The Importance of Hospitality in Youth Ministry
I know many of you out there can relate to this happening. You are hosting an event, getting ready for youth night or just sitting in your office trying to get some work done when a youth comes in and asks something along the lines of “Got anything to eat?” Often before you have a chance to respond they are digging through drawers, cupboards, under your desk etc. looking for food because, let’s face it, you have food somewhere. Usually it is some sort of junk food and let’s face it that is what they are likely after.
At times, I find myself frustrated by the idea that I am somehow a walking vending machine. I find it funny (Not so much ha ha but more ironic/hair pulling out) when kids complain about the free food laid out for them with comments like “Is there anything else?” or “You didn’t buy the good Doritos!” but occasionally I am brought back to earth by comments like “Please, may I have some more?”
It may be my life in the UK has given me a certain enjoyment picturing all my kids being the cast of Harry Potter or a production of Oliver. It may also be that my favorite nickname for my co-worker Sean is Ollie after a parent told me they had watched him play the lead in his school play many years ago. But either way I am reminded of how important food and hospitality are to what we do.
About every two weeks I make a run to the grocery store to load up on crisps, cakes, biscuits and sweets. Almost weekly I am taking a student, parent or leader out for coffee. And pretty much anytime I have the chance to meet with someone I try and do it based around a meal, snack or drink. I don’t need the meals myself, my wife and I cook together and are getting good at it. And believe it or not you can only drink so much Starbucks before you come to dread it.
However, I have found that a simple cup of coffee (Or a deluxe cinnamon-nonfat soya- with extra sprinkles latte) opens doors. It allows me to have a disarmed conversation with a parent who might have concerns about their child or allow a youth to ask questions they may have been afraid to ask publicly at youth night. The candy at my desk or bowl of Doritos before a youth night open the chance for kids to come in have a conversation and feel welcome. And a nice meal prepared for my adult volunteers at a meeting lets them know I care about them and am thankful to share ministry with them while we break bread.
Over the years, I have come to set aside a significant part of my budget for what I call the back end (Meaning that’s where it eventually will come out…gross) because I have come to really believe that hospitality is central to what we do. We are called to invite people in, make them feel comfortable, and loved. I am sure there are those out there who might see it as a waste, or an excess or say that the money could have been better spent polishing the church organ, but for me I think the best returns are the investments we make in others. Even if it is just a bag of Doritos.
Denny Burda is the Senior Youth Minister at St. Paul’s Howell Hill in the United Kingdom. After over a decade in youth ministry in the States, Denny, his wife Merina and their cat Elliott followed God on their big adventure of a new life in a new culture.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.