The Heart of Hospitality Part Two
Practicing hospitality is like setting up a hospital in your heart and home, or even your favorite restaurant, RV, or vacation cabin in the woods. We are caring for, serving, and providing for other burden-weary travelers on this road of life. True biblical fellowship and hospitality can seek to build others up in their most basic of needs (food and/or shelter), as well as minister to their soul-needs (encouragement, truth, exhortation, love, rest). Kevin DeYoung hits the proverbial nail on the head when he calls us out on how we often fail in this spiritual discipline:
“Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed. And yet, too often hospitality is a nerve wracking experience for hosts and guests alike. Instead of setting our guests at ease, we set them on edge by telling them how bad the food will be, and what a mess the house is, and how sorry we are for the kids’ behavior. We get worked up and crazy busy in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned with looking good than with doing good. So instead of our encouraging those we host, they feel compelled to encourage us with constant reassurances that everything is just fine... Opening our homes takes time, but it doesn’t have to take over our lives..”
Ouch! Are you guilty of having said those things to guests before? How true it is, and yet, how easy it can be to set aside those words, to put a guard over our mouths (Psalm 141:3) and to minister to people-whether we have a basket of laundry sitting out or serve them boxed macaroni and cheese. Hospitality is a work for God that is energized by God!
Practical Tips for Practicing Hospitality
As we start with some practical tips, let’s review who you should be offering hospitality to. I have found this list to be a really good reminder because we often overlook those who truly need fellowship and encouragement:
Your extended family - They are our primary opportunity and sometimes, sanctification.
Your friends - Friends bring mutual joy, edification, and Lord willing, truth speaking!
Women - Women can often come during the day for edification and/or discipleship.
Singles/widowed - We should seek to adopt those younger or older who are often overlooked.
Large families - They don’t get asked much (and they don’t eat as much as you think.)
Visitors/strangers - This may truly get you outside your comfort zone, but is godly!
Leadership/missionaries - An easy way to show thankfulness and learn how to pray for them.
Servants you want to thank - Children’s teachers or those you see working hard behind the scenes.
Anyone/everyone - Show no partiality. Rich. Poor. Friends. Strangers.
Now that you’ve had an opportunity to consider who to share hospitality with, you may be up against a wall of, “How?”:
Prepare your heart.
Consider the 11 heart attitudes by Ennis & Tatlock in the hospitality acronym in Part 1 of this blog.
Plan ahead with your husband
Seek to be on the same page with your husband in your goals, date, invite list, frequency, and even menu, if he is interested.
Prepare your home.
Make a plan for how to prepare ahead for company, if your hospitality is at home. These things may include the location of the hospitality (dining room and kitchen or bedroom and bathroom.) Consider preparing bedding, cleaning up children’s toys and clothes, setting out towels and toiletries, or using a guestbook or guest gifts.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Michelle Duggar. She quips:
“If you’re coming to see me, come over any time.
If you’re coming to see my house, give me two week's notice.”
Consider the homey welcome you want people to feel. Your family is the reason they are coming, not for your abode. One of the highest compliments I’ve ever received wasn’t on my choice of flooring or an immaculate bathroom, but rather on the peace and calm my guest enjoyed after the chaos of a day herding children. Consider the atmosphere your home and your attitude present.
Prepare your food
It took me a while to realize people aren’t as concerned with what I serve but that I serve. Do you have the kind of friends and family who can fellowship with you over macaroni and cheese? Or friends like mine from China who bring their own spring roll ingredients and the preparation of the meal becomes part of the evening entertainment? Your guests will be truly warmed and filled by your heart for Christ and your service to them, rather than by what you actually serve.
Preplan the time
-Think of conversation starters to get to know your guests or to grow your relationship with
-Be prepared to share your testimony or spiritual conversation and ask theirs.
- Consider enjoyable games or group activities like a campfire or a walk after dinner.
-Consider how late you want the evening to go for the sake of rest for all and plan a closing
-Start with enough time to accomplish the work you want to get done before you guests
arrive, but consider that what you don’t finish, they will be happy to help with. Every guest
who walks through my door wants to know how they can help…so leave some tasks to
bless them with.
Now you may ask, when is a good time to show hospitality? This is quite varied:
Afternoon teatime - Less prep and cost, elegant and lovely.
