What holds you back from inviting others into everyday hospitality? I’m not just talking about a meal at the table but inviting the girl from your class into a conversation, or the new neighbor into your bible study. Having led a small group for over three years, I have a front row seat to the barriers we all experience when welcoming the “new person.”

In our small group, we like to send an email that says, “heads up, we have a new person attending our group tonight.” Why?

Because we know welcoming others takes some heart work.

We are quick to judge, quick to feel threatened and quick to decide they can’t possibly fit in with us. As Christians, we like to assume we can easily include everyone. Yet, we are human, and our hearts are bent toward protecting ourselves and the relationships we have already built. So, how do we grow our capacity to welcome others? First, we call out and confront our fears!

Social awkwardness.

It is much easier to continue chatting with our friends than to leave the circle and approach the new girl. Jumping into potentially uncomfortable small talk feels socially painful. When we play it safe, we have nothing to lose. No rejection is involved. No effort is required.

There’s not enough (fill in the blank) for someone to join.

There’s not enough room in the car, not enough seats at the table, not enough space in our hearts to allow someone to enjoy the group. We will always find an excuse to exclude someone.

She will choose her over me.

What if the new girl is liked more than me? What if she is more talented, more beautiful, or more fun than I am? The fear of being forgotten, left out and replaced runs deep. We don’t want our tight-knit friendships to be disrupted or lost.

Do you struggle with these, too?

Welcoming others takes bravery, effort, but mostly humility. Humility to acknowledge how it felt before you were welcomed into a friendship. Humility to demonstrate to others how God welcomes us into a friendship with Him, no “coolness” required. And humility, to serve up a “hey there” when we see someone who needs it.

Our small group has built a culture that welcomes anyone who needs respite in Christian community because we have all been the one in need of a brother or sister to lean on. We also protect our people by asking new folks to consider a high level of commitment before joining our group so we can continue to grow our trust and depth. It is everyone’s responsibility to introduce themselves, ask for a phone number to connect later and graciously invite them into circles of conversation.

What are your barriers to inviting others in and how do you see humility moving your heart to welcome others with the abundant welcome of God?