We have a playful game at our house that allows our kids to share their views and opinions. The game is called “I’m going to say something that may not be well received.” After someone says these words, our crew will perk up and wait for the other shoe to drop.
“I’m going to say something that may not be well received . . .” one of my kids might say, and finish with, “Chick-fil-A® sauce is overrated.” Oh, the uproar at this statement! Cue the gnashing of teeth.
Want to play a round with me? I’m about to write something that may not be well received: I have rarely seen an Easter egg hunt that was an intentional, relationship-building event for the community. Do people love a good egg hunt? Yes! And me too. The little kids dressed in adorable Easter clothes and loads of free candy—who doesn’t like that? While the atmosphere is often magnetic, it is difficult to discern church members from guests, and the follow-up is a bit of a nightmare.
Please don’t hear me say I’m against Easter egg hunts. I’m not. I’m against impersonal events, where people show up and walk away as strangers. In today’s world, events will not transform lives. Relationships will.
For the remainder of this year, I’ve been asked to speak up on this subject. Quarterly, I will offer a fresh challenge for creative hospitality. In the New Testament, hospitality means being welcoming to strangers, and one of the commands Christ gave to His people is the burden of pursuing nonreligious neighbors, coworkers, and workout classmates with the goal of offering a living witness. Sincere hospitality is the first step to connection and evangelism.
With the rapidly changing culture around us, we must alter our methods without watering down the message. Effective evangelism in 2023 must look remarkably different than it did in 1993. Do you have anything in your house that you’ve used since 1993? Very few items make up that list. In the same way, we must continue to search for fresh ways to spread the gospel and connect deeply with atheists and agnostics, unchurched and de-churched people all around us.
Since it’s springtime, here is a quick list of ideas to get you started:
- Organize a progressive dinner (a multi-course meal where each course is served at a different home) on your street.
- Organize a small group picnic where everyone brings their own food.
- Share your driveway basketball goal with neighbors. Or set up a pickleball court and invite the neighbors to play.
- Invite the moms waiting at the school bus stop to have a cup of coffee on your porch.
- Begin a community flower garden on your church property.
- Adopt a school and see what it might need regarding spring cleaning or backpack programs.
- Serve at the local food pantry as a family, small group, or Sunday school class.
- Host an Easter egg hunt in an under-resourced area of the city. (This will put you out of your comfort zone and cause you to meet people with whom you might not otherwise cross paths.)
- Pick up trash in the neighborhoods surrounding your church.
- Take Easter treats to policemen, firemen, nurses, teachers, or nursing homes. Ask nothing in return. Just let them know your church is grateful to have them serving the community like they do.
This is a diverse list, and hopefully one of the ideas feels doable. If none of these lights your fire, grab a blank sheet of paper and jot down a few of your own! God is pleased any time we reach out and invite others into our lives.
Lynley Mandrell is the co-host of Lifeway’s podcast The Glass House, alongside her husband Ben who is the president and CEO. In addition to her ministry partnership with Ben, she is one of the strategic project managers for Visioneering Studios, working alongside churches to reimagine their facilities and space. A busy mom of four teenagers, she’s often seen at guitar recitals, tennis matches, and in the bleachers of a University of Tennessee football game. Her passions include home renovation projects, Dr. Pepper®, and the National Parks.