I think churches underfund their hospitality budgets.
And it’s one of the most important responsibilities of the church.
Hospitality isn’t a substitute for outreach or social justice. It precedes them.
By hospitality I include funding a priest to take out parishioners and new members. Dinners that welcome seekers. providing cookies and coffee to organizations that use the parish hall. Ensuring that the coffee is wonderful. Buying gifts for volunteers and new pledgers, or high quality birthday or condolence cards.
One obstacle is that we think reaching out must be sacrificial or burdensome, so funding dinners, parties, or beauty seems excessive or wasteful.
But the direction of the gospel is that our resources should be directed toward caring for others, even if it’s an expensive jar of perfume.
Hospitality is one of those practices that works, however, because it builds and deepens relationships over time. A priest who can take out a member of the parish and their family, who can host without breaking their bank account, and who can express gratitude through gifts, will build strong relationships.
Psychologists and sociologists call these practices commitment mechanisms. They strengthen relationships and help deepen the attachments that people have with other people.
I would put in the parochial report a line item asking parishes how much they spend on hospitality and seek how it tracks with church growth. Include every penny the priest spends on other people, on gifts, on swag, on making people at home, and see what the consequences are.