Transformation Vo l u m e 2 I s s u e 2
The Desert Southwest Conference
Summer 2010 | Desert Southwest Conference Communications | www.desertsouthwestconference.org
Contents 3 Publisher’s Pen
4 Bring love and joy to all God’s children 5 W elcoming visitors is a long Journey 7 G old Canyon UMC makes their community say, “W.O.W.” 12 W hat does Twitter have to do with hospitality? 18 One act of hospitality sparks a movement 19 Rethinking Boundaries Photo by Fallon Roasio
Special Features 8
One tip for offering Extravagant Hospitality
Five churches are tested on their reactions to a visitor.
Photo courtesy of Open Table 2 | Transformation | Summer 2010
M inistry M agazine
T he D esert S outhwest C onference
Summer 2010 Volume 2, Issue 2 Contributors
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Kevin Kloster, Ron Walker, Jim Perdue Burke, Rob Rynders, Jon Katov, Stephen J. Hustedt, & Joanie A. Faust
Transformation is provided quarterly in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Communications Department of The Desert Southwest Conference. Transformation is also available online by going to www.desertsouthwestconference.org/ transformation. Individual articles and photos may be used by DSC churches and organizations. Views in Transformation come from representatives of official Conference groups or by request of Conference Staff. Viewpoints may only be those of the writer and may not be representative of the entire Conference. Questions about the reproduction of individual articles or photos should be directed to Stephen J. Hustedt, Conference Director of Communications (602-2666956 ext. 220 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Stephen J. Hustedt sat in church on a recent Sunday morning. The church had been working on welcoming for some time. Our church greeters had moved beyond the church doors towards the parking lot. The congregation took more time to “pass the peace of Christ” and visitors were introduced so everyone could say hello. We had even been working to make our signage better in spite of the cost. As a congregation we were feeling pretty good about how far we had come, and I was no exception. Now this was the first Sunday of the month, which is when my church happened to take communion. My family and I were running late, which is a fact of life with a two year old in tow. We walked in quietly and sat in the back so we didn’t disturb anyone else, and we sat several rows behind a middle-aged couple we didn’t recognize. It was, in fact, their first visit, and they seemed to appreciate their welcome. They were introduced, they received a nice welcome gift, and people went out of their way to greet them as the peace of Christ was passed. continues on page 6 Summer 2010 | Transformation | 3
By Stephen J. Hustedt, Director of Communications
For general inquiries or subscription information, e-mail: email@example.com, call 602-266-6956, or mail Communications Department, 1550 E. Meadowbrook Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85014-4040.
nvitation… Welcoming… Hospitality… These are words that we throw around a lot in the Church. We’ve even taken to making these words more exciting by pairing them with words like Radical and Extravagant, but making them more exciting will not make them more than words if that is all we do. Yes, we know that we have to be more welcoming as a Church. We know we have to be “extravagantly hospitable,” but do we know what that means? More importantly, do we know why we need to make people feel welcome? The idea behind radical or extravagant hospitality is that it is not enough to do invitation and welcoming in the way that we are comfortable doing it. This is not a new idea. For as long as the mainline denominations have been in decline the Church has known that a key issue is complacency, but the language to discuss the issue has been springing up around Bishop Robert Schnase’s book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, in which congregations are called to engage in Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. This hospitality component was later picked up by the Western Jurisdiction and The Desert Southwest Conference as extravagant hospitality, and for a couple of years we, like so many others, have been talking about what it means. Now, these are important conversations to be having, but there is a problem. Too often the focus is on what we, as the Church, have to do to be more welcoming so we can save ourselves. In essence we ask, “How do we make someone feel loved in church so that they become members and support the church with their time and talents?” If this is where the conversation begins, we are sure to fail. Starting with the question “how?” isn’t going to get us where we need to go. We have to start with, “why?” This became all too apparent to me as I
Who we’re forgetting when we talk Transformation about extravagant hospitality
Bring love and joy to all God’s children By Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
hat would it look like if we in The Desert Southwest Conference practiced extravagant hospitality? I asked a few persons and here are some of things they said: • People of all races and cultures, and of every socio-economic class would come to our churches knowing that they are welcome; • United Methodists would be out in the world feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for those who are ill, and visiting those who are imprisoned; • Our congregations would always be thinking about how to reach others with the love of Christ Jesus; • United Methodist ministries would be focused first and foremost on
