Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hospitality & ministry

I have been writing (I hope) a series of practical common sense posts which basically say "well, it all depends" so here's another.

The New Testament requires presbyters to practice hospitality. In Bible times this may have had more to do with welcoming travelling preachers than with throwing dinner parties for the congregation, but hospitality can still be a valuable and / or difficult part of ministry.

This relates to previous posts on work/life balance, expenses and the use of your home.

Is it work everytime you have someone from the church round? And does the whole thing go on expenses?

Only hospitality that is necessary and an expected part of your work is a legitimate expense. If the Bishop asks to be put up after a Confirmation service, that sounds like an expense to me. Fillet steak for you buddies on the Standing Committee every Friday, less so. Again, a sensible conversation with the treasurer early on is probably wise.

Cultural and "class" issues might apply to your hospitality. Ham might not be the best offering for your Jewish and Muslim neighbours. Some of your guests might feel uncomfortable if offered a value meal or if presented with a bewildering array of cutlery. Friendly and informal is probably the best approach.  For students or youths, a DVD and popcorn might prove tempting. Some fellas might like to come over and watch the game - or the latest Prom.

A six-course dinner party isn't the only option. Breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, tea, family supper, drinks & nibbles and pudding could all work.

What's the aim of the hospitality? If you're hoping for a deep conversation, couples on their own might be best. If you're aiming to get to know people socially 4 guests might be better than 8. But then there are economies of scale. If you're going to feed 4 its not twice the work to feed 8.

 Are you going to have any kind of system for whom you invite? Newcomers to the church or village? People with whom you would like to share the gospel? Leaders or potential leaders? Will you have Christmas drinks for the PCCs at your house? Or maybe Christmas is too busy anyway, another time of year might be better, perhaps?

Apparently, the late John Wenham struggled to continue to offer lunch to Oxford theology students after his wife had died. He soon worked out that he could offer just as good, if not better, hospitality with a well-stocked biscuit barrel and a kettle on the boil. 

No comments: