We have developed some bad social habits over the last two years. We think we’re friendly, but we’re really just polite. We think we are welcoming to strangers, but only if they come to us, on our timetable, in our way, to our house, on our schedule, and with the least amount of discomfort on our part as possible. We think we ask questions for conversation, but it’s really an interview. 

We think we are engaging, when we are really exchanging content where my opinion is the best answer to all questions. When holding doors and accomplishing a checklist of tasks in a certain order are the epitome of satisfactory hospitality. We are setting the table for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of everyone else’s world, but it better be comfortable, convenient, and cost me nothing.

Enough of that!

Here’s the good news: We can learn the skills necessary to be a friend, make a friend, and live out the welcome of Jesus in this new world. It’s not a program, but a gentle reminder we grow in our faith better when we are in relationship with others in a healthy way. It’s personal. It’ll take humility to know I have something new to learn. It’ll be awkward. Really awkward! It’ll take energy. It’ll feel risky, be inconvenient and uncomfortable. I challenge you to make all your feelings and caution a matter of prayer and get over it. I believe our Lord has something better in mind and we’ve got the gift of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and energy to make it happen.

Even the greatest of all introverts (those who do not get their energy from being around other people) can learn the skills necessary to make a friend-in-the-Lord. Even the greatest of all extroverts (those who do get energy from being around other people) need coaching and encouragement to notice social cues and hold a good, healthy, amazing conversation with confidence. If we intend to fulfill the Biblical command to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we’d better be ready to make some new friends.

Radical hospitality goes beyond the passive receiving guests warmly but rather an unexpected interest with people inside, but especially outside, the faith community. Bishop Robert Schnase writes, “Radical means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,’ and so it provokes practices that exceed expectations, that go the second mile.” (from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations)

This is the goal of offering Radical Hospitality Training (RHT) this summer at the church I serve. We are offering this training this summer, because every Thursday this June we can practice our RHT skills at Food Truck Church sponsored by McEachern Kids.

Food Truck Church is our Family VBS. Every Thursday in June, 5-8pm in our parking lot, 5-7pm on our campus with food truck, music, games, a Jesus teaching, prayer, a kid’s table (activity each week going along with our Jesus teaching), and an ice cream truck at the end. THEN 7:15-8pm we pop into a nearby neighborhood to be a ‘guest’ in a cul-de-sac for a sweet treat on us with the ice cream truck. RHT is practiced at each table for Food Truck Church AND RHT is practiced when we’re a guest off-campus being a good neighbor. No bait and switch of coming to our church. We go to McEachern Church and we’re neighbors and it’s hot, so let’s share some ice cream.

Promotion: All ages and stages are invited to one of three Radical Hospitality training sessions in the Children’s Welcome Center.  Learn to invite, engage, and offer an early sense of connection and belonging within the McEachern family and community.  Two more opportunities next Sunday at 1pm and Tuesday at 6:30 for kids, youth, and adults in the Children’s Welcome Center.  More than being friendly, but training in starting and continuing a conversation especially when it’s hard, risky, and awkward.

Program: After welcoming everyone we go around inviting everyone to share their name and something they’d like others to know about them. I quickly practice the conversation skills we’re about to cover so I can refer back to everyone in the room as I teach the skills.

I like to use a fill-in because it keeps me on track and hearing it, writing it, seeing it makes the information stickier. What’s in parentheses are my notes to further explain each point in story.

Radical Hospitality Training – June 2022

Be Fully Present

Listen for 3 NOTS (from North Point Community Church)
NOT in church (relocated, been planning to, we live in an area of the country that WANTS to go to church but they just can’t figure out how to make it happen)
NOT going well (grief, fear, struggle, relationships, loss, gain, job, lonely)
NOT prepared for (parenting, care giving, medical diagnosis, living alone)

Toss the conversation ball…speak briefly, then end with a question. (toss a ball to role play beginning with the youngest in the room)

Listen = Silent (same letters) – leave space in the conversation

Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk: 10 Ways to have a better conversation without getting bored, without offending, and walk away inspired speaks to the following list.

(Goal: a coherent, confident, connection through conversation with people you like, don’t like, disagree with, admire, typically run from. As Christians, what’s expected? Make it a matter of prayer to get over my own sensitivity, being right, and being self-conscious).

1.       Don’t multi-task (When the song “Taste and See” starts take your place at tables at food truck church; you’re fully present with who is sharing the table; don’t look at your phone or watch, but fully face the person you’re talking with)

2.       Don’t  pontificate (This is not a blog, nor a podium, it’s a table; assume you have something to learn; everyone is an expert at something….what about you? What could you talk about for 10 minutes with no prep, just not here?)

3.       Use open-ended questions  (What was that like?; What did you choose to eat? How did you hear about this?)

4.       Go with the flow (Let other distracting thoughts come and go)

5.       If you don’t know, say so (Be open to learn something new and interesting; ‘tell me more’)

6.       Don’t equate your experience with theirs. (It’s not the same; all experiences are personal; no one-up-man-ship)

7.       Try not to repeat yourself. (Assume they heard you and don’t want to go there; take the hint)

8.       Stay out of the weeds (Don’t worry about names, dates, time; resist having side conversations about the details)

9.     Listen (We’d rather talk 225 words/minute; but we can listen 500 words/minute)

10.   Be brief (Be interested rather than try to be interesting)

Be prepared to be amazed. Amazed at the creativity of our Creator God and the stories shared because someone feels safe, heard, and cared for. It’ll take practice because it’s awkward. It’s rarely intuitive because it’s risky. It’s expected so we resist becoming lukewarm. That is indeed radical, Christian, hospitality!

Are you up for the challenge to learn how, practice with, and work diligently as if you were the last disciple of Jesus? What’s the worse that could happen? What’s the best that could happen? What’s the last risky, awkward thing you did to make a new friend?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16