Because God has shown us hospitality through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, we are to mirror that through our love for one another. This is the essence of the gospel. I don’t know a better opportunity for displaying this kind of extravagant love than in a small group of believers, so how do we practically live this out in our groups?
1. Be open to inviting strangers into the group.
This is not always the case for every small group. A few groups, like recovery groups, will need to stay closed for accountability and confidentiality, but most groups can be open to offering community to those who need it most. The expectation of group members inviting others into the group will need to be discussed at the start of the group.
2. Remember that everything speaks.
Walt Disney was famous for insisting that everything in his amusement parks sends signals about what the organization values. This applied all the way down to how the pavement changed between the different sections of the park. He said, “You can get information about a changing environment through the soles of your feet.” Our hospitality in the small group starts with how the environment speaks to the new member. Was there a smiling face at the door? Did group members welcome the new person in? Did the condition of the house show that we care about the comfort of our guests?
3. Be the first to serve and the last to eat.
In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek makes the case that good leadership is the willingness to put the people you lead’s needs before yours. He says, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.” This can be as basic as allowing your group members to always get their food first, to being physically and emotionally available when they are in a crisis.
4. Pray consistently for the group.
Extravagant hospitality begins with seeking God’s favor and provision on the group members. Prayer sets the stage for life-changing moments to occur through love toward friends and strangers.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 23 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He is also the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was recently released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.