Some people think that big churches are cold and small churches are warm. So either they purposely choose a small church to attend, or they want their church to remain small. Maybe that is coming from personal experience or preference but it is not only wrong but an unhealthy assumption. In fact, small churches can be the least hospitable place if people only talk to a small group of people they already know. It can be “warm” only to longtime members. On the other hand, big churches can be very hospitable if they are inviting and greeting new people.
During my research month last year, I had a chance to visit a big church in Seattle whose pastor is known for his energetic preaching. Since they had multiple services in a big facility, I asked someone who was passing by about service time. I expected him to give me a short answer and go on his way. But he stopped and started asking about me. When he realized I was from Canada, he offered me a free coffee. He happened to be one of the baristas at the cafe in the church. (Free Americano!)
Then as I was sitting alone after the service, multiple greeters came to me to talk to me. In a big church like this where I expected to remain “stealth”, this wasn’t expected at all. It was as if greeters had a photographic memory to know if I was new or not!
Then I wanted to observe the children’s ministry. I wanted to ask someone if it was ok to look around. (Children ministry in big churches are highly secured) Soon I was introduced to a pastor and he happened to be in charge of entire children ministry. After hearing that I was a pastor, he personally took me on a tour for an hour, showing me all children areas and introduced me to every volunteer he saw. He even gave me their children ministry manual and prayed for me at the end. This was far more than I expected to experience!
I was deeply impressed and touched by such hospitality. After reflecting on this experience, I realized that hospitality is not determined by the size of a church but by her culture.
I’m grateful that through house church, we are already pretty hospitable because we are used to inviting VIPs and willing to serve them. So not just in house church but also on Sunday, let’s remain hospitable and willing to associate, sit and talk with someone you don’t know very well. Hospitality is not a matter of personality. It is a spirit that is infectious and inspiring.