I have never experienced hospitality and welcome like I did when I first arrived in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon. A group of Femmes Pour Christ (Women for Christ) greeted us as we got off the train with smiles, laughter, and songs of welcome as they gathered us into their arms like mother hens. Then they carried our bags and led us to our homes, doing everything they could to show how glad they were that we had arrived safely.
Did I mention our train was late and they had waited in the hot sun for 8 hours?
Neither did they.
I often think of what it would be like to offer this type of welcome to people that visit the places I regularly attend. I regularly fail to notice the visitors in our midst at seminary.
In the book Click 2 Save, Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson write about hospitality of another sort.
It’s the hospitality that we as ministry leaders and congregations might offer through our online presence. By being active in social media communities we are able to reach out, meet the strangers in our midst, make ourselves available, and find points of connection. In a sense, we are creating what might be called a “digital narthex.”
Many churches have websites, but these authors point out that people don’t need more information, what they need is relationship.
To this end, they suggest that we get out there and visit people’s pages and blogs, online news sites, and other spaces. Once there we might leave messages of support, encouragement, a different perspective, and even include links to our organizations Facebook page.
Hospitality is not just a matter of opening your digital door, but of being willing to travel across the digital domain on a regular basis. Digital hospitality depends on reciprocity – taking the kinds of walks, even out of our comfort zones, that Jesus called us to as disciples and which the apostles and saints modeled. (Click to Save, p. 130)
And remember the golden rule: Don’t just promote yourself. Follow people who follow you, friend those who take an interest in your site.
Drescher, Elizabeth and Keith Anderson, Click to Save: The Digital Ministry Bible, New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2012.