hospitality mini-series

Desert Dad and I gave a sermon a few weeks ago, under the title ‘Is the church really family?’. It came at the end of a short series looking at singleness, marriage and family life. Speaking on 1 Peter 4:7-11, we focused on hospitality as the primary way in which Christians can really become ‘family’ to each other. If you’d like to listen to the sermon, you can do so either here (for the shorter version) or here (for the better version): your choice. Scroll down to 24/11/13, Al and Lucy Rycroft.

I made the two commonest errors known to inexperienced preachers: I spoke too fast and I included too many different ideas. (Sorry.) And there were plenty of thoughts I had to leave out when preparing. So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to be jotting down a few of them on this blog – things I didn’t have time to include in the sermon, as well as things I didn’t have time to go into in depth. I was immensely challenged – and still am being – by God’s promptings during sermon planning!

To whet your appetite, here’s what I have lined up:

1) Why open our homes?

2) What hospitality isn’t (Mary and Martha)

3) Hospitality = generosity (The little boy with the packed lunch)

4) The ‘how’ of hospitality no.1 – being intentional

5) The ‘how’ of hospitality no.2 – designing your home

6) The notion of personal space

7) Where’s the comfort?

8) The blessings of a hospitable home

I may play around a little with the titles, but that’s a rough outline. Mainly, I hope it will bless those of you who feel utterly exhausted by the idea of having others in your home, because hospitality is certainly not something to feel guilty about.

See you for the first installment in a few days’ time…

reflections on running a church toddler group (3)

This is the final of a trilogy of reflections on what it’s been like to lead our church toddler group, Tuesday Tots. My first post spoke of how our group is unashamedly Christian, but with no agenda for others to subscribe to our beliefs. My second spoke of the busyness and exhaustion entailed through running the group. This post looks at the importance of prayer.

I am a do-er. Prayer does not come naturally or easily to me, because I want to be active pretty much all the time. If I’m not engaged in a task on my to-do list, if I’m not feeling ‘productive’, then I struggle. So I’m incredibly grateful that, when we started Tuesday Tots, there were some wise friends around who inspired particular prayer prompts for the group. These prompts slow us down – they remind us that “unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Firstly, we always pray for Tuesday Tots before we open the doors. Secondly, we aim to devote an hour or so of our Monday evenings to pray specifically for this group, and other mums/toddlers outreach projects around the city, from wherever we are. Getting together in an evening, when there are young children around and often husbands who work long hours, isn’t easy, but praying in our individual homes at the same time as others still gives us the solidarity of praying with others, in spirit if not in physical presence.

It’s not easy stopping to pray – but, ever since we started Tuesday Tots, I’ve been challenged that unless we’re committing this project to God in prayer, we might as well not be running it. A prayerful friend told me she never takes on a new commitment unless she knows she has the time to pray regularly for it. This sounds so obviously something I can agree with – and yet I still busy my life with action after action, filling every conceivable minute with ‘work’, rotas, good deeds, hospitality, church things, family and friends. All of these are good in themselves, but I know I take on too many commitments/relationships/favours without first asking myself whether I have the time to support them in prayer.

It was prayer which initially fuelled Tuesday Tots. A few of us sensed God particularly asking us to pray for the future of mums and families’ outreach in York, not knowing that just a few weeks later an opportunity would open up to start a new toddler group. God even seemed to be asking me to lay aside a different ministry – when I didn’t yet know what for. So, as Tuesday Tots started with prayer, so it is sustained by prayer. We don’t make decisions without several of us committing them to God first. We don’t make the group more complicated than it is, unless God makes that very clear.

And we’ve seen Him guide us so clearly! From additional volunteers turning up unexpectedly on the mornings we’ve needed most help, to raising our kitty from £10 to £90 in just a fortnight – God has been faithful, and will continue to be as long as we place this group into His hands.

Why am I waxing on about prayer? It’s been my observation that some church ministries – particularly those not overtly linked to worship, evangelism or discipleship – often function with little reliance on the Holy Spirit. Things happen because they always have done, because someone had a great idea, because there seems to be a need. But not necessarily because God is saying Here and now, this is what I want you to do. It feels like many ministries are a slog – and, whilst following God’s plan isn’t always going to be easy, I wonder how much we slog away at stuff which should have been finished long ago (or not started at all)? Carving out time for prayer helps keep us on God’s track.

Those of us who lead Tuesday Tots often feel that God keeps us on the edge – providing just enough of what we need (money, helpers, attendees), but not so much that we stop trusting Him. It’s been an exciting 15 months of relying on Him for the group, and gives us an enormous peace for the future. We don’t know whether the group will last another 20 years or be done with by the summer – but we feel sure that God will sustain it for as long as He wants, and that’s totally OK with us.