Gibson CRC (located near Saugatuck, MI) recently served as a hospitality and warming station for the annual “Frostbite Marathon” that began on an early Sunday morning in Downtown Holland and finished at the Saugatuck State Park before noon. To facilitate this hospitality the congregation didn’t gather in worship as is typical but chose to generously serve race participants along with their friends and family. Here is a Facebook post Gibson received from a racer:
“Dear Pastor Rod and Gibson Church: THANK YOU for living out your mission by inviting us into your warm youth center and providing us with hot chocolate, coffee and snacks giving us the restoration we needed on a bitter cold day! We have gotten used to “Christians” coming out of churches and honking or yelling at us to get out of the road or almost running us over. It is refreshing to see you and your church be Christ-like.”
Pastor Rod Brandsen called this activity “missional hospitality.” Extending unexpected hospitality is a wonderful way to join God on mission.
Here Are Some Practices Connected with Missional Hospitality
Practice 1: Remain Alert to Hospitality Opportunities
In previous years, Gibson saw racers pass their church on a Sunday morning in January. Figuring this must be an annual event they pursued the organizers and offered hospitality. There are many opportunities for hospitality if we are attentive to activities in the community.
Practice 2: Provide Hospitality on Your Gounds
There are multiple ways to provide missional hospitality on the church grounds including picnic tables, a playground, beach volleyball, basketball hoops, a place for food trucks to gather, a well-stocked fishing pond, neighborhood gardens, or benches located along a sidewalk.
Practice 3: Provide Hospitality as Off-Site Locations as Well
Another act of missional hospitality offered by Gibson CRC is free ice-cream at outdoor music concerts. Every summer free concerts take place on the grounds of a historic home located near the church. This off-site hospitality significantly expands the reach of the congregation.
Practice 4: Become the Face of Welcome for New Residents
Still another act of missional hospitality offered by Gibson is a welcome bag of coupons, gifts and information for new neighbors. The church is partnering with the township where they are located. The majority of expenses are covered by the township. It is a win-win relationship.
Practice 5: Be Extraordinarily Generous
A California congregation was asked by an adjacent public school if they could rent rooms during an upcoming remodel. The church discussed the impact on ministry and the potential rental price. Better to charge nothing to build a new partnership and a good reputation.
Practice 6: Use Hospitality to Serve the Under-Served
Jesus expects believers to feed the hungry, provide drink for the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked and care for the sick (Matt. 25:35-36). Consider being a rotating homeless shelter, a food bank location, a meeting place for A.A. or a career site for the unemployed.
Practice 7: Develop Policies to Guide Missional Hospitality
It is helpful to create a vision for missional hospitality. For example, will outside groups be charged for the use of the building? Who will be responsible for clean-up after events? When community events are scheduled at the same time as church events, who has priority?