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serving others; • We would not be afraid to love all God’s children; • Our lives and our congregations would be filled with the joy of loving others just like we have been loved by God through Christ Jesus. I love the vision of extravagant hospitality! It is indeed a vision of what God has already done for us. God welcomes us without exception, cares for us in every way we need, never forgetting any of us. In other words, God loves us! God’s love is extravagant and always hospitable! As disciples of Christ Jesus we are called to also love with extravagant hospitality. I believe that loving with God’s own Spirit in ways that extend extravagant hospitality to everyone around us is possible. What it will take is prayer and trust. We pray, welcoming God’s Spirit to come and live within us that we may be Christ like. We trust that as we live extravagant hospitality, God will be with us, helping us and filling all our needs. A new United Methodist shared with me how he is helping his church and his community. Every Saturday his church sets up a market where persons can come and receive fruit and produce to supplement the limited food they have to feed their families. People come knowing that they will be welcomed, respected, and even loved. Families with need are helped to meet their basic needs and the church is helped in fulfilling its biblical mandate to
love its neighbors. Saturdays a day of great joy in this community and for this church because of extravagant hospitality! Young United Methodists are welcoming their friends to come and know and serve Christ Jesus with them. They invite them to church and to their youth groups. I get to meet them at our conference confirmation retreats, and am inspired by their commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ transforming the world into a place that is hospitable and extravagant in love! United Methodist Women in The Desert Southwest Conference are organizing to help immigrant families. They are advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and are marching in the streets of Phoenix giving a public witness to an extravagant hospitality that welcomes even immigrants! Immigrants from Mexico but also from as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the island of Tonga, the Philippines, and Korea are being welcomed into our churches in the Desert Southwest. So are immigrants from Minnesota, Iowa, and Oregon! Extravagant hospitality in the name of Christ Jesus welcomes all God’s children. Extravagant hospitality is bringing love and joy to the Desert Southwest! We are being transformed by it. Every time we practice extravagant hospitality in the name of Christ Jesus our hearts are joined with the heart of God and we are blessed. Thanks be to God! †
Welcoming visitors is a long Journey
By Kevin Kloster, Journey UMF
Photos courtesy of Kevin Kloster Left: Once inside, you’re greeted at the door and invited to find your way to the info table. Right: If it’s your first time at Journey, the volunteer servants will answer any questions you may have.
e’re a friendly church!” Those words are probably spoken by every church. What church is going to consider themselves “The Unfriendly Church”? We all want to be friendly. We want the people who come to worship with us to experience the love of Christ in our midst. We want them to feel included and accepted. So what can we do to improve upon the important ministry of offering hospitality to everyone? Journey UMF is the newest fellowship in The Desert Southwest Conference. It’s located just south of Phoenix in Maricopa. They know how important first impressions are because in a community of over 30 new churches you only get one chance to make that first impression. At Journey, hospitality starts long before you arrive at the front door. It starts with signs on major roads that help lead guests to the worship space. Once you park your car someone in the parking lot is likely to greet
you with a huge smile. These people are Journey’s parking lot greeters. They are the most out-going, friendly, joy-filled people Journey has to offer. Your very first contact with a person at Journey is meant to leave you with the impression that these people are glad you’re here. Once inside you’re greeted at the door and invited to find your way to the info table where you can pick up your name badge or make a new one if it’s your first time here. All guests are provided with a professional name badge the following week. If it’s your first time at Journey the volunteer servants working the info table will help you find a classroom, restroom, coffee pot, or answer any questions you have about Journey. Information about Journey’s ministries are on the table as well as free Bibles and a take home, do-ityourself guide to the Christian faith. One of the difficulties that Journey struggles with as well as many other churches is the “I want to talk with my
friends” syndrome. After a week of not seeing some people from church it’s easy to want to spend time talking with them instead of taking a moment to meet and greet a new person. Often when people say their church is friendly they’re talking about this aspect of the church. Friendly means I talk with my friends and let them know I care about them, just as they do for me. This is surely an important part of the church but if we’re not keeping an eye out for new faces and taking the time to meet and greet, we’re not showing genuine hospitality to all people. To get around this natural phenomenon Journey has a few people who intentionally walk around looking for new people. The Pastor also keeps an eye open for new guests while at the same time walking through the sanctuary personally greeting each person before worship even begins. When a new guest has been identified and greeted the people at Journey have been story continues on page 18 Summer 2010 | Transformation | 5
Who we’re forgetting | Continued from page 3 However, from my vantage point, I could see how alone they really were. There were empty seats all around them, and they really seemed to feel everyone looking at them. If hospitality is making someone feel as comfortable as they would at home, they were not feeling it. Their comfort level appeared to be more along the lines of being in a fish bowl than being at home. Then it got worse. As we were called forth to take communion the husband was visibly shaking with fear. Perhaps this was the first time he had taken communion, or perhaps his last church experience was a negative one. It may have been too early to know where his fear came from, but we were all too far away to ask, anyway. The wife tried to take his hand and calm him, but with everyone watching that may have made things worse. The couple slowly and painstakingly moved forward with the congregations, as concerned glances and a feeling
of helplessness were shared by all. No one knew quite how to reach out, and the very sacrament that means so much to us was causing pain to the visitors. Regardless of how hard we were trying, this could not be called hospitality. The visitors hurried out as soon as the service was over and we never saw them again. We forget what it means to be a visitor. In fact, many of us are never really visitors in our United Methodist Churches. The fact is that usually we are just too comfortable in our own environment to realize that it takes a great act of courage to even walk in the front door of a church. Worse yet, instead of trying to understand why the very people we are trying to make disciples feel the way they do, we spend most of our time making excuses and even putting the blame on them. There must be something wrong with someone that doesn’t feel comfortable in our church, right? Clearly they need more spiritual
formation or a stronger understanding of the life of Christ so that they feel more comfortable in a church setting—we are comfortable—why can’t they be? This is what I’ll ask you, “If we cannot make them feel comfortable, how will they ever gain the understanding we think they should have?” That is why extravagant hospitality is so important. It’s not about how we save our declining Churches. It is about why our Churches are declining, and who we are forgetting desperately need us. In that context, this issue of Transformation will focus on extravagant hospitality. It will look at ministries around The Desert Southwest Conference that are going beyond their own areas of comfort and are focusing on those scared and lost individuals that so desperately need what we are called to share. Perhaps these ministries can help us to make the house of God home to all God’s children. †
Photos by Joanie A. Faust Left: An intimidating first look from the view of a visitor. Right: Doors that should remain open to those seeking to enter the church. 6 | Transformation | Summer 2010
Gold Canyon UMC makes their Community say, “W.O.W.” By Ron Walker, GCUMC
Photo courtesy Dottie Escobedo-Frank
Photo courtesy of Ron Walker W.O.W. stands for “Witness Our Wonder” and its members aspire to promote a more welcoming church community.
he Hospitality Outreach Mission at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church (GCUMC) was developed in response to a perceived need to promote a more welcoming nature, and grow the church family. Outreach Missions chairperson, Ron Walker, was moved to action upon reading “First Impressions” by Mark Waltz. This book espoused the concept of creating a wow experience in your church. The W.O.W. project was born with Witness Our Wonder (the wonder of God’s love as demonstrated by the congregation). The project began with greeting parish-
ioners as they emerged from the parking lot and grew to include W.O.W. Team participation in festivals, special event services, and memorials. Team members greeting those attending services report that they receive a very positive response from parishioners and new attendees are pleased to receive direction or have questions answered before entering the Sanctuary building. Because an important part of hospitality is invitation, April 2009 ushered in the first Spring Fling event, planned and executed by team members. The day included a
classic car display, interactive features for children, Sanctuary tours, and food booths among other attractions. Then, October brought the first Fall-o-ween event with activities similar to those at the first Spring Fling. In April 2010 a second annual Spring Fling event was held incorporating several community vendors in an attempt to reach even more people. These events were held throughout the church campus, free to the community and considered sucstory continues on page 13 Summer 2010 | Transformation | 7
Photo by Joanie A. Faust
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Undercover Visitor By Joanie A. Faust
ver the past month, I’ve taken on an assignment that was a combination of investigative journalism and shameless personal curiosity. My task was to attend several church services in an effort to analyze each one’s hospitality practices. It was partly done in order to test how each church handles being infiltrated by an anonymous visitor, but also to get myself acquainted with the way United Methodists operate. Make no mistake; while I was secretly writing an article, I was an honest visitor who didn’t know a whole lot about the church, didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, and have (for years) needed someone to reach out and make me feel like being at church was a good thing. Here are my discoveries at five different United Methodist Churches. Home Page As a first time visitor (and a twenty-something whose life revolves around the computer) my first instinct was to search for service schedules online. Two out of the five churches surveyed did not have a clear indication of service times on their websites. Immediately there was a negative connotation with the churches whose schedules I had to dig around to find. One site in particular was so unclear and impersonal that I had to ask if the church still existed. Let’s face it: many people looking for a church service to attend are going to go to the internet first. The very first usher that
a potential visitor will meet is going to be your landing page. If you want your congregation to be more welcoming, that’s the first door that needs to be wide open. But it’s not enough to publicize your service schedules; the rest of your website must be current. If it’s the middle of April and your events page still advertises your Christmas canned food drive, potential visitors will have shaky confidence that your service schedule is up-to-date. They’ll click to another church’s page before they’ll pick up the phone to clarify the time. Visitor Parking Even though mapquest.com and onboard GPS systems have made it easier to find your way around your own city, once you get to the little yellow star on the map, you’re on your own. GPS can’t tell you what entrance to take or where to park or where to go once you’ve turned off your ignition. Only one out of the five churches surveyed had a clear indication of where to park and where to go. If you belong to a congregation considered to be a “large church,” directional signage is of the upmost importance. As a first-time visitor, the biggest fear that hits you once you lock your car door is the thought of walking into the wrong hall or being noticed as the person who has navigated past the same
Photo courtesy Mark Maddox
story continues on page 14 Summer 2010 | Transformation | 9
One tip for offering Extravagant Hospitality
By Jim Perdue Burke, Missionary for Immigration and Border Issues
very time we go through the checkout line at my grocery store, we are reminded that there are at least ten tips for doing everything under the sun. Magazines use this as a hook, trying to catch the eye of a would-be buyer… ten things that make buying a new car a cinch… ten tips for removing every germ from the house… or ten tips for finding the right soul mate on the internet. It seems that managing life has come down to receiving the right tips of information. We’re now about halfway through a four-year period in the church; we call it a quadrennium. Our theme for the next two years will continue to be “extravagant hospitality.” But the basic image of what it means for the church to be an extravagant host doesn’t come to us from the New York Times “Living” section. It comes instead from a rabbi named Jesus who lived two thousand years ago. Jesus could set a table for five thousand strangers he had never met before, just because he felt compassion for them, he was moved by their quiet suffering and hunger. He set an extravagant table for his twelve closest followers and friends one night, knowing that every one of them would betray and abandon him before the morning sun rose. He did so because he knew that extravagant act of hospitality would define them forever. And just when it looked like one group of his followers would give up and go back home forever, he turned them around, appearing to them as a host at their own table in Emmaus. His hospitality was always extravagant; it was always over the top and totally undeserved by the guests who received it. From the earliest books in the Old Testament to the latest ones in the New, extravagant acts of kindness and inclusion toward the stranger, the visitors, and the foreigner, have set those who follow the Lord apart from all others. While all the main characters in the Old Testament were 10 | Transformation | Summer 2010
immigrants in a land to which God led them, all the main characters in the transformation of Christianity from a small sect in Jerusalem to a global religion became so by migrating to foreign lands. Not only being but also finding and including the immigrant has always been and will always be part of the DNA of the church of Jesus. Arizona, California, and Nevada have always been filled with strangers and visitors from other places. Our current economies depend upon acts of extravagant hospitality offered to strangers who come from all over the world with money and plastic in their pockets. Arizona, California, and Nevada have led the world in knowing how to make tourists feel more than welcome. Up until now we could have written the definitive list of ten tips for extravagant hospitality. But something has been changing in recent years. Seemingly over night, Arizona has grown into a populous state, forty-two percent of which are Hispanic and people of color. The figures are almost identical for Nevada, and California has always been a melting pot of cultures. To make matters worse, upwards of seven percent of their populations are believed to be undocumented, here illegally. With almost three million people of color now living in the Arizona and over a million living in Nevada, one in six of which is not authorized to live here, fear and suspicion are becoming the society’s main way of viewing the immigrant and the person of color. Rapid changes like these naturally create fear, which almost always produces either hostility or hospitality. So here is one tip for radical hospitality: the choice between these two outcomes must be made in the hearts of the majority, host culture. In his book, Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, twentieth century theologian and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen described the movement
from hostility to hospitality as one of the transforming spiritual movements for today’s church. Through an act of hospitality, says Nouwen, the person who could end up being our enemy, becomes instead our friend. Sometimes, what makes hospitality extravagant is the atmosphere of uncertainty in which it is offered. But without the exorbitant risk of such hospitality, the unavoidable alternative is extravagant hostility; and such hostility is palpable and transformative in a negative way. According to Pastor Rosemary Anderson, whose parish is the south side of Phoenix—the “barrio”—Memo and Lidia (their names have been changed) are second generation immigrants, naturalborn citizens of the U.S. whose hometown is Phoenix. But they have recently decided to move and leave their extended family behind, a monumental adjustment for Hispanic people. When asked why, they say that they are very sad to leave their hometown and their parents and friends behind; “but they don’t want to raise their children in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust,” says Pastor Anderson. What should be the response of a church like ours that stands under the banner of “Extravagant Hospitality”? Could the attempt at such hospitality transform the fear and mistrust that are consuming our states? Memo and Lidia will leave by the end of May. Primera church will lose a good family, and so will The Desert Southwest Conference and the State of Arizona. There will be no fanfare as Memo and Lidia drive off, but something almost irreparable is happening here. Could real acts of extravagant hospitality by our churches, starting even now, help to transform our states, which daily are becoming more polarized and more afraid? Do we really believe we can reinvent the church in this atmosphere? The only answer of faith ever given at the Lord’s Table is “amen, we believe.” †
UMNS Photo by Mike John Coleman DuBose
What does have to do with hospitality? By Rob Rynders and Stephen J. Hustedt
Photo by Rob Rynders
Like Facebook, Twitter’s demographic includes young, tech-savvy church members and potential visitors.
