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Five Practices of Fruitful Youth MinistryA Youth Leader's Guide
By Robert Schnase
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1 RADICAL HOSPITALITY
A young girl gets out of her car and heads for the door of a church she's never been to before. She is there to attend a youth concert she heard about at school. She feels a little nervous, unsure of what to expect. She's only been inside a church a few times before, for weddings and for her uncle's funeral. As she steps inside the door, she's not sure where to go. People are standing around talking to one another, but no one says anything to her. Eventually she follows people into where the concert will be held. She sits by herself but sees several people from her school sitting together up front. She doesn't know whether to join them or not. She even sees one of her friends, who seems not to notice her. She sees someone else from school she hardly knows who walks right past her. Afraid and a bit unnerved, she waits for the concert to start. She's not sure she fits in here and wonders whether it was a good idea to come. She just wants someone to talk to her, to smile at her, to say hello. She just wants God to make it OK. She just wants to feel at home somehow in this place she's never been before.
WHAT IS RADICAL HOSPITALITY?
Christian hospitality is the active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for persons so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Jesus Christ. They may be strangers or people we simply need to know in a deeper way. Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile. Practicing Radical Hospitality means we offer the absolute best of ourselves, our creativity, and our abilities to offer the gracious invitation and welcome of Christ to others. By practicing hospitality, we become part of God's invitation to new life, showing people that God in Christ values them and loves them.
The early Methodists practiced hospitality in ways so radical in their day that many traditional church leaders found their activities offensive. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, preached to thousands on roadsides and in open fields in order to reach coal miners, field laborers, factory workers, the underclass, and the poorest of the poor. He invited them into a faith community and nurtured in them a strong sense of belonging as he organized societies and classes for mutual accountability, support, and care.
According to Wesley, before people ever consciously come to faith, they have an inner desire for a relationship with God. And God is always ready to meet them, no matter what their past or present circumstance. And God continues to stir up our desire and trigger our interest. By God's grace, people may be more ready than we realize to accept the invitation and initiative of Christ that come through our offering heartfelt hospitality. What is God stirring up in you? Who needs your Radical Hospitality?
Share a time when someone welcomed you.
What did it feel like to be welcomed?
What did you learn from that experience?
What are ways we can take what we learned from our experience and show people that we welcome them into our group?
The word radical means "arising from the source" and describes practices that are rooted in the life of Jesus and that radiate into the lives of others. Churches and youth groups characterized by Radical Hospitality are not just friendly and welcoming. Instead, they exhibit a restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to Christ. Youth who practice Radical Hospitality offer a surprising and unexpected quality of depth and authenticity in their caring.
In these youth groups, newcomers intuitively sense that:
These people really care about me here.
They really want the best for me.
I'm not just a number or an outsider here. I have a real place.
They know me by name and greet me personally the next meeting.
I'm being invited to be with them, part of the body of Christ.
How is your youth group doing? How hospitable are you? How welcome do you feel? Who are some people you know who would benefit from your Radical Hospitality? Name at least two people and tell how you would reach out and welcome them.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?
Hospitality flows through the Bible. In Deuteronomy, God reminds the people of Israel to welcome the stranger, the sojourner, and the wanderer. Why? "For you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:19).
Have you ever been a stranger? Even Jesus talked about being a stranger himself. "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35). "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). Remembering our own feelings of discomfort and loneliness can help us change our behavior toward strangers. Taking Jesus seriously can change how we welcome others.
What is it like to be a stranger? When in your life were you a stranger? Think of a time when someone reached out to you.
Read Matthew 25:35 and Matthew 25:40. Put these verses in your own words.
