Wise Hospitality: What to do with “Unusual Guests” at Church?
This is from a First Impressions Team Letter I sent at my church. From the positive responses I received, I realized it is likely other churches could benefit so I am posting it here on the blog. Feel free to reuse and edit as you like, no need to credit the source. I am happy to answer emailed questions as I am able. firstname.lastname@example.org
We had "Unusual Guests" this past weekend. I greeted them, welcomed them and chatted. I heard their story and they asked for $5 for gas. I said we did not give out money, but they could come speak with the pastor and get some help during the week. I showed them where the coffee and donuts were and invited them to relax and enjoy themselves until the next service began.
We have discussed safety measures and responses in the past and the question was, "What Are we supposed to DO with an Unusual Guest?"
The short answer is SERVE THEM. Make them feel welcome. Ask their name, tell them yours and show them where the donuts and coffee are. Invite them to enjoy the service and show them where they can get questions answered. Be hospitable no matter how they sound, smell or appear. Period. Imagine they are your best friend's favorite person.
HERE IS WHEN THIS CHANGES:
1) If you feel physically unsafe, they are yelling, angry or brandishing a weapon. RUN. Call 911. Alert others immediately.
2) If they ask for or about money, appear under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You are kind, you are welcoming, and you are assertive. Bring another person over to meet them. Get their name. Do all of the hospitable things AND....
1) Alert the Ushers, First Impressions leader(s) and Coffee Team that we have "Unusual Guests" so they might be alert and attentive in all the ways but especially with loose money lying around.
2) Keep them engaged and introduce them to other people so they are KNOWN and attended to.
3) You have permission to speak the truth in love. Someone let me know our Unusual Guests were asking individuals for money and I went right over to them. I again told them they were welcome here, when the service began, and that I heard they were asking people for money. I said "It is not ok for you to ask people here for money. You may come to the office during the weekday business hours and we can refer you to help, but we do not give out money here. We are glad you are here, thank you for understanding."
NEVER give out CASH. Just Never. We have brown bags with snacks at the Welcome Desk and you may give those to people. You may give out the red sheet with all the local resource options on it. You can sit with them for service, have coffee together at church or pray with them. We do not give out cash. That is dangerous and puts other people in danger too.
Our church is a place to connect to God and each other. Churches are a magnet for everyone who is broken and some of them are not ready to be fixed. Our job as Christ Followers is to show God's Love to everyone we meet. Especially the Unusual. Church is not a place for us to simply dress up and laugh with friends. There is work to be done. We look for the sad, the alone, the awkward. We try to make other people feel important and know they are valuable to God, to us. It is hard work, it is important work, and it is what matters to God. Thank you for serving God together as believers. I am honored to serve with all of you. I hope this helps you to love others by offering Wise Hospitality.