I was bagging up my groceries the other day, when I overheard a conversation between a mom and her son. The son kept asking “why?” with every answer the mom gave. Parents have all been in that situation. I tried to encourage her and let her know that it is exhausting answering all their questions and trying to come up with answers that the child can understand. I hope that she knew I was sympathetic toward her and that just knowing someone had listened and understood what she was going through was helpful.
Listening is a big part of hospitality. Taking the time to listen to the needs of our visitors and members alike. Hospitality isn’t so much about selling our church to others, although we still need to let people know what is happening here, but to listen to the needs that they have. Then we need to connect our visitors and members with people or groups that will help them feel engaged and known by others. Everyone wants to be heard and listened to. Knowing someone has listened to one’s concerns or needs makes most feel important. We may not be able to meet everyone needs, but we can listen and sympathize with them in whatever they are going through.
Mostly, I think that hospitality is a doing ministry, like welcoming others, shaking their hands, serving coffee. These things are all good and helpful, but when someone needs to talk, we need to be available to sit down or just take the time to listen to them. This is what makes our church a welcoming church. James 1:19 tells us “You must understand this, my beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” If we all slow down a little and listen to one another, we would become an even more welcoming place to worship and serve our God. Everyone in our congregation can do this. Listen to the person next to you as you leave worship or at a gathering with others from our church. Take the time to stay for coffee hour so that you can invite someone to talk after worship. Connecting with others and making all feel welcomed here at First is what each of us are called to do. Being that listening ear for someone is all that it might take for them to feel known and being known is all we may need to begin feeling connected at First.
I encourage each of you to slow down, listen to each other and if needed, connect one to another at First. This is my plan for the summer to slow down after worship, take the time to meet and greet as many people as I can and be a listening ear. I hope you will join me in this, staying for coffee, meeting someone new and listening to their stories. Feeling connected to the others within our congregation makes this a warm and inviting place for all, so let’s start connecting with others.