups and other “next steps”
  • people who remember our names (or vice versa)

But this is college ministry! So we have to enjoy the awkwardness, take advantage of each conversation, keep pushing students and praying for them, and keep introducing ourselves… our ministry… our Lord.

Neither over-optimism or fatalism in this work of Hospitality are wise. We will not see all the fruit we’d like to, but we must take the opportunities as they come! And they’re all opportunities.

a final note on Hospitality

Before closing out, I just wanted to mention one more thing: Hospitality doesn’t stop when the Meeting starts. While much of what I’ve written in this particular series applies to those fun kinds of interactions before Large Group Meeting, at the Organization Fair booth, or at a special event on campus, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Everything about everything needs to be about Hosting well!

Finally, being good Hosts means auditing our ministry for ways we could show better Hospitality. Even if you’re not a person who likes looking at those details. Even if you think things are “probably going really well.” Said plainer: If we aren’t paying attention to the details, then we’re not actually very good Hosts.

Hope this has been helpful for you and your students. And I hope it’s an incredible, hospitable school year!

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One Comment

  1. Hey! I love reading your thoughts. It often confirms what I’ve experienced, gives me new insights or challenges my thinking! You’re so diligent in doing this everyday, very impressive! Keep up the good work!

    Blessings
    Justin (a campus minister with 24-7 Prayer and student at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena California)

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