Stranger God Discussion Guide Now Available!

Fortress Press asked me to create a discussion guide for Stranger God so that the book can be easily used by churches interested in moving more deeply into the practices of hospitality. The discussion guide can be used by teachers, equipping leaders, and discussion groups to facilitate conversation and reflection about hospitality while reading Stranger God together.

So if you're at a church that's interested in welcoming the people in your pews and city, consider using Stranger God and its discussion guide to start those conversations and help your church take those first steps.

You can download the discussion guide here at Fortress Press' Stranger God's website.

Here's the introduction letter I wrote for the discussion guide:
Dear Readers and Discussion Leaders,

This discussion guide is for groups who have some shared interest in the practices of hospitality and who are reading Stranger God together. I expect this guide will mainly be used by classes, small groups, or reading groups associated with churches or faith-based organizations. However, the topics and the discussions prompted by the book and this guide are applicable to a wide variety of organizations—and even for individuals reading on their own. Please feel free to adapt or adjust the wording of any question to fit your context.

I wrote many of the questions and discussion prompts to facilitate a lot of storytelling. I hope your group embraces the storytelling. I think sharing and listening to stories is a practice of hospitality. So share your stories, and listen well to each other. God will show up. I also hope many of the questions and prompts promote rich and deep discussions about how we might better “welcome each other as Christ welcomed us” (Romans 15:7).

If I have any overarching goals for the book and this discussion guide, they are these:

First, when we think about hospitality, we tend to think of one of two things: having people over for dinner or volunteering with a ministry or service organization. To be sure, hospitality takes place in those locations. But I’d like us to explore hospitality as a 24/7 experience, as something that begins in our hearts and can be practiced every second of every day, even with those closest to us at home and at work.

Second, I’d like readers of the book and those using this discussion guide to spend some time mapping the emotional terrain of their hearts. If we want to become more hospitable, we have to start by shining a light into those darker corners where hospitality isn’t quite as easy or natural. When I look in the mirror, I’m not as welcoming, kind, or loving as I could be. I expect you feel the same when you look in the mirror. As uncomfortable as it may be, let Stranger God and this discussion guide bring you to that place of honesty. The journey of hospitality begins right there.

Third, and this is my big agenda, I’d like for you to start thinking of hospitality less as an event you put on (like a dinner or a block party) or service you perform (like volunteering at a food bank) and more as an intentional, daily, habit-forming practice. I’d like for you to think of hospitality as a spiritual discipline that is teaching you how to love. A practice you can do anytime, anywhere, with the person standing right in front of you.

To help with this, some of the chapters have “Hospitality Homework” associated with them, little practices your group can try for a week and report back on. These homework assignments might be the most formative experiences you’ll have with the book and each other. So, let me encourage you to take them on. These practices changed my life. And my final prayer is that they will soon lead you to a meeting with our stranger God.

Blessings on your journey!


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