Welcome Strangers, Especially this Easter

Have you ever been somewhere and felt like an outsider? Like you just didn’t belong, fit in, or know anyone? If you’ve been there, it’s not a fun place to be. If we’re not careful our churches, missional communities, and even our families can become this way. Jeff Vanderstelt says hospitality is “making space for people to be who they are and to become more like Christ within community.” Making space for this is not always easy, but it is part of the mission God has called us to.

Gospel Motivation

The truth of the matter is the discipline of hospitality is deeply connected to the gospel and God’s redemptive story. Good hospitality is an outworking of the gospel, for in the gospel God is hospitable to us. J.I. Packer said, “adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name.” If we truly believe that we were once the outsider who God graciously welcomed in, then we should be the first to treat outsiders as if they belong, and love them as we love ourselves.

As we trace the Biblical narrative we see God caring for his people in the wilderness. God’s people are to welcome the stranger, just as he welcomed them (Lev. 19:34). We see hospitality in the life of Jesus. Jesus is constantly eating with people. He is labeled as a “drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He hangs out with people hated by society, like Levi and Zacchaeus. The early church also exhibited hospitality in numerous ways throughout the book of Acts. Welcoming strangers is common practice for God, Jesus, and the early church.

Practical Hospitality This Easter

The truth about being hospitable is we cannot be hospitable to the stranger or outsider if all we do is hang out with our friends. We should be proactive, outward-facing, and intentional so that we will see our guests this weekend and reach out to them. Be diligent in this. A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service and invitation by a church member. These are people coming to us to hear and see what we believe to be true about God and the gospel. Let’s be careful to be good stewards of the people God is bringing to us.

What could this look like during the different events we have going on this weekend?

Good Friday Service - Friday 6:30pm

During our Good Friday service, find a family or someone you don’t recognize and ask them to sit with you. Get to know them and tell them if they have any questions during the service you’d be happy to explain anything they don’t understand. Good Friday isn’t your typical church service, for it’s not as much a celebration but a time of remembrance. Guests or those who aren’t as acquainted with church may have questions. Invite them to meet you for coffee or dessert after the service so you can further get to know them or answer any questions they had about the service.

If you meet a family invite them to our Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt the following morning. This would be a great way to reconnect with them and continue to build a relationship.

Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt - Saturday 10:30am

This is an awesome event to invite your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to. This is a very low-barrier ask for someone and chances are, if they don’t already have plans, they will come to something like this. When you’re at the picnic and egg hunt on Saturday look for people you don’t recognize. Invite them to eat with you and hang out with you some throughout the day. We will have people show up who don’t know anyone and these events do little for the Kingdom if we don’t connect with those people.

An event like this will also attract unchurched, not-yet-believers so we have the awesome opportunity to introduce these people to New City Church and the gospel of Jesus. Begin a relationship with the people you meet and start getting to know them. Be prepared to share your story of what God has done in your life and be prepared to share the gospel. If you need help thinking through ways to share the gospel, check out this other blog post I wrote a few weeks ago: 6 Tips for Sharing the Gospel. Pray and expect God to work through you and your family on Saturday.

Sunday Easter Services - Sunday 8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am

  1. Outward Facing Posture - Be on the lookout for guests. We will have lots of them on Sunday morning. Research shows that guests will determine within the first 6 minutes if they will ever return to a church. Do you know the number 1 determining factor in whether or not guests return to a church? 84% of them return if someone made a personal connection with them. Be intentional in talking to them and learning more about them, being watchful for anyone who seems to be feeling out of place or without someone to talk to. This may be hard to hear but this will require you to not huddle with your friends all morning.

  2. Make a Connection - According to Lifeway Research it takes guests at least four visits to commit to staying at a church longterm. What can you do to help them come back? Make a connection with them. No matter how good our preaching and singing is (which I think both are pretty great), guests will not stay and invest longterm unless they build relationships. Get to know them and their family, ask them to sit with you during the service, personally invite them to your MC.

  3. Be Kind and Welcoming - Be kind and welcoming to the people you don’t recognize and go out of your way to make them feel welcome. We have a Connect Team but the culture of our whole church body should exemplify hospitality. The “greet your neighbor” time before the sermon can either be the most awkward or one of the most meaningful times of the morning for guests. Don’t find your friends this week. Look for someone you don’t know, go shake their hand, and welcome them to New City.