Fancy Dinners - Table décor and more pricey foods.
Casual Dinners - Comfort foods and comfortability.
Group meals - Kill more birds with one stone.
Holidays - Invite over those who don’t have family.
Sunday Lunch - Continue the conversation after church!
Overnights - Open your home to travelers, family, etc.
Restaurants/Picnics/Parties - Showing hospitality outside the home still requires planning, time and money.
For a unique example, we had a hospitality, led to hospitality, led to hospitality situation happen a few years ago when Hurricane Irma aimed herself straight up the middle of our home state of Florida. My “Christmas card” friends (met in childhood) offered me their very large cabin in Tennessee to flee the storm. My husband stayed behind with the house and church, so 7 of us headed north. The cabin was large, so I invited my husband’s brother’s family to join us. Once there, we heard a mutual friend was in a nearby town paying a lot for a hotel, so we added them to the cabin. For the majority of a week we had 3 families: 5 adults, 12 children and a foster baby, sharing a borrowed cabin, making meals, making memories and sharing in the unexpected vacation together. When the cabin owners came by we were also able to help watch and feed their 8 children on occasion. We had a tremendous time both giving and receiving hospitality in such a unique way that fall.
So hospitality can arrive on your proverbial doorstep in many different ways, at different times, and quite by surprise. It can even cast you upon someone else’s doorstep and ask you to extend it back! Hospitality is the Holy Spirit at work within you, energizing this spiritual action, far more than it is just “having someone over”.
To wrap up our study into hospitality, I’d like to leave you with a handful (or two) of tips that I have learned along the way. I pray a few might spur you on to serve God in this way soon!
Rely on your husband’s leadership concerning your season of life and opportunities, your children’s current issues and needs, and his requests for hospitality in your family life.
Decide between you if the most outgoing spouse can lead the way in these opportunities.
Be careful not to have so much hospitality that you neglect your primary responsibilities. Too much time away from home or too many people in your home can take away valuable training time needed for children, and the ignoring of their, or your home’s needs.
Be wise in guarding people’s time. Watch your guests’ needs over your desires. Remember new mamas need short visits and the elderly may not like to drive in the dark. Try not to overstay your welcome or keep people later when they’ve started to yawn.
Be willing to be spontaneous as needs come up. Don’t wait for your house, animals, kids or life to be perfect. Invite the new family over today or have the neighbor stay for tea when she says she’s “just dropping something off” but looks pretty lonely.
Be careful about always talking about having people over…and never doing it. People will know if your word is sincere or not if you never follow through.
Don’t spend the whole time making excuses for, or complaining about your home. God is clear, we are to be thankful and never murmur or complain. Whatever he has given you, be it opulent or bare, open it up and share.
Consider the phrase “backdoor friends are best.” I’m sure this isn’t for everyone, but when I know people are coming, I love when they walk right in!
Allow others to contribute. I try to always consider which menu item I will let people bring when they ask the question. If they don’t ask, I’ll know what to send my hubby or teen to the store for-and that’s just fine, too!
Keep easy meals on hand for spur of the moment hostessing. Double bake dinners and freeze cakes or cookie dough so you can serve at any time.
Consider starting some hospitality traditions. Have some: same people, same time or place events like 4th of July or Labor Day. Have a tablecloth or guestbook you always have guests sign.
Consider delivering hospitality: sign up to take food to families in illness, crisis or who just had a baby. Take a shut in some flowers and chocolate. Surprise a weary mama with a meal anytime!
Take a hostess gift when you are invited over the first time (or every time.). I try to always take the family we stay with a lot a gifts each time, because I am always thankful and I know it is always work for them to have us!
Make your home open to your kids’ friends. Be the teen hangout as much as your lifestyle allows.
Consider hospitality functionality when buying a home. If the dining room is tiny or there’s no space to house overnight guests, you may want to keep looking if you can afford to.
Keep a stock of toys and a portable high chair and crib for visitors with small children. Talk to your children ahead of time about how they are a part of the hospitality.
Organize a ministry for your church family to socialize: Suppers for 6, home group meals, game nights, etc.
Remember again, the difference between hospitality and entertaining.
Don't quit. Be persistent. Flex with the seasons and know they change faster than you realize.