We are living in a day when we desperately need one another and our own Teen Challenge family’s love and support. Not one of us have ever faced a time like we are in today, and the health of our staff and students, as well as the financial challenges, can be overwhelming. Some centers have been required to shut down, leaving many students homeless with no place to go. Thankfully, TC staff and leadership have willingly taken students into their homes until the other side of COVID19. Other centers have suffered from a majority of staff and students getting the virus and many have been financially devastated with the closing of micro-businesses and the loss of traditional fundraising efforts.
With these unprecedented amounts of pressure stacking up, we are also facing real issues on a personal level. We have heard from leaders who are experiencing discouragement or some level of depression. A few marriages are struggling due to the stress of a forced quarantine. I want you to know that God is for you and that you can count on Him.
When asked about which was the greatest law, Jesus summed up the entire law in this set of values: “To love God with all our heart, mind, body and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves” (Luke 10:27). Love God, love people … that is the crux of what is important in Christian living. Jesus makes it so simple if we will only listen and not make things complicated or difficult.
During this challenging time, those who are blessed need to consider doing all that can be done for one another. That is why I want to talk to you about the subject of hospitality.
Throughout my early history with Teen Challenge, I drew upon the expertise of other TC leaders who were more experienced. I cannot tell you how many times I called Dennis Griffith (and others) when I started out with Florida Teen Challenge. I had so much to learn and so little experience running a day-to-day program. I needed help with staff recruiting, training, and ideas to raise the necessary funds to keep the program going. I depended on others to help me save time and energy by sharing their experience with me. I’m grateful that I was always welcomed and given the support I needed when I asked.
I was recently in a meeting with a TC director who, wanting to grow and improve his program, asked another director who had run a successful program for many years if he could come and visit to learn how they ran their program. The response was, “No, you cannot come.”
This is truly frustrating to me because I have always had the feeling that as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as Teen Challenge family, we should always say “yes.” We should go out of our way to be hospitable and welcoming and find a convenient time to allow the one asking for help to come. Even if the person might be considered “competition” to our program, the answer, in my opinion, should still be “yes.” Why wouldn’t it be? I have always tried to model this spirit as a leader: “What I have is yours. What I have learned or developed is yours, if you need it or want it.”
If we truly believe God owns it all, then why are we dealing with territorial issues, and why are we not more receptive when other leaders ask us for help? This is not the time to be critical of the methodologies of one another or to lack hospitality, but to support and pray for one another in definitive ways.
I believe the spirit of hospitality is critical for us as leaders in Teen Challenge. Check out the definition of hospitality: the generous and friendly treatment of guests, visitors, or strangers. And hospitable: the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization.
Now look at the adjective friendly: the characteristic of or befitting a friend; showing friendship; greeting like a friend; kind; helpful; a little friendly advice; favorably disposed; inclined to approve, help, or support.
Can I challenge you as a Teen Challenge leader or staff to continue being hospitable to others seeking your help and/or advice? I feel deeply convicted that our own TC family deserves our best efforts. I look at the over 1,400 programs we have in 129 nations not as independent operations, but as a family of leaders around the world who struggle daily to put hope within reach of every addict. We are in the battle together and each of us needs the other.
I learned long ago that we cannot outgive God and if we are generous, we will always have good things coming back our way. That’s a kingdom principle we can live by. Maybe it is my southern U.S. upbringing, but I feel we should always say, “come on, we would love to host you, you are welcome,” adding that “if we can, we will provide housing, meals, materials and training at no cost to you. Come sit in on our leadership meetings, listen and ask questions. Spend time with our finance or fundraising teams and learn. Take what you can use and be blessed.” Be willing to lend staff for a period of time to help a program get off the ground. Give from your excess or even from your need and watch God bless you for your generosity.
Here are three recommendations or principles for you to practice:
- Be hospitable. Greet others with open arms.
Joyfully introduce visitors to your team and invite them into your meetings; model a staff meeting or a chapel service for them. Include your staff in the training of visitors. Your knowledge and expertise will spare them from the pain of having to learn the hard way. All of the mistakes I have made can save others from making the same mistakes if I am willing to share them.
2. Be generous. Share all you have.
If you have extra, share it and test God in His word that you cannot outgive Him. In other words, “give and it shall be given to you” (Luke 6:38). The joy of giving from your excess or out of your need is an incredible witness to your staff, students, and board.
- Be the example. Recognize the long-range value of hospitality.
As a leader, you set the tone for your organization. Set the example among your staff as one who gives to other leaders who need help. If you are generous, your staff will be generous. If you are warm to guests, then your staff will be also. If you are willing to mentor those coming behind you, then your legacy of hospitality will last.
My prayer is that in response to the topic of hospitality, you will pray and ask God to confirm in your spirit that you are truly being hospitable and generous to others.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge