Two weeks ago my colleague Stacy Golden wrote in this blog about the importance of welcoming the stranger through the ministry of hospitality. While most parishes would say they are “welcoming,” the challenge is to make hospitality truly a part of our parish culture. So what are a few things we can do to begin making that cultural change?
These are just a few ideas to get started and to encourage brainstorming.
A great place to start is preaching the importance of hospitality from the pulpit. A focus on hospitality has to start with a commitment from the pastor, parish staff, the parish council, and the current parishioners. It has to be made part of the parish mission, and clearly and regularly communicated. To become true missionary disciples, we have to accept and live out that it is not only about us who are already parishioners but about the stranger, the person who is not there, and making room for them.
We can quite literally make room for them by, as “regulars,” parking down the street to make room in the parking lot for the newcomer, and also consciously going to the more lightly attended Masses. That way, when the first-timer comes at the popular Mass time, there is a better chance there is a place for him and his family to park, and a place for them to sit.
We can provide parking ministers to help get the newcomer in and out smoothly. How many people possibly give up before they even make it to the door if they can’t easily get into our lot? At the door, there are hopefully already the familiar greeters to open the door and personally welcome them, and inside ushers to get them seated. In addition, there can be information desk where any questions they have can be answered.
If they have very small children, we can offer child care during Mass. Think how much more powerful the Mass, our source and summit, can be for a young parent who’s new to church if they are not wrestling their two-year old for that hour. This provides welcome by showing sensitivity to the needs of young families, providing an age appropriate worship experience for both child and parent. I have personally seen when this is done well, young children are eager to go to church and actually encourage their parents to attend Mass.
Hospitality can also include fellowship after Mass that can be as simple as providing coffee and donuts or as ambitious as having a small cafe. Then along with hospitality, we can start looking at the other two “H’s”: hymns and homilies. But that’s another post for another day.
Which of these things could your parish do to start developing a culture of hospitality?