  4. Go the Extra Mile - Don’t just tell someone where to go, show them. If someone enters in the main floor and doesn’t know where to check-in their children, walk them downstairs. If someone doesn’t know where the restrooms are, walk them around the back of the sanctuary and show them. This will go a long way in making our guests feel welcome.

25 Simple Ways To Be Missional in Your Neighborhood

We are often thinking through how to be more involved in our community for the sake of the gospel, but at times we can over complicate the simple act of being neighborly and showing hospitality. We can quickly get into a rut of returning home from work, barricading ourselves in our homes until we have to leave for work the next day. This is a challenge that I struggle with, and maybe you do as well.  The following is a post from Josh Reeves posted at Verge that outlines 25 practical ways that we can build relationships with folks right in our own neighborhoods. 

There is nothing mind blowing or earth shattering in this list, but simple ways to be intentional with the rhythms of life you are already living out. As Josh points out, every one of these ideas will not fit your context, but you may find some that work perfectly. Use these ideas as a way to begin brainstorming simple ways to be missional.

I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

  • In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people. 

  • Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working. 

  • Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a list of my top 25. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.

1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard

2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood

3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard

4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)

5. Invite neighbors over for dinner

6. Attend and participate in HOA functions

7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors

8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved

9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)

10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors

11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors

12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards

13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home

14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute

15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety

16. Host a sports game watching party

17. Host a coffee and dessert night

18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night

19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)

20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards

21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents

23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas

24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team

25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

Do you have some other ideas or ways that you or your Missional Community have engaged your neighborhood? Let us know below in the Comments section!

Missional Tip: Pick one of these ideas and act on it this week.


Don't Waste Your Hallloween

Jeff Vanderstelt offers some practical advice below on using Halloween on mission.

Jeff Vanderstelt offers some practical advice below on using Halloween on mission.


This coming Halloween offers a great opportunity for many to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships with new missional intentionality. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and it’s roots, the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween. We all have in front of us a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity.

If you are looking to be more intentionally engaged this year, I want to present you with a few ideas for how you can more effectively walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us as Jesus’ missionaries.


Don’t just give out candy:

1. Give out the best Candy

Please, don’t give out tracks or toothbrushes or pennies…kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.

Click to Tweet: “This Halloween, give out the best candy.” @JeffVanderstelt

2. Think of the Parents

Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread or muffins out for the parents who are bringing their little kiddos around the block. Make your entry-way inviting so they want to come closer and hang for a bit if possible.

3. Be Present

Don’t hide out all night. Come out to the door or hang out on the porch and if they stop to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.

Click to Tweet: This Halloween, ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations.

4. Be Encouraging

Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building others up with words.

5. Party

If you’re really into it, you may want to throw a pre-Trick or Treating party. Provide dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out trick or treating with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider, coffee or tea. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot (kids love to show their parents and other kids the loot).

Click to Tweet: This Halloween, we all have a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods.

6. Learn the Stories

If you are out Trick or Treating with the kiddos or staying back with the other parents, ask questions…get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later. This is how I first got to know Clay (while Jayne was hanging with Kristi and the other moms). I learned his story while we were with the kids and Jayne got to know hers. This led to both of them eventually coming to faith in Jesus.


Join what is happening elsewhere:

7. Attend the Party

If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then, serve by helping to clean up.

8. Join the Community

If your community has key events, join them and invite some neighbors to go with you (then get to know their stories along the way). Our area has a trick or treating event on a main street where all the businesses give out candy, the firemen give tours of the fire engines, etc. We go with a group of friends to this each year and consistently meet more people to reach out to.

Click to Tweet: This Halloween, ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.

9. Head to the “Watering Holes”

If you do not have kids or are not going to engage in the Trick or Treating activities or events, consider going to the local pubs, restaurants or clubs near you for their events and get to know the people there. Make it your goal to learn the story of at least one person who needs Jesus and walk away with some next steps on how to serve them. You will want to do this with others so that you don’t go it alone.


Ask for the Spirit to lead, guide and work:

10. Pay Attention

Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.

11. Stay Dependent

Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you.

12. Open Doors

Ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations.