The Welcome Wagon

Struedel, scones, even apple pandowdy!

Once upon a time, when a person would move into a neighborhood they would be met by the Welcome Wagon.  Usually a few neighbors would whip up some dishes and pop on by to meet the new family.  The food was an olive branch, a gift to help ease the moving in process by eliminating the need to make meals for the first few days.  Eventually meals became a cake, plate of cookies, or a cute little house plant.  The sentiment was the same, the gift was merely an excuse to meet the new family and welcome them to the neighborhood.

Just as much as the family wanted to make a good impression as they moved into their new house… the neighborhood was equally as concerned with making a good impression too.  The neighbors wanted to make sure that the new residents found the neighborhood to be more than just suitable but instead an enjoyable place to live and raise a family.

As time as passed, in many areas the Welcome Wagon is a thing of history.  In the six times I can remember moving during my lifetime, I’ve never actually experienced a Welcome Wagon.  In fact, in many cases months passed before I properly met neighbors.  This includes the generation who would have grown up with Welcome Wagons and neighbors being neighborly.  That’s not to say that we haven’t gotten to know our neighbors, but it certainly wasn’t as intentional or immediate.

Times changed.

When I watch movies or television and I see a group of neighbors eagerly welcoming the new residents to the neighborhood… to be entirely honest… I feel jilted.  Like I missed out on some great opportunity of friendliness and neighborly ritual.  When I find out that it still happens in some cities, I’m in full jealousy mode.  And yet, I must admit, I’ve not made the attempt to BE THAT NEIGHBOR either.  When someone new moved in to our neighborhood… I was not baking up a tray of cookies or putting together a casserole.

In some regards, we have lost our way when it comes to hospitality.

Two years ago, on New Years Eve, something shifted.  We have a family tradition for the holiday that includes an all day food smorgasbord.  It’s all our favorite junk and snack foods, and the one time of year where we put our “healthy eating” aside and indulge.  We look forward to it each year, and there is always more food than we could ever eat.  In recent years we began inviting our friends to join us, kind of an open house.  Two years ago, we stepped outside to watch the New Years Eve fireworks and our neighbors had family visiting from out of town.  This couple had brought fireworks of their own, and seeing my kids empty handed and watching from our driveway… they extended the olive branch.  As our kids ran around with sparklers and my husband lit off a few of the bigger fireworks they gave to us… I headed in the house to bring out some food to share.  We put up a folding table and the two households laughed at our kids running around … and admired the lights in the sky.

Last summer, it was 4th of July, and a new family was in the process of moving in.  They unloaded the moving truck until it was too dark.  Instead of heading inside to start unpacking, they set out some chairs to watch the fireworks, and waited for the pizza delivery guy to show up.  My youngest noticed they had two little girls, oohing and aahing over the light show.  She asked if she could take some of our sparklers and bring them to the family.  Of course I let her, remembering the kindness of our neighbors the previous year.  The little girls ran around with those sparklers as if we had given them the best gifts in the world.

Now, we have children in the neighborhood that I spoil with little gifts and trinkets.  It brings me joy to see their driveway covered in the sidewalk chalk we gave them at the start of spring break.  A neighbor down the way had a bicycle she didn’t need any longer and walked it down, offering it to my daughter.  A subtle shift has happened in our neighborhood, where neighborly hospitality is being revived.  It’s absolutely beautiful.

Maybe you too have felt like hospitality has been waning.  The great news is that all is not lost.  At any given time, any given one of us, can make the choice to bring hospitality back into our lives, neighborhoods, cities, and churches.

  1.  Evaluate Your Hospitality –  Is there any plan for welcoming new faces?   If so, how is that plan working out?  Is it time to revamp it?  If there is not one, what could be done to start being more intentional about how we welcome new people into our lives or ministry?
  2. Employ the Spiritual Gifts of Hospitality – Find the people within your church who have the spiritual gift of hospitality.  Let them lead the charge in how we welcome guests, new members, families, etc.  
  3. Put Out the Welcome Mat – Ensure that your church, ministry, or organization is giving the impression that guests are welcome.  When someone comes knocking at the door, who is going to invite them in?  Do you have a welcome committee who can direct them on where to go, or how to find information?
  4. Seek Out the Community – Hospitality isn’t only about serving those who are knocking on our doors, but also extending an invitation to the community.  We do this by reaching out and serving in the community, outside of our church walls.  Meeting people, learning about those who live around us, and inviting them to visit.
  5. Create Comfort – Hospitality is a welcoming invitation to the stranger, a welcome mat for the visitor, and creating a safe place for the resident.  Once a guest becomes a member we need to ensure they feel as welcome and valued as they did when they first arrived.

Have a Welcome Wagon or Committee for your church, ministry, or organization.  Let them use their gifts in this area to help create, foster, and build a solid plan for making sure people feel welcome and cared for in your space.

Proverbs 31 Hospitality

the sparks between us will

In the Proverbs 31 “Virtuous Woman” verses (10-31) we witness several examples of hospitality.

If we limit our thinking of hospitality to serving strangers, we are only recognizing a fraction of what it means to be hospitable.  One definition of the word is to be friendly and welcoming of strangers and guests.  However, the second part of the definition is an environment that is pleasant and favorable for living in.

Hospitable to Her Husband (Proverbs 31:11,12)

She has created and fostered and environment where her husband feels safe, cared for, and happy.  He has complete trust in her, and therefore can relax in her presence.

Hospitable to Her Household (Proverbs 31:14,15)

She provides good, choice foods for her household (husband, children) and this includes her servants.  She is caring for all of them, making anyone who is in her household feel welcomed and valued.

Hospitable to the Less Fortunate (Proverbs 31:20)

Whether they are needy in spirit, health, or wealth… she extends her arms out to them.  The wording implies that she seeks them out by stretching out her arms or reaching out her hands.  She doesn’t wait until they show up on her door step and ask for her help, but instead she seeks these people out.

Hospitable with Her Words (Proverbs 31:26)

The Proverbs 31 woman speaks with wisdom AND kindness.  She is not boastful or cold, but those who know her welcome what she has to say because of her reputation.  

A virtuous woman knows the value of being hospitable not only to the people who she meets in the community or in her church, but foremost to her own family.  She creates a safe landing place for her husband and children to retreat to.  She has built a reputation and a home that has an open door to those who are in need.  It is a foundation in her life that begins within the walls of her own house and then extends out into the community from there.  


The Two Sides of Hospitality

The twoMessages of

There are two sides to hospitality that send very distinct messages.

The first side is the “Welcome”, and the message it sends a warm welcome to those we encounter.  This message ranges from making sure information about our ministry is easily accessible, invitations to the women to our events, how we encounter women directly, etc.   The welcome is warm and inviting, and it let’s the women know that we want them to be a part of our ministry and lives.

The second side of hospitality is the “Care”, and the message it sends is that we value and care about the women who are a part of our ministry and lives.   It shows up in the little details of our events, as we follow up with the women afterwards, how we plan out our events for the year, etc.  Care says that we see the women and their needs, that we value them, and that we want to ensure they enjoy our time together … so they will desire to return.

When we speak about the Hospitality Industry, we often think of hotels.  Their “welcome” message is found on their website, commercials, and even how the building looks as you drive by.  It makes you want to stay at their hotel over another.  For parents, the hotel that has a kids playground, splash pad, or mini water park is going to win out over one that does not.  Hotels know this, so their welcome actually focuses on the kids.  For the couple looking for an anniversary getaway, the hotel is going to promote quiet days relaxing at the beach or poolside, spa services, and local nightlife in walking distance.  They know WHO they are targeting and they make sure that the welcome message clearly speaks to those individuals.

Once you are at the hotel, hospitality moves into the care.  They want to make sure that you have a good time at their location because they want you to come back, and they want you to recommend the hotel to others.  Therefore, they do everything to ensure you have a great time.  I remember once walking into a family hotel, on every bed was a towel that had been shaped into a zoo animal.  My kids LOVED this.  When I planned a women’s retreat at a hotel, several years ago, I found a gift basket with all sorts of goodies left for me as a token of appreciation.  This hotel wanted to ensure they would keep our business for future events.  Little details leave a lasting impression.

In fairness, when we serve so many different women (in various walks of life) it can seem like a monumental task to try to reach each person on an individual level.  What I can tell you is that the women see the effort that you have gone to, and that speaks volumes.  It’s not always about the actual, physical and tangible, things that you do but the heart behind it.

At a women’s retreat many years ago, we were staying on a campground in bunk beds.  This was not a luxurious retreat, but more adventurous.  Every night during the final activities, we went through the bunkhouse and placed a treat bag on their pillow.   A hand made, decorated gift bag or box, that contained treats made by a volunteer, with a little gift tag with a verse.  Did we have women who were probably on diets?  Sure.  Did we have women who avoided sugar for various reasons?  Definitely.  Did we have a few women who just didn’t like chocolate?  Probably.  Even when they didn’t particularly get to enjoy the item itself, they appreciated that the team was dedicated to caring for them so well.  We wanted to make the event special, and the women to feel loved and cared for.  That goal was met.

Take Away Point:

Hospitality doesn’t end at the welcome mat.  Once you have extended the warm welcome, hospitality shifts focus on to caring for the women well.

Hospitality Starts with a Warm Welcome


When we think of the word “hospitality” we think of the way in which we serve people.  There is an entire industry related to hospitality, from hotels and event planners to meals, transportation, and entertainment.  It is a service we provide to others that allows them to enjoy the space.

So where does hospitality begin on in our ministries?  It happens long before the events and studies that make up our ministry calendar.

It begins with a warm welcome.

Women who are visiting your church for the first time, either for a Sunday Service or Women’s Ministry event, need to feel welcome in the space from the moment they arrive.  What can we do as ministry leaders to ensure our guests feel welcome?

An Easy to Navigate Space:  Your visitor needs easy access to parking, clear signage on where to enter the building for the service/event, and signs or people to guide them once in side.  Several years ago, I attended an event at a local church.  This church had multiple buildings and parking lots.  There was not a single sign that indicated which parking lot entrance to use, or which building the event was being held in.  During the lunch break, there was an announcement on where the lunch was being served without any direction at all.  There was almost an assumption that everyone at the event either attended the church or was a guest of someone attending, and could find their own way.  They forgot that this event was also publicized on the radio and on the website for the larger ministry hosting events nationwide.  

Never assume your church or even location is easy to navigate, just because it makes sense to you.  Always assume that your guests will need signs or people to help them find their way to the main spaces, bathrooms, event spaces, child care, etc.

Easy Access to Information:  Some guests are very eager to meet people, and not afraid to ask a million questions.  Your more introverted guests will be more timid.  By ensuring that the basic information on the women’s ministry is listed in the New Guest packet, you are extending an invitation to women to find out more.  If you have an information desk or wall, where ministries can post more detailed information, having a sign or invitation cards for your next event will make sure guests know they are welcome to your events.  This also includes having information about your women’s ministry on your church website.

At minimum, guests should be able to have access to the contact information for the women’s ministry, current Bible Studies or Small Groups, and information on your upcoming event(s).  Also consider having  an occasionally informal breakfast to get to know new women in the church.  This doesn’t need to be a potluck brunch, but could be at a local restaurant where everyone pays for their own meal.  

When we make sure to let women know they are welcome at our next event, they know that we are not a closed clique of women but rather a group with arms opened wide.

Help Her Meet People:   Guests, particularly returning guests, will want to get to know more women in the church.  Too often, it’s easy to fall back on the “stand up and introduce yourself to the group” activity.  However this can be overwhelming for the introvert, and frankly even with the best of effort… it’s hard to remember all these new names and facts.  Instead, use the women’s ministry team to divide and conquer introducing new women ot the rest of the body.  If each women’s ministry team member takes time to get to know these new guests individually, they can then make very intentional introductions to members in the body who share similar interests, have children of the same ages, etc.

This far more intentional introductions will actually help foster relationships and is a warmer welcome than throwing the woman into the spotlight before a large group.   

Hospitality Never Ends:  Being hospital as guests walk through your doors for the first time is just the beginning.  Hospitality is something that continues on as part of our ministry work.  We are hospitable when we open our homes to small groups and playdates, when we answer calls and take time to get to know people better, and into our events as we make sure that everyone feels wanted and welcome.  When hospitality drops off, it can make our guests feel as if our initial welcoming was superficial or short lived.  Hospitality is a long term culture that needs to be cultivated and fostered.

Look for your women who have the gift of Hospitality, and bring them into your women’s ministry team to lay the foundation.  If you are a large church, you may wish to create a welcoming committee.  Otherwise, these women will be valuable additions to your team as they advise you about how to make sure your women’s ministry program and events are warm and welcoming to all who walk through the doors.

