Increasingly, I hear people talk about the church as a place of hospitality, about ministries to the stranger and about being a welcoming congregation. A book that I've just discovered challenges my thinking on this. It is called Hostmanship - The art of making people feel welcome. It is co-authored by Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm, two veteran leaders in the Swedish hospitality industry.
I won't go into a full blown review here; that is what I'm doing at my Leading Questions blog. Here's the first of a series of postings on the book.
The danger that we court in the church when we emphasize hospitality is that we turn the people to whom our hospitality is focused into abstract objects of congregational activity. It is like friends who told me of visiting a church where the pastor preached on welcoming the stranger and no one talked to them after church. In essence, we have institutionalized hospitality as another program. That is not the idea behind Hostmanship.
Hostmanship is an attitude. It is how a person comes to understand how to serve another person. It comes from a maturity that has transcended the pettiness, the selfishness, the prejudice, the fear and the passivity that many people have. It is the ability to recognize in the moment what that other person really needs.
Gunnarsson and Blohm also show how Hostmanship transcends the personal to operate at the functional or departmental level of organizations, and then at the organizational, destinational and national level as well.
If you are familiar with servant leadership, you'll understand Hostmanship. But what I find is that servant leadership is much more an abstract idea when compared to Hostmanship. This little book would be an ideal one for a Session to read and discuss on a retreat. The implications of Hostmanship are far reaching. In many ways it is about how Christ's love actually lives in us as servants. It's an expensive book for the size, but worth ten books twice the size and half the price.
UPDATE: The full review is now available as a PDF file. Download here.