The communities we want to nurture are based on hospitality, a welcome of strangers to reflect God’s welcome of everyone. Vitality of worship, depth of spirituality, community impact: all of these, I think, can flow from earnest hospitality exhaustively practiced.
A starting point for hospitality is an honest interest in the one being welcomed. This is so little practiced in the world. When was the last time you experienced the eager interest of someone who wasn’t selling something? Where are the spaces that are interested in you for you? Church communities should be those spaces.
Directions to the restrooms and easy-to-understand worship bulletins are prerequisites for hospitality, but the substance of the thing itself can be a curiosity about one another that leads us to mutual learning and growth. This involves observations as much as questions. “You seem to know a lot about X”; “Your work sounds fascinating”; “You just moved here? I’ll be that was an adventure.”
I just don’t think we experience the honest interest of our fellow human beings very much, and when we do it can wake us up to the movement of God in our life. When other people take an interest in some part of our story, we’re allowed to as well.
Churches should be the most interested places people encounter. Not, like, trying to act interest for the sake of appearing “nice”–no, actually interested, which will take some adjusting on our part and a willingness to receive what we’re inviting people to share.