The ministries of greeting people and showing hospitality may be two of the least recognized areas of church ministry. In fact, many people may not think of them as ministry at all, but they are vital to your church. You will notice I am referring to them in the plural sense because I see them as related, yet separate, functions that can encompass various activities.
When we arrived at our current pastorate nine years ago, we immediately met an older gentleman named Wilson. I think I have mentioned him in previous writing, but he made such an impression on me, I want to tell about him again. Wilson’s job in the church was that of greeter. He would arrive early on Sunday morning and stand out on the porch to greet people and hand out the bulletins. He was such a sweet person, and he was the first face you would see upon arrival. Handing out the bulletins as people arrive seems like a simple thing, but Wilson always met everyone with a smile and gave a good (and loving) impression of our church to our visitors. When he passed on, we missed him terribly. There are times I still expect to see him standing outside.
I tell that story to emphasize that it is important to enlist the right people to be a part of your greeter ministry. The people you choose will give your visitors their first impression of the church. Not everyone stands out on the front porch as Wilson did. Some churches now have a visitor’s center where folks can get more information, be directed to Sunday school classes, and so forth. If you go this direction, be sure the center is easily spotted from the entrance to the building, and staff it with friendly, outgoing people who are knowledgeable about the church. Choose the right people!
Outside of the assigned greeters, our congregation is great about being welcoming to our visitors either before or after services. Visitors will not leave our building without having been spoken to or having their hands shaken multiple times. The members have not been instructed or asked to do that—that is just who they are, and it puts people at ease.
A hospitality ministry can take various forms. In our church, we have a hospitality team. This team is responsible for the large, church-wide functions. For example, every Easter we have a sunrise service on the hilltop cemetery next to our church. Everyone in the community is invited to attend. After the service, there is a huge breakfast in our fellowship hall for the community. The hospitality team arrives at 2 a.m. to cook and stays until everything is cleaned up. Most of the time, they then go home and sleep. They give up their Easter Sunday morning to show hospitality to our church and community. They also prepare our church-wide Thanksgiving meal to which the community is invited.
Another way our church shows hospitality is in the area of funerals. Although our church does not own or manage the cemetery, our facilities are its closest neighbor. Our bereavement team offers to host a post-funeral meal for the grieving family of the person who has just been buried on the hill. At times, there are family members who have traveled to attend the funeral, and sometimes relatives have not seen each other in a long time. We offer them an opportunity to gather and connect over food in our fellowship hall—all prepared by our members and at no cost. After the meal is concluded, we provide disposable containers, so the family can take the food home.
These are just examples of things that can be included in greeting and hospitality ministries. The point is, when you put people in their sweet spots, they really shine and the church gives a great impression. Be creative! How can your church show hospitality to your community?
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.