just got on Facebook. Now I’m supposed to start using Twitter too? Why can’t people just find me on Facebook?” These are sentiments being shared around the church as social media and social networking continue to change how we communicate. It is an argument that has been made since the internet arose and long before that. “Why do we need a blog… can’t they just read our newsletter? Why do we need a website… can’t they just look us up in the phone book?” The lamenting goes on and on, but it is always from the wrong point of view. Until we can stop asking why seekers and even church 12 | Transformation | Summer 2010
members won’t just stay within in our comfort zone, we will not know how to reach them. The only question we should be asking is how we use every means available to make disciples for the transformation of the world. It is as simple as that! It doesn’t matter if we like it or not, Twitter is a good way to reach the unconnected and strengthen our connection with those we are already in ministry to. Twitter is a service that lets you create a simple user account and profile where you can post updates that are shorter than 140 characters. At first it may seem a little silly. You may wonder who really cares where you are going to lunch or how nice you think
the weather is. However, as you become more comfortable with the technology, the perspective changes. The possibilities for ministry become clear. Yes, you can send instant news about programming and event updates, but the true value to pastors and church leaders is in painting a picture of your life for your followers. Faith leaders do not always realize how they are seen by seekers. Twitter provides a level of accessibility that makes a leader much more approachable. If you are experiencing a crisis of faith it is much easier to approach someone you know personally and are comfortable with. Twitter provides this kind of accessibility, and
there is an even greater benefit. Twitter allows you to lead the example of a spiritfilled life 140 characters at a time. “The greatest success we have had with Twitter came when we were live tweeting from rallies around the passage of SB 1070,” said Joanie Faust, The Desert Southwest Conference Communications Writer/Editor who runs the DSC Twitter accounts. “On Twitter, people want to know what’s going on right now. Think of it as real-time, on-the-scene reporting. People across the country were following our lay and clergy leadership as they responded to the pain around SB 1070 and addressed how it would impact our churches.” Of course, ministry takes many forms in the church. Imagine the impact of live
tweets from a Habitat build, a feeding of the homeless, or even a food or clothing drive on a seeker that is following your account and trying to decide if they want to be a part of your church family. Would that impact be the same if you told that Twitter user that they just need to go over to Facebook or your website for the information? If we, as Christians, believe what we say we do, it is time we stop asking why seekers can’t just come to us on our terms. If we truly believe it is our call—our mission—to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world, we have to bring our message to the people where they are and in a way they understand. There are people waiting for us on Twitter and in countless other places that make us nervous. How much longer will we make them wait? †
Editor’s note: To open your Twitter account, go to http:// twitter.com and click “sign up.” If you would like to learn more about Twitter or any of the emerging social media, contact Communications@desertsw. org or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow The Desert Southwest Conference on Twitter @dsccomm, and you can follow Rob Rynders on Twitter @robrynders.
W.O.W. | Continued from page 7
Photos courtesy of Ron Walker cessful in that they exposed the friendly, welcoming nature of GCUMC. Many new families attended at least one service as a result of this exposure. Donations also contributed considerable funds to the outreach and summer youth mission projects. W.O.W. has also gone beyond community invitation and welcoming. To assuage perceived discomfort of funeral/memorial families and attendees one or more team members is assigned to assist in any way, assuring the service runs smoothly and all are respectfully treated. Just as W.O.W. Team members provide hospitality in difficult times they are also there for joyful occasions. Team members dressed in Charles Dickens style costumes for the Christmas Eve services to greet, usher, and handle offering duties along
with presenting a live nativity, with animals, outside the Sanctuary building. On Palm Sunday team members dressed in peasant costumes to greet and carry palm fronds in the processional. At the Sunrise Service on Easter, the team greeted, served communion, and served a continental breakfast afterward. On each of these occasions, including regular Easter Services, golf carts with drivers were available to transport those needing or wanting assistance to the Sanctuary. The congregation was very pleased with the efforts to make these services more meaningful and memorable and genuinely appreciated the transportation assistance. The congregation also began to embrace the work of the W.O.W. team as a part of the culture of the church so the W.O.W. ministry continued to grow.
The concert series at GCUMC brought another opportunity to demonstrate warmth and friendliness of the congregation by greeting concert attendees while dressed in W.O.W. tee shirts. Then, with the downturn in the economy causing a local coffee shop to close, the church found another opportunity to reach out to the community. GCUMC hosts a weekly gathering coined “Community Grounds” on the church campus for conversation and fellowship. Although the W.O.W. project is still in its infancy, it is clear that there has been a positive impact on the congregation as well as the community at large. As the vision continues to grow there will be many more opportunities to bring the wonder of God’s love to the community. † Summer 2010 | Transformation | 13
Undercover Visitor | Continued from page 9
“There is a science behind the art of hospitality.” corner twice while feigning a look of confidence. Do your visitors a favor and have a map of the church grounds in an easy to read, large enough to notice display. Or better yet, have a greeter introduce themselves to potential visitors before they start to wander off in search of your service. Greeters Having someone welcome you when you are visiting a religious sanctuary for the first time is the biggest bridge to making someone feel more comfortable. This is the area where most of the churches surveyed excelled. There was always someone with a name tag who stopped to say hello and welcome me to the service. Extra points go to greeters who didn’t stop there—two out of the five churches surveyed had greeters who not just said hello, but also asked me what brought me to the church and seemed genuinely interested in my presence. There was one church in particular that had so many people welcome me that I gave up counting after the tenth person. 14 | Transformation | Summer 2010
Overall Atmosphere Each church has a different “feel” when you enter it. Each pastor is different. Each congregation is different. Some churches I went to catered to families. Some to older adults. Some to children. Some seemed to have a general inclusion of all types of members. I will admit that the service that seemed to cater to children and families didn’t suit me the best. There was nothing wrong with the service, the greeters were extremely welcoming, but the message in the service didn’t apply to where I am in my life. Maybe it was just that one day, but I found myself feeling more comfortable and spiritually welcome elsewhere. I later found out that the church I felt drawn to the most took great care in catering to the Millennial Generation, of which I’m a card-carrying member. This led me to understand that there’s a science behind the art to hospitality, and that not everyone is going to fall into your target demographic. There may not be a spark with every visitor you encounter, but everyone that walks in the door should feel like you’d be thrilled to have them return if they so choose. And if you do have a certain demographic that
Photos by Joanie A. Faust
An inviting visitor parking section and new member cards placed in pews are steps in the right direction for Churches wishing to be more welcoming. you’re looking to draw to your services, try to keep the message something that everyone can relate to. I may not be able to relate to being a parent yet, but I can understand sermons about how to combat stress, anxiety, giving of one’s self to another, etc.
find it pushy or intrusive. That’s why we’re there. We’ll give any marketer our name and e-mail if we thought there was a benefit to us, so why shouldn’t the church try to get us talking before we go out the door and forget why we were there in the first place?
Follow Through A large part of the United Methodist’s quest for extravagant hospitality is in the follow up with new visitors. Every church would like to see their inquisitive visitors eventually become members. Out of the five churches surveyed, none of them encouraged me to come back or made it clear that I could benefit from giving someone my information. Granted, I chose not to stay for coffee and socializing after the services, but most visitors travelling alone will also want to get out as soon as possible. As a spiritually-hungry Millennial, I can say with confidence that a person from my generation, who walks into church for the first time, alone, would be encouraged by someone reaching out to them and getting their information for follow up. We wouldn’t
Results I’m pleased to report that, although there are areas that desperately need improvement, the United Methodist Churches of Arizona are making an effort to be more welcoming to visitors. Not once did I ever feel like I was intruding. Not once did I feel as though my lack of Methodist knowledge prevented me from joining in the celebration. Not once did I feel like I stood out in the crowd. Anyone that greeted me, whether official greeters or members of the congregation, made me feel as though they were delightfully curious about my presence and happy that I had shared the morning with them. I was happy to share the morning with them as well. † Photo by Stephen J. Hustedt Summer 2010 | Transformation | 15
One act of hospitality sparks a movement
By Jon Katov, Open Table
ffering hospitality to strangers and the downtrodden is a call to action shared by many faith traditions. One group of church volunteers from Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona was presented with the opportunity to extend hospitality to a homeless man that took them beyond their comfort zone to lives forever transformed by a simple act of compassion. While on a mission outreach to feed the homeless in a local shelter, one man stepped out of the line and asked to come worship at their church. In that instant, the choice to either sidestep this man’s humble request or to plunge headlong into unknown territory confronted a group of youth and adults from PVUMC, including Jon Katov, the eventual founder and CEO of Open Table, Inc. With only a moment’s hesitation, Jon and other PVUMC members made plans with Ernie to bring him to church services the very next day. Weekly trips to and from the shelter and church fostered an emerging friendship and a greater understanding of the challenges that Ernie faced. Soon, Jon engaged a group of church members to join him in developing and implementing a plan that would
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empower Ernie to rise out of poverty and homelessness. Setting to work, some 12 volunteers deployed their life experiences and personal networks to help Ernie overcome obstacles and seize opportunities for a better future. Ernie’s plan addressed employment, housing, healthcare, finances, and transportation. The church youth group and other members joined the effort by contributing their time and talent to help Ernie meet his goals. With the support and encouragement of his volunteer team, Ernie rejoined his community as a worker, consumer and taxpayer over four years ago. News of Ernie’s transformation spread to other faith communities who were inspired to replicate the process. Hence, the Open Table Model was created to empower others to implement the strategies that had successfully restored Ernie to wholeness. Today, Ernie continues to live independently and continues friendships with many of the original Table members. Out of this unanticipated encounter,
Open Table grew to become a 501(c) (3) nonprofit in 2007. Open Table’s mission is to transform homelessness and poverty through innovation and empowerment—one life, one family, one neighborhood at a time. Its innovative table model provides a holistic, volunteer-led solution to break the cycle of poverty. Another component of Open Table’s radically new approach to poverty transformation is the expansive collaboration of partners it has recruited within the faith, government, business, education, and other non-profits communities. Collaborative partners are choosing to co-invest their own resources in the Open Table poverty transformation movement because of the proven efficiency and effectiveness of the Table Model. Families served by Tables, known as brothers and sisters, represent diverse ethnic groups and life experiences, but all share a common drive to build a better life for themselves and their families. Open Table trains and equips 8-12 volunteers, known as Table Chairs,
One life, one family, one neighborhood at a time.
to develop and implement a personalized LifePlan for the family they serve. Table Chairs network to all kinds of resources needed to implement the LifePlan. Typically, Tables operate for about one year, meeting weekly to advance the tasks in the LifePlan. Open Table has continued to enrich its table model with new partnerships and Table host sites. To date, Tables have served a wide diversity of family profiles, including young adults aging out of foster care, refugee families, prisoner re-entry families, seniors and
single-parent/dual-parent families. Many faith traditions have hosted Tables, as well as the first school community and corporation in 2009. Additionally, Open Table has established research relationships with Arizona State University and Baylor University in Texas. As an innovator in the social services sector, Open Table is competing to shift the focus from poverty maintenance initiatives to a proven poverty transformation solution. The Open Table model provides families in poverty
with real tools that empower a lasting transition to self-sustainability. As it continues to expand across Arizona, Open Table is also emerging in Texas, California, and Israel, with expansion interest spreading across the United States. Please visit www.theopentable. org or call Jon Katov at 602-793-0533 to learn more and to view a video which tells the Table story from the perspective of volunteers and families served by Tables. â€