At every turn, the disciples seemed ready to draw boundaries and distinctions that keep people out or at a distance from Jesus. They have a thousand reasons to ignore, avoid, and sometime snub others. We do too. In any group there are people who are "in" and "out." Someone is always either: too old, too young, too sick, too uncool, too silly, too stupid, or too smart. But Jesus teaches, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me" (Matthew 18:5). Hospitality helps us see people as Jesus sees them and see Jesus in the people God brings before us. Jesus met people where they are: Thomas doubted, Jesus showed him the scars; the woman suffering touched his robe, he stopped to heal; Zacchaeus swindled his own people, Jesus ate dinner in his home; the Samaritan woman had a sordid past, he offered her living water. This kind of radical hospitality is the kind Jesus requires of us!
Which of these seven things should you begin to work on? Why?
WHAT YOU CAN OFFER
You may be wondering what your youth group has to offer. Are fun, food, and fellowship enough? Actually no, they are not enough. As Mother Teresa said, "The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions" (A Simple Path, Ballantine, 1995). Here are seven things people need that you can offer.
1. People need to know that God loves them, that they are of supreme value, and that their life has significance. 2. People need to know that they are not alone; that when they face life's difficulties, they are surrounded by a loving community of grace; that they do not have to figure out entirely for themselves how to cope with family tensions, self-doubts, periods of despair, economic reversal, and the temptations that hurt themselves or others. 3. People need to know the peace that runs deeper than an absence of conflict, the hope that sustains them even through the most painful periods of grief, the sense of belonging that blesses them and stretches them and lifts them out of their own preoccupations. 4. People need to learn how to offer and accept forgiveness and how to serve and be served. 5. People need to know that life is not having something to live on but having something to live for, that life comes not from taking for oneself but by giving of oneself. 6. People need a sustaining sense of purpose. 7. Most important, however, people need to discover their need for God's presence and for the love of Christ through the experience of receiving it. Which of these seven things is most important to you? Why?
MORE SCRIPTURE ABOUT RADICAL HOSPITALITY
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)
Marks of a true Christian "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers." (Romans 12:9-13)
Hospitality is a qualification for being a church leader. "For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and selfcontrolled." (Titus 1:7-8)
"Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one other with whatever gift each of you has received." (1 Peter 4:8-10)
Write one thing that you have learned about hospitality thus far in your life that you would like to share.
HOSPITALITY IN BIBLICAL TIMES
In biblical times, entertaining a stranger as a guest was recognized as a sacred duty; and the customs associated with hospitality were often more stringently observed than many laws. While the word "hospitality" does not appear in the Old Testament, the custom is clear from its stories, particularly Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8. Among the ancient Hebrews, the practice of hospitality stemmed from nomadic life where public inns were scarce and where every stranger could be a potential enemy. Hospitality was offered sometimes in order to create trust with strangers in case the roles were reversed and the hosts found themselves traveling through the stranger's land in need of food and care. Guests were treated with respect and honor and provided with provisions for animals.
In New Testament times, hospitality was the chief bond that brought the churches a sense of unity. The willingness to welcome newcomers, strangers, and people of all nations caused the church to thrive and to spread across the Roman Empire.
Occasionally hospitality was abused, but precautions were taken to test the genuineness of a Christian traveler and to prevent his or her becoming a burden on the Christian community. (See 1 John 4:1 and 2 John 7-11.)
HOSPITALITY IS PORTABLE
As we consider hospitality we often only think of instances when someone comes into our own home or church. But Jesus had no home. He offered hospitality by his graciousness to people in their own settings. Jesus dined with Zacchaeus when everyone else rejected him, and this changed Zacchaeus's life forever (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus set Zacchaeus at ease in his own home! As Jesus walked the countryside, he offered hospitality to everyone he met—welcoming children, visiting with taxcollectors, talking with lepers, sharing water with foreigners at the well.
Following in Jesus' model, John Wesley also offered hospitality outside his own domain. In the first years of Methodism, Mr. Wesley did not have a church building in which to offer hospitality. Instead he went to places where people did not have access to churches and met them there. He met with people on their way to work, in hospitals, schools, and marketplaces. He preached and offered the grace of God along the roadways and in the open fields.
