The front door swings open, and a stranger stands on the threshold. If you are on the outside looking in, your heart may race with nervous anticipation. If you are on the inside looking out, you should open your arms in greeting. Fellowship and hospitality are hallmarks for a small group meeting.
Hospitality means a generous and cordial welcome. Small groups need to provide an atmosphere conducive to new friendships and sharing. Often the leader is too caught up in the message or lesson to make sure everyone is at ease. A host does not need to be the group leader. The word "host" should instead apply to all familiar with one another.
Each host should be aware of people on the periphery who might need a nudge to join the group. Make eye contact when you talk to them, and listen when they speak. In today's rushed society, listening is a lost art. A newcomer may show hesitancy to share, but give him an opportunity. It is awkward to be in a group with only a few other people and have no clue what to do. When possible, pair a new person with a buddy who will stick close, perform introductions, and guide the new person through the meeting to decrease this feeling.
Sharing ourselves, our time, and our hearts is a true measure of a hospitable spirit meant to strengthen and encourage one another. Jesus spoke of hospitality in Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV):
37"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40 And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, ...