A powerful ministry tool lies dormant in most churches. It’s waiting for you to activate it.

It’s hospitality.

Most think they do it well. Very few do.

This week I met a pastor who’s committed to transforming his church with a palpable embrace of hospitality. Knowing that Jesus exemplified hospitality in his ministry, Henry Brinton of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia, has identified three elements of effective hospitality for churches.

1. Create a “threshold place”—a location that connects the world and the church. This may be a carefully designed welcoming zone at the entrance of the church. Or it may be a different location that is easily accessible to the community. (Lifetree Café would qualify.) And all members need to practice the art of hospitality.

2. Provide opportunities for people to eat together. Jesus demonstrated that barriers melt when people gather around tables to share food and drink.

3. Find ways for people to talk together in small groupings. Hospitality blooms when people open up in trusting conversation.

Many churches believe they excel at hospitality. Brinton tells of visiting one of these, only to be sidelined by parishioners who clumped together to talk with their own cliques.

Suspecting that his own church may not be as hospitable as it needs to be, he created a hospitality retreat where his people dove into the theology of hospitality—and joined in actually practicing how to act in hospitable ways.

Hospitality is everyone’s job. If you assign it to greeters and ushers, you won’t be a welcoming church.

The art of hospitality really isn’t that hard. Most people perform it well in their own homes. When guests come, most people greet them with a smile and a hug. They offer food and drink. They engage in genuine conversation. They listen. They show a real interest in what the guests have to say.

We just need to transfer our home skills to church.

Henry Brinton is writing a book on church hospitality. It’s long overdue.