Most people think welcoming ministry has a “type.”
You know the type–people who get involved with loving and befriending immigrants are some combination of these things:
- Could talk to a rock
- Don’t care about awkwardness
- Have tons of time to spare
- Have beautiful, spotless homes
- Have overseas experience
- Speak another language
I think the “myth of the well traveled, extroverted (etc.) welcomer” is harming our ability to recruit more ordinary people to get involved in a crucial ministry which would bless them and bless others!
Let’s set the record straight:
1. Welcoming ministries need extroverts, but it also needs introverts.
Get-togethers and end-of-year celebrations and outings are part of most welcoming ministries (and these events need “party-people” to make them fun!), there is also a great need for more introverted “one-on-one” type people to engage in more detail-oriented work, engage individual immigrants in quiet conversation, make sure people don’t get ignored on the fringes, and follow-up with low-key invitations for more one-on-one or small group friendship-building.
2. Welcoming ministries need people who could talk to a rock, but they also need good listeners.
You may think you have to fill every pause in conversation in order to avoid awkwardness (see #3 below), especially with English language learners, but that’s not necessarily the case. Are you a good listener? Decide to take a learner’s posture and ask a good question and some follow-up questions to get your immigrant friend talking about themselves (note: not JUST their country).
3. Welcoming ministries appreciate people who don’t care about awkwardness, but the truth is most welcomers do, but they just push through it.
Did you know God loves awkwardness? 🙂
4. Welcoming ministries appreciate people who have tons of time to spare (wait, who are those people?), but accept tiny slivers of time from people who know the value of an hour or one evening a month and who can make the most of it!
I’ve always said the people who are the most effective time-managers are the ones who have a lot to juggle. They have practice managing their time and fitting in the things they want to prioritize!
So, it’s great if you have a lot of time (though I don’t know who you are, as I said!), but God is able to maximize the small amount of time you probably do have if you ask Him to help you prioritize the ministry of welcome.
And remember you don’t need to do special things to welcome immigrants: you just have to invite them into your normal, everyday life.
5. Welcoming ministries appreciate people who have beautiful, spotless homes, but the truth is that most welcomers just have open homes where people are invited in despite a little dust or a lot of crazy kids.
6. Welcoming ministries appreciate people who have overseas experience, but the truth is it’s not necessary to get started.
You can learn so much about other countries with just a little internet research! And you’ll learn so much from your new friends too about their experience in their culture (click here for some pointers on asking the right questions so your friend doesn’t feel like she’s being quizzed).
7. Welcoming ministries appreciate people who speak other languages, but the truth is that you can get by with your language, some creativity, and a sense of humor!
I highly recommend language learning as a way to connect with people from other cultures–so if you’ve always wanted to learn Portuguese, go for it! But since most immigrants value learning the host-country language, you can help them practice by using your own language, whether in an ESOL class or just informally. And even if your new friend’s language level is very low, there are ways to communicate that go beyond simply speaking!
Do you agree with my list? What would you add–qualities that people THINK are necessary to be an effective welcomer, but actually aren’t?