First time in a new high school youth group. Can you say awkward? Yes. AWKWARD. There is nothing more terrifying than not knowing who you are AND being in a place where no one else knows who you are either. My family had recently left our church of 10+ years which meant I’d also left my close church friends. So since I didn’t have my driver’s license to visit my old friends, I got the “opportunity” to experience a new youth group. Yippee.
My joyful experience only continued. When I walked into the youth group, one of the adults introduced me to a girl who was related to the pastor’s family and asked her to introduce me to people. We proceeded to sit together on the third row. My stomach was still queasy, but at least now I had someone beside me. However, my insecurities only heightened as she turned her back to me, leaving me out of the jokes and laughter with her friends. I left church that night clueless of what the message was about, but fully aware that I wasn’t important.
Ever since that day, I have determined to help others feel welcome as much as reasonably possible. I’m certainly still learning, but if I’ve learned anything: anything worth learning is a process. How many of us have ever experienced the pain of unwant? Whether with people at church, work, or mealtimes, it’s easy to feel undesired. While it’s easy to dwell on the feelings of rejection and pain, God desires to transform our problems into solutions. Once we’ve healed, we can use our rejection as an opportunity to learn. So now that we know what NOT to do, we can do the opposite in order to create feelings of acceptance and love.
When people feel uncomfortable, they must STUMBLE over the obstacles of insecurity before they can develop into who God’s created them to be. When people feel comfortable, they have fewer obstacles to overcome and can EXCEL more quickly. As Christians, we want people to feel comfortable with us, so it’s easier for them to embrace the change God calls them to experience. Below are some hospitality habits that you can implement as a daily routine in your life:
Greet strangers as a future friend.
- Let’s be real. Talking to strangers can be extremely uncomfortable. However, God hasn’t called us to be comfortable, but He has called us to comfort others (2nd Corinthians 1:4). By addressing people with a smile and a greeting, people immediately feel comfortable around you. They won’t be questioning whether you were judging their outfit or mad that they still hadn’t responded to your last text. And honestly, for all you know, they may end up being a friend.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2
Be an initiator.
- God has given us a position of a leadership, whether we view ourselves as leaders or not. Our response and our initiative (or lack thereof) impacts the people God has placed in our life to influence. Our goal is to be a thermostat, not a thermometer. We must set the temperature of the culture around us; we cannot simply react to the temperature of the people around us. Titus 1 calls the influential leaders of the church to live a life of hospitality and self-control, not a life of reaction.
Call people by name.
- People’s names are important. Why else would the Bible place such emphasis on people’s names? Sarai and Abram vs. Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 17:5,15). Jacob vs. Israel (Genesis 32:28). Simon vs. Peter (John 1:42). Need I continue? Funny how God calls people by name when He calls out a purpose inside of them. When we call people by name, we unknowingly speak the purpose God has placed over their lives. When we know someone’s name, it reveals we know them more intimately and recognize their value.
Learn to be a hugger.
- While it can be uncomfortable hugging people or gently touching someone on the shoulder, your touch acknowledges that person’s presence. Research has actually shown that physical touch decreases violence, increases trust, and positively impact a person’s overall wellbeing. That’s why Paul informed everyone to “greet all God’s people with a holy kiss” in 1st Thessalonians. In all seriousness though, don’t greet your next friend with a kiss… But be aware that your hugs and touch cultivate secure friendships. They can rest confident in your welcome and your farewell.
Your life of hospitality will ultimately enable others to live out their calling.