You are walking down the corridor of a church on Sunday morning. A member of the congregation is coming toward you and you see him bend down and pick up a discarded candy wrapper off the floor. He puts it in his pocket, continues walking toward you and says, “Good morning.”
What’s with this guy? Is he obsessive-compulsive, a former custodian, or just a neat freak? In reality, this may be his way of exercising the gift of hospitality.
When it comes to welcoming guests to the congregation, we usually think about providing a warm greeting, clear directional signs, good childcare, clean restrooms, and convenient parking. These are all important but the person in our story is sensitive to the little things like a neat building that make people feel comfortable.
This is the same person who will go out of his way to help a newcomer find a seat at worship or give away his worship bulletin to someone who failed to pick one up at the door. This may not be radical hospitality but it is a good beginning point.
Why does someone do these things? I think it is because they care about being welcoming. We can talk about hospitality, train greeters, and make it a staff priority, but hospitality becomes real when each congregant sees it as their responsibility and privilege.