Summer 2010 | Transformation | 17
Journey | Continued from page 5
“many of us aren’t sure what good hospitality looks like, but we know when we haven’t felt it.” Photo by Stephen J. Hustedt
trained to practice what is called “The Handoff.” “The Handoff ” involves the person greeting a new guest to hand that person off to another person who is similar in age or life situation. Last week, one new guest was a 10th grader who within minutes of walking through the doors had already been handed off to another 10th grader! It’s great when it works! Hospitality goes deeper than simply first impressions and offering a good welcome. Hospitality also means good follow-up with first-time guests. At Journey, a gift bag is delivered to the home of all first-time guests within an hour of worship. An e-mail is sent out from the pastor as a letter of thanks and gives the visitor the opportunity to share their experience of worship at Journey. Later in the week the Pastor follows up with a phone call or a personal visit to simply say thanks and answer any questions they may have about Journey. A
personal invitation is also offered to return the following Sunday. Many of us aren’t sure what good hospitality looks like, but we know when we haven’t felt it. We haven’t felt it when we walk into a church and people avoid making eye-contact with us. We haven’t felt it when people walk right by us as if we didn’t exist; we haven’t felt it when someone says, “Excuse me, you’re sitting in my place.” We haven’t felt it when people are laughing and talking together but won’t include us in the conversation. We haven’t felt it when we leave and no one even calls to say thank you. Unfortunately, too many churches think they are friendly but they ignore the guests among them. So what can your church do to step up its ministry of hospitality? Here’s a simple and sweet idea from the folks at Igniting Ministries: invite a person who doesn’t attend your church to come once and rate
your church on hospitality. Igniting Ministries has a form on their website called The Mystery Guest Audit (you can find it at umcom.org by clicking on “welcoming” and then “Mystery Guest Audit”) which provides a scoring sheet for how welcoming this person perceives your church. It’s a great tool for starting the conversation of how your church can become an even more friendly church! † Editor’s note: Hospitality training is available to local churches from the Conference Board of Laity and Communications Commission. If you are interested in receiving Hospitality training, contact the Communications department at 602-2666956 or Communications@desertsw.org.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Knowles 18 || Transformation Transformation || Summer Summer 2010 2010 20
By Joanie A. Faust, DSC Communications Writer/Editor
hospitality means on a global hile immigrants and spiritual scale. “If we’re from South talking about God’s abunAmerica are dant table and extravagant struggling to get into this hospitality… God invites us country, Reverend Jenny to his table not to just absorb, Smith finds herself trying to but to be at one at this table. get into theirs. God calls us to eat, share, and Smith, pastor at Desert be one together. I’m really Foothills UMC in Phoenix, excited to expand my table Arizona, is the recipient of a beyond Ahwatukee, beyond Sabbatical Grant for Pastoral Arizona, beyond the United Leaders from the Louisville States, to something bigger. Institute which will enable I don’t know what to expect her to spend twelve weeks with the families, but I really in Costa Rica and Perú. Jenny Smith left the comforts of her home to study in a place where she is trust that it will be a posiThe purpose of the trip surrounded and challenged by a different culture and language. tive experience. How do is to become immersed we learn to live together in in the Spanish language this house for a few weeks? And if we can and Latin culture. While reflecting on the guest with a mutual welcoming. I want to do that… can’t we live at a table together in unique position she finds herself in, Smith be very conscious of the balance between our bigger lives?” anticipates her upcoming journey will be giving and taking. There’s much more that Smith will be blogging and documentfilled with opportunities to grow as a pasI’m going to receive than I ever am able to ing her time in South America as well as tor as well as to understand what it means give.” staying connected to her parish through to be hospitable when you are a guest in a While Smith plans to have a mutual Facebook and Twitter. Look for a followforeign land. “I had the choice of staying in understanding and be accepting of other up article about Smith’s experience upon a place with other students, but I decided cultural practices, there are circumstances her return. † that the best way to learn the culture and she suspects may become uncomfortable take full advantage of that part of it is to for her and her host family. “I have a lot of stay with the family,” Smith said. “It will be particularities about how I eat,” said Smith, interesting to learn to accept hospitality, a modified vegan. “I know that some of but also to be a good guest and be willing these things are going to be challenging to share and open up.” Smith adds that because part of the way I know they show she hopes she can take on the role of the hospitality is through their food. Part of “hospitable guest” by trying to give back to my challenge is how do I graciously receive a country that has allowed her full access that while inviting them into my point of to their land and people. “I didn’t want to view?” go to Costa Rica and Perú and just take,” Smith plans to answer all of her quesSmith said. “My hope and plan is to serve; tions during her three month renewal find some way to give of my time and enleave in South America and hopes to Smith poses with her host family in Perú, South America. ergy—not as a pastor, but as a contributing find a deeper understanding about what Summer 2010 | Transformation | 19
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