Hospitality as a Thank You
Hospitality means, "You're welcome."
Really? Thanksgiving is in a week? For a minute, I thought we had skipped right over this non-commercial holiday and headed straight for Christmas. We didn’t even get to celebrate Halloween without being barraged at Costco by inflated Santas towering over the aisle begging to be bought (I refrained), teddy bears the size of my bathroom, or glittery lights that could illuminate Las Vegas.
But, I digress. It’s Thanksgiving! And, if you are lucky (and a flaming extrovert), you will be blessed as you experience people and food overload by going to someone’s house or having a big meal at your own abode. What makes the experience of any holiday or event – or even a worship service – one to remember is the care that goes into making people feel welcome. Why let’s call it what it is: practicing good old-fashioned hospitality.
Last week, I attended the Non-Profit Storytelling Conference in Seattle. I learned a bunch (a sophisticated new technical term) and I have a lot of takeaways that I’ll be sharing in the future. But, right from the get-go, I felt welcomed and wanted at the conference. Check-in was super-smooth and easy. When I arrived at my seat, I found a “care package” loaded with fun (and inexpensive) goodies – Kleenex, a mint, a piece of chocolate, a Band-Aid, hand-sanitizer, a finger puppet. I was set! Lunch was top notch. Everyone – from the conference organizers to the hotel staff – was friendly and helpful. I knew that they appreciated my attendance. Everyone exuded a “thank you for being here” attitude.
My friend, Linda, recently had a similar experience. She just returned from the one-day “We Have a Story to Tell” workshop. She raved about the quality of all the sessions and the excellent speakers. But special mention went to the United Methodist Women who planned and executed a beautiful luncheon. Tablecloths made out of real cloth, lovely fresh flowers at each table, wonderful food – no detail was missed. Everyone felt welcomed and, dare I say, loved. It was another example of “thank you for being here.”
Compare that to the fundraising luncheon I went to yesterday for a Christian organization. I was seated at a table sponsored by a business that I did not know. Everything looked beautiful but, and I kid you not, no one at the table said a word to me. Even when I handed in my envelope with my donation, there was nary a word spoken. No “thank you” or “so glad you were here.” How excited do you think I’ll be to return to this event again? If I was a seeker checking out Christianity, what might have been the outcome?
You have an awesome opportunity to let people know – both those who have been in your congregation for 51 years and those who are visiting for the first time – that they are welcomed and loved. Think of it as your chance to say again and again - “Thank you. God’s love is open wide and you are welcome here.” It’s a message that never gets old.
P.S. One cannot help but feel despair in light of the Paris bombings. As I cry “no, no, no, no…not again,” I cling to John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” And this song by David Crowder with the refrain, “I am, holding on to you. In the middle of the storm, I am holding on, I am,” gives me a promise that’s worth remembering.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is praying that before she goes to Costco again that someone has purchased all the scary blow-up Santas. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.