APCE 2018: What Bible stories do we tell?
BY ALEX AMPOFO
The APCE workshop I attended focused on how the roots and fruits of every Christian congregation are based on hospitality. The presenter stated that hospitality is “a friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. In other words, it is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly generous way. For Jesus ever said: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ Matt. 25:35c.” Therefore we need to be vigilant with strangers through hospitality. What follows are some of the ideas for hospitality suggested by the workshop leader.
ROOTS OF HOSPITALITY:
Welcoming Site: A 21st century church must be ready and committed to welcoming first-time visitors. Ushers must be properly trained to carry this obligation professionally. A welcome desk, room or space can be set up purposely for hosting first-time visitors. This mostly speaks to the finding that first-time visitors stay due to the warm reception accorded them.
Adequate Parking Space: It is always necessary for a 21st century Church to have parking space for its congregants.
Make sure each guest is greeted multiple times by individual congregants before seating and, when giving directions, use an open hand, not just a finger.
The Worship Service: Worship services should be attractive, with a selection of accessible hymns and songs to keep the service lively and thus entice the first time visitor. The time spelled out in the bulletin should be kept. Special attention should be given to lighting, seating and instruments such as microphones should be in good working order before the service starts.
A Meal: Sharing of meal should always be part of congregational activities (not only on special occasions), for sharing meals reveals Christ in us. Congregants should be assigned randomly to tables by colors or coding numbers so that they do not sit with the same friends. This helps build mutual and friendly relations among congregants and first-time worshipers. For hospitality’s sake, we need to educate congregants to extend invitations to first-time worshipers and also be in the position to help them.
A Small Group: This helps to create friendship and community building among members and enables individuals to make personal connections.
Evaluate whether and how small group should continue meeting to avoid eternal groups that become cliques. Schedules of activities should be made monthly or quarterly.
Such groups should be created for all ages to deal with generational issues.
FRUITS OF CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY:
The Work of Reconciliation: The 21st century church should learn and to be ready to demonstrate reconciliation with humanity as they are welcomed back (“For God has given us the ministry of Reconciliation” 2 Cor.5:18).
Outreach in the Community: The church in the community should engage in interfaith conversation with others to help maintain hospitality among members in the community through fun activities such as a friendship health walk, soccer, or Frisbee. Church members should tell others what makes their Church special.
New perceptions of God’s Inclusion: Don’t judge people around you; rather, have a good perception about each individual and include them in your personal hospitality plans. Make sure everybody that comes your way feels welcomed and has a great impression of you.
In conclusion, every welcoming congregation should watch out for first-time visitors and identify them as part and parcel of us. Try to know where they live and make follow-ups with calls, texts, emails and even visit. Show them that you care and demonstrate agape love with them. Make all conscious efforts help them be part of you.
Alex Ampofo (pictured at right with fellow students at the APCE opening reception) is a M.A.C.E. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.