Hospitality at Mass: A Key to Good Stewardship

For many individuals and families alike, summer means travel. And summer travel may mean new visitors to our parish for weekend liturgies. How we greet and provide hospitality for our guests says a lot about our practice of good stewardship.

Remember, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) .

Providing hospitality to strangers is a hallmark of Christian stewardship. In the Gospel of Matthew good stewards were commended for their hospitality: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35). St. Benedict directed his followers to receive guests and travelers as if they were Christ. Extending hospitality is especially important when it comes to welcoming visitors who may be attending mass at our parish for the first time.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the ability of a first-time visitor to have a meaningful experience of Christ in the liturgy is directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome extended by the local worshipping community. When people say hello, the worship experience is enhanced. A warm welcome is part of evangelization, work necessary in a church’s mission to help people discover or renew faith in Christ.

How do we treat the unknown person who walks by us in church, or who sits next to us at mass? Do we ignore them? Talk around them? Look at them and say nothing? Do we take the initiative to greet them, smile, extend a warm handshake?

Remember, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our actions and reactions toward visitors at mass communicate who we are and who we represent. Let us take time to welcome visitors to our parish this summer. Welcoming gestures, however small, will not only have a positive impact on visitors, they will make us more hospitable ambassadors of Christ.

Do You Welcome Visitors to Your Parish?

Welcoming newcomers to your parish is not just the job of the pastoral staff, ushers, ministers of hospitality or greeters. It is everyone’s responsibility. Here are ten things you can do to provide better hospitality in your parish.

1. Cultivate the virtue of hospitality at mass.

Many mass attendees tend to gather into little cliques and ignore those who are not members of their particular clique. They are not really inhospitable, just heedless of the need for hospitality. Make hospitality a new habit when you go to mass.

2. Come early, leave late.

Instead of rushing to mass to be there on time, and then rushing out at its conclusion, make time to come a little early and linger just a bit later. Make room in your busy life to greet and spend time with others at mass.

3. Go in peace to greet someone!

Seek out someone you’ve not met before. Shake their hand, introduce yourself, and take a few moments to welcome them to your parish home, God’s house.

4. Welcome everyone.

Not only do visitors need your warm welcome, regular mass attendees also need a friendly greeting. Develop a good handshake and be enthusiastic about your parish. You are greeting others in the name of Christ.

5. Help newcomers connect.

While you are getting to know visitors, introduce them to other parishioners as the opportunity presents itself. Feel free to invite visitors to sit next to you.

6. Say goodbye with genuine warmth.

After mass, bid farewell to visitors, inviting them to return next week. Introduce them to the pastor if the opportunity arises.

7. Avoid parish business.

Avoid conducting parish business with others just before or after mass. Focus on visitors.

8. Give visitors information about the parish.

Ensure that a visitor has a bulletin and other information about the parish before they leave. If there is a social gathering after mass, invite them.

9. Be part of a greeting ministry team

Parishes are always in need of greeters to serve regularly, and provide ongoing formation to new greeters. Help out, be a greeter. If your parish doesn’t have greeters, now is a good time to start!

10. Greet those who already minister in the area of hospitality.

It isn’t necessary to neglect the people who are already ministers of hospitality in order to make visitors feel at home. A simple wave and a smile go a long way.

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