As a group, decide on how you will practice Radical Hospitality at your next meeting.
SUGGESTIONS FROM OTHER YOUTH GROUPS FOR ACTIVITIES TO LIVE OUT RADICAL HOSPITALITY
One simple thing we've started doing every couple of months is Speed-Friending. Our youth group is divided into several RAGs (randomly assigned groups), purposely breaking up cliques, best friends, and siblings. Group size is four to six youth and one or two adults. Their goal for the evening is for each person to learn one thing they have in common with each other person in the group. The catch: it can't be "lame"—for example, favorite color, both wearing socks, having a pet, and so forth. It's got to be a common interest. The youth groan every time they hear that's what we're doing, but at the end of the night EVERY youth has said EVERY time that it was cool actually getting to know someone they didn't really know before. It's true fellowship, which is integral to their faith development.
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Krispy Kreme for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we purchased 500 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts (that's 6,000) and got 80 families to deliver the doughnuts on Christmas Day to people who had to work. This was done as an act of appreciation and comfort. It was helpful not only to our community (we received several thank-you letters) but also to the families of our youth group as they had the opportunity to think about and care for people outside of their family on the holy day of Christmas.
* * *
Toilet Brigade. Jesus washed feet. We clean toilets. Every now and then, I'll send our youth group out in cars to visit businesses, mosques, and municipal buildings. When they get there, they offer to clean the bathrooms. It can save the employees from an undesired task and brighten up some places (you should see some of the gas stations that we've cleaned). Even managers or employees who turn down our request are always amazed and full of smiles after we leave. It has been an incredible thing for a bunch of Christian teens to walk into our area mosque and offer to clean their toilets. The staff had no idea how to respond but gushed afterwards in gratitude.
* * *
Radical Hospitality means we quit defining our ministries with programs, but rather by the way we live Christ—open, honest, and loving of anyone and everyone. In a youth meeting discuss what it means to be truly hospitable. (It means welcoming people with open arms and open minds, empowering them to become leaders within our churches, and extending grace when they make mistakes. It means remembering their names after the first meeting and being intentional about inviting them back to another one.) Then plan for a youth night in the future when each youth will bring another youth. Some aspects of the planning should include getting visitors' contact information (text, email, IM, Facebook, MySpace, and so on) so they can be approached in an environment in which they are more comfortable. Text them a "Thank You" for coming tonight or Facebook them about your next day on campus and invite them to the local eatery for a soda. And by the way, you buy the soda.
* * *
Our youth create an Epiphany journey and party for the children of our community. The youth have primary leadership in planning, budgeting, decorating, and promoting the event to our community.
Small groups of school-aged children are taken around the church at night by the King's Advisors to visit shepherds, an innkeeper, the "star room," and finally the baby Jesus along with his parents. The halls and rooms of our church are illuminated with light (Christmas lights) and each stop on the "journey" is brighter and more beautiful than the last. After worshiping the baby Jesus, children are led to a party that includes a star-themed craft, a giant game of Twistar (Twister game with stars instead of circles), indoor putt-putt, balloon volleyball, comet toss, treats, and high-energy music. * * *
We learned Radical Hospitality from a church where we stayed on a mission trip that blew up on us. As we were traveling to our summer trip, we got the word that the project was canceled. Having traveled far and not wanting to give up on our desire to serve, we contacted a congregation to ask for lodging while we figured out what to do. They offered to let us stay at their church all week for free and let us use the church kitchen. They also gave us keys to the office for checking email, and they introduced us to some local serving organizations. We found very meaningful work and learned extravagant generosity. Moreover, their hospitality changed our lives and our youth ministry. We kept saying, "This is what church needs to look like." We went home and began to follow their model of hospitality. Try to develop a plan to change your congregation too.
Excerpted from Five Practices of Fruitful Youth Ministry by Robert Schnase Copyright © 2009 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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