Ministry Volunteers

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Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to not have to hunt down volunteers.

To announce a need, and immediately hands raise… sign up sheets fill up… you have more volunteers than you can even use.

What if I told you that I truly believe this can happen?  And, what if I told you that the reason it doesn’t happen is probably our own fault as leaders?

It is so easy to create a ministry that survives on the backs of those who eagerly seek us out.  The ones who come to us before we even ask, because they just know in their hearts where God has called their gifting.  It is also easy to build a ministry full of people who we know really well.  We know who has certain talents, who is dependable, and who is available.  We also know who is most likely to say yes when we ask for help.   Truth be told, those women probably make up about 10% – 20% of the women in the church.

What about the other women?  The ones who walk through the doors each Sunday, attend Bible Studies, register for women’s events… why are they not engaged?

Spiritual Gifting

The first thing we need to understand is that most likely very few of the women in the church know what their spiritual gifts are.  They may have acquired skills and talents from on the job training, education, etc.   However, those skills may not be their spiritual gifts.  These women not only don’t know what their spiritual gifts are, but they may not even understand what spiritual gifts are, how they get them, or why they get them.

As leaders of women in the church we should be encouraging all of the women in our care to explore their spiritual gifts.  There are online tests, books, and studies on this subject.  Encourage the women to identify their spiritual gifts, help them through the process if needed.

Serving The Gift

Once we have helped the women identify what their spiritual gifts are, then we need to help them find a place to engage their gift in the ministry, church, or community.  The Church Office, Ministries, Committees, and organizations are in need of people who have the gifts of Leadership, Administration.    Our Small Group, Bible Study, Sunday School, Children’s Church, and events are in need of people who have the spiritual gifts of Teaching, Shepherding.  As we plan events we need women who have the gift of Hospitality, Serving, Prayer.

These gifts may intersect with acquired skills, and some people have more than one dominant gift.   As we help the women identify their gifts, we then can find a place where that gift be used.

Train the Gift

We can not assume that just because a person’s gift has been identified that we can just send the woman off to serve without guidance.  She may feel insecure, and need support.  There may be technical training needed.  A woman may have a gift for teaching, but yet lack maturity in faith to send her off to teach a 20 week study on Revelation all on her own.  It is our job as leaders to not only identify the gift and where that gift can be used, but to also mentor and foster the development of that gift.  We must be careful not to exploit the gifts of others, we are to be encouragers.

The Women Are Many

Statistically we know that the average church has a membership that is comprised of 60-75% women.  That is a large number of women to walk through this process.  The good news is that we are not alone.

  1.  Start with a single group of women at a time.  There is no need to boil the ocean all at one time.   If you are a ministry team of one, start with 4 or 5 women.  You may begin to identify other leaders who could help you as move forward.
  2. Divide the load.  If you have a team of several women, start by Spiritual Gifts testing the team.  Once you have their gifts clearly identified, you can pair them up with women from the church that share a similar gifting.  Let the team member who is gifted in Hospitality mentor the women who had test results that indicated Hospitality.
  3. There is no need to rush.  Identifying the gift using a Spiritual Gifts Test doesn’t take much time at all.  Coming up with a list of places in the church or community that could benefit from the list might be easy too.  However the process of fostering and developing that gift will vary from woman to woman.

If we set a goal to include Spiritual Gifts testing, engagement, and equipping as part of our ministry discipleship plan… we should never be at a need for volunteers.  We shouldn’t have to chase people down, clipboards in hand, in the church lobby.  Nor will we need to call in favors or put the already taxed few on the spot.  We will be creating an environment within the church that recognizes that every member has a role in the body.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I love verse 18:

 “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

If God places people in the church body, every one of them, is just as God wanted them to be.  An active part of the body, fulfilling it’s purpose.

When a body part goes unused it atrophies, which means it withers, shrinks, wastes away… it is no longer effective.

What happens to the parts of our church bodies that go unused?

Perhaps if we engaged those parts, strengthened them… the whole body would grow stronger.

March Leadership Calendar


We are so excited to start sharing our Monthly Leadership Calendar!  Starting in April, this will be posted one week prior to the beginning of the month.  Use for yourself, share with your team.