This week marks 5 years since I started working with our wonderful church family here at Grace Community Church, Bedford. I’ve learned so much I couldn’t begin to list it all. Many of the things learned have reinforced the things I’ve learned elsewhere – the importance of character, working hard at preaching, drawing alongside people, the value of one-to-ones etc etc.
There’s one thing I’ve learned here that has taken me by surprise, and that is the value of hospitality. Of course I knew (in theory) that leaders should be hospitable and have meetings in their homes and occasionally get people round for Sunday lunch, but I massively underestimated the power of food and homes in the whole process of welcoming and discipling people.
We now have people in our home for food more often than not on a Sunday (and often people in mid-week too). We’ve found it’s a great way to welcome new people, to disciple, to share griefs and joys, to demonstrate love and generosity, to get to know people better, to socialise our own kids (they love it btw), to encourage, and to begin to infuse some of the Grace DNA into others. It’s one of the church’s core values and now I can see why. When a significant proportion of your folk are good at hospitality people in the church grow and new people get integrated much more quickly and easily. If there’s one thing that I suspect many churches aren’t doing that would make a huge difference it’s this – get as many people as you can regularly, habitually opening up their homes and sharing food with new and old alike.