Hospitable congregations allow people to offer themselves in worship by recognizing and receiving the gifts that people bring. In the case of one congregation, this meant making the ‘tithes and offerings’ element of the service itself a dramatic and powerful event…However, hospitable congregations do not restrict the receiving of gifts to the offering plates. The talents and abilities of the congregation are employed throughout the worship…At every point in the service the leadership of worship is shared. People in the pews; sing and pray and read and testify and bless. The energy of worship is not concentrated in the chancel but fills the whole sanctuary.
~Thomas G. Long
I have often hear congregation leaders say that if they could attract new members and grow numerically, their budget problems would be eased. With a larger number of members, the congregation could more easily afford to add staff, increase the size of the facilities, and offer more programs. While this may be true in some cases, it is important to emphasize the importance of practicing hospitality and effective stewardship in our congregations, at all times, in order to achieve and sustain membership growth.
Sustained health, growth and prosperity is experienced in congregations when hospitality and stewardship are practiced in conjunction with high quality worship and religious education for all ages. Alongside of these runs an intentional membership development process that begins at the first point of contact with the congregation, whether that occurs virtually through the website, by personal invitation, or in crossing the threshold of the sanctuary to experience meaningful worship and fellowship. All of this takes a cadre of well-trained lay and professional leaders with a commitment to lead and equip the congregation in the vital practices of hospitality and stewardship.
How do hospitality and stewardship look and feel when woven together?
~The congregation’s website (and bulletin boards) are visually appealing and engaging, with up-to-date content that reflects its mission, values, ministries, programs, and priorities.
~The congregation building and grounds are well-tended and points of entry .
~All points of entry are visible, attractive and welcoming, with clearly worded signage to help newcomers navigate the facility.
~There are warm and friendly people at the entrances to greet and help newcomers feel welcomed and comfortable.
~The nursery and children’s spaces are staffed with experienced care providers, clean, safe, and well equipped.
~The worship service, religious education program, and fellowship hour refreshments are carefully planned, organized, and led in ways that demonstrate good management and use of resources.
~There are opportunities for meeting people and engaging in the activities of the community.
~The giving of money, time, and energy in support of the congregation is evident and reflects a culture of generosity, commitment, and gratitude.
~Celebration happens regularly because there is joy and genuine affection felt in the community!
For more resources for congregational membership growth, hospitality, and stewardship:
Resources for nurturing Generosity in your congregation: http://uua.org/finance/fundraising/generosity/index.shtml
Thomas G. Long’s Alban Institute e-newsletter article entitled “Hospitality to the Stranger”: www.alban.org/conversation.aspx?id=4576