Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Honest Welcome

I've been staying later on Sundays for the past month or so, sticking around for a really delightful and intense sequence of conversations about faith.  That's meant that I'm more likely to also be around when other things go on in the life of the church...or rather, the life of the church building.

Right now, for instance, the parking lot is all full as I peer out of my office window.  Row after row of cars and minivans.  Not quite as full as it was earlier in the day, but pretty close.  Parents have been bustling in and out, as in our fellowship hall, a large gathering of girl scouts, doing girl-scouty things.

It is, of course, something my little church is happy to host, in the same way that we're happy to host 12 step meetings and a little cooperative of area moms who share preschooling with one another two days a week.

For nonprofit gatherings, and voluntary community activities, the standing church policy is: Let's see if we've got an open slot.  Hmmm.  Looks like we do!  Welcome!  Here's a key.  Leave it neat when you're done.

That's it.

We don't charge, of course.  But other than popping in to say hello, what we also don't do is expect something in return.  One might say, for instance, were one focused on numerical growth, "Hey, here's a great opportunity to leverage building users into pledge units!  All these users are potential members, we need to figure out a way to insure that we're capturing value from this exchange!"

Which, organizationally, might well be true.  And for certain wings of Christian faith, it is true as well.  We welcome because we're looking to convert.  We welcome because our goal..our intent..is to add to our number.  Everything gets filtered through that desire, to the point where we start feeling as authentically welcoming as that friend's birthday gathering that you suddenly realize is going to be mostly about Tupperware.

Viewing others as a means to an end?  That spirit of grasping seems peculiarly antithetical to a heart of true Christian hospitality.