Air Freshener For The Bathroom

Written by Larry Doornbos
April 17, 2023

If people are looking for warm and friendly encounters, what can your congregation do to ensure they happen?

“Churches don’t understand that if they just put some air freshener in the bathroom, people would feel more welcome.”

  • These are words from a church consultant. Is he right?
  • What are people telling us about what they want from a church they might attend? Do we just need some more air freshener in the bathroom?

From 2019 to 2023, Vibrant Congregations served congregations through a demographic tool called MissionInsite. The tool looked at the demographics, religious realities, and ministry opportunities in a congregation’s parish. (If you’d like a MissionInsite report for your congregation, visit Vibrant Congregations).

  • Looking at multiple studies from across the U.S., we’ve discovered, “Put air freshener in your bathrooms!”
  • Well, that’s not entirely true, but perhaps close. Over and over again, the number one thing people name in MissionInsite is they are looking for warm and friendly encounters.
  • This is true in New Jersey, California, or Illinois. If fact, in every MissionInsite done in the past year, “warm and friendly encounters” are typically desired twice as much as quality sermons. (Typically, quality sermons come in second.)

If people are looking for warm and friendly encounters, what can your congregation do to ensure they happen?

Four Ideas To Increase Hospitality
Develop Hospitality as a Sunday Morning Priority
  • One way to make Sunday more warm and more welcoming is to think about the friendly encounters you have had during the week. What did they look like? How did you experience them? What made them warm and friendly?
  • How can you duplicate those encounters on Sunday morning and engage the congregation to extend these encounters? How can you especially offer hospitality to the least and the last (Matthew 25) and display gospel hospitality?
Develop Your Church So That It Is Known for Hospitality During the Week
  • How can your congregation engage the community during the week and at particular times to show hospitality?
  • Does your community have a parade you can participate in? Does your community have a festival where you can serve in a hospitable way? What about your local hospitals? Can you show hospitality there to staff and patients (“When I was sick, you looked after me”)?
Develop Your Church Into an Inviting Church
  • In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.” The Greek word for stranger is xenos; it means strange, foreign, or alien.
  • How can you become a church where congregation members invite those who are different from them? How can you extend a warm and friendly encounter to those people?
Develop your Members to extend Hospitality all week long
  • How can you help your members find their place in extending hospitality every day of the week? One way is to help them seek to live out the ways of the sheep in Matthew 25 and, in particular, to see the face of Jesus in every person they meet.
  • The more people extend hospitality during the week, the more naturally it will come on Sunday.

If the number one thing people want is warm and friendly encounters, then our congregations need to be places of extraordinary hospitality — a hospitality deepened by a commitment not only to providing friendly encounters but also living out the radical hospitality of Matthew 25. And maybe a bit of air freshener wouldn’t hurt!

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