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A recent college graduate finds that how a congregation practices hospitality — encouraging true, deep human interaction — is more compelling than good preaching, music or other criteria.

Article by Gretchen E. Ziegenhals, Managing director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity published in Faith & Leadership on 1/7/2014.

Our eldest daughter, Emily, recently graduated from college and set out for her new job in Washington, D.C. It was instructive to watch as she began the process of visiting area churches to find a new church home.

She was open to various denominations, but wanted a traditional service with good preaching, good music and a commitment to social justice. She was limited by her need to walk or take public transportation from her house, which also limits the amount of time she can safely and easily attend mid-week or evening services, meetings, Bible studies and other events.

During the first months of life in her new city, she systematically visited churches. I am happy to report that she heard some good sermons, enjoyed lively music and witnessed several thriving congregations. As the weeks progressed, however, her commentary turned more to where she, a newcomer to the city, found hospitality.

“How was church?” I would ask. “Great! I talked to someone really nice at the coffee hour,” she would reply. Or, “Not going back to that one — no one even said hello.” Or occasionally, “Today I got a lunch invitation!” … [Read the full article here.]