Hospitality has been a major buzz word in Christian circles for a few years now. Some excellent books have been written about the importance of rediscovering the lost art of welcoming people into your home. I have attended more than one women’s conference where sessions were geared toward already overloaded and guilt-ridden women like myself, with certain questions posed by women who are obviously passionate about their homes, and about things like hosting themed parties: “Do you often host people in your home?” “If not, why not?” “Did you know that the Bible clearly tells us to open our homes to others?” “Have you heard about what happened with Rosaria Butterfield when someone asked her over for dinner?” Ok, I’m kidding with that last one. But, there has clearly been a push among women’s ministry circles to more carefully consider the idea of hospitality and what it can look like in our own homes.
That’s a good thing. I agree–we should welcome others into our homes when we can. But, I also want to send a clear message to women like me, women who are rarely home, whose kids are in fifteen different activities after school, whose family generally eats at different times in different cars in different cities because that’s just the phase of life that we’re in: hospitality can happen literally anywhere.
After all, what is hospitality? It’s making people feel warm and welcomed and wanted. And I can do that sitting in the stands at my daughter’s basketball practice with other parents. I can do that in my Sunday school class, at school pickup, in the grocery store, and in the fast food drive thru. I can and should offer hospitality everywhere I go, even if I won’t always do it perfectly. Even if I am not offering a meal or a seat on a comfy couch or a nice hot cup of coffee. None of those things matter as much as a simple attitude of warmth and welcome, wherever my day’s responsibilities take me.
So, in the spirit of encouraging my fellow women, here are just a few ways that you are probably already extending hospitality to those around you.
1. You offer hospitality at church.
Chad often jokes about how most men can walk into a Sunday school classroom with one thought: “Where are the donuts?” while most women walk in and are instantly aware of the various emotional and relational issues in the room. As a general rule, women put people at ease by being sensitive to all of the dynamics that are going on in a certain situation, like a Sunday school classroom.
Women decorate rooms in the church and make it a welcoming place. You cook, clean, and serve meals, and you organize events and form groups that help people find their place in the building and in the body.
You are more likely to put young mothers at ease as you welcome their children. You plan lessons that you hope will delight the kids, and you kiss bumps and hand out bandaids and you offer snacks to chubby little outstretched hands. You soothe and rock and pat and play.
Women invite others into the Word of God, in their classes and Bible studies, trying to clearly communicate that this is our common ground, this gospel, this truth, and that no matter where our lives have taken us, here in this place we are all offered peace, grace, and mercy. The gospel is the ultimate offer of welcome and warmth and belonging, and when you attend church faithfully, when you serve and you teach and you study and you come to each Sunday knowing that you are not going to a building, but to live out the truth that you ARE the church, then you, women, are already offering hospitality.
2. You offer hospitality at work.
Some of you go to a workplace every day where you are keenly aware of some of the personal struggles of coworkers. Chances are you spend a good deal of your work day encouraging other people, listening, and offering advice to those who need it. You reach out to people, check on people, and make emotional and intellectual connections with people that make a positive difference in their day. No matter your line of work, you probably spend time every day helping others, nurturing those who need it.
Some of you stay home during the day, serving your own little children. You are doing some of the most difficult and overwhelming hospitality work, creating a daily world where your kids can flourish. Don’t doubt for a moment that this type of offering is not true hospitality. Your job of daily filling your child’s heart and mind with warmth and welcome, making them feel wanted even while you are called to train them in some very frustrating seasons of parenting, is one of the clearest pictures in our world of laying down your life for another.
3. You offer hospitality most everywhere you go.
Sometimes you are free and can have people over to your house. And sometimes you aren’t. That doesn’t mean that you are out of the hospitality business. Hospitality is not centered only around our homes. The truth is that hospitality is about YOU, not your house or your schedule or your cooking skills. What people want is an openness, a kindness, and a posture that says that you are available and you care, and you can offer that wherever you go. And if you think about it, you probably do, just as a natural overflow of who you were created to be in Christ.
I love to have people over to our house at times. But at other times it’s all I can do to handle the jobs that await me between church responsibilities, work, raising children, keeping clean underwear in people’s drawers, and so on. Yet, it never fails that I feel pressure to be more and do more. The truth is that once I took a step back and examined what all of this work I’m doing is for, I realized it is ALL hospitality work because I am a woman, and that is what most of us are called to do. We are the welcomers, the warm hugs, the planners, the nurturers. It would be a shame if we let the pressure to put hospitality in a tiny box that looks like dinner around a dining table keep us from experiencing the joy in all of the other hospitality ventures that we are already undertaking.
Remember that this faith is not about trying harder. It’s about the gospel changing who we are. Hospitality will be a natural by-product of that change, whether in our houses or outside of them. Ushering people through the doors of our homes is wonderful. True gospel purpose can lie in that very thing. But, it is also all around us, in opportunities that go far beyond our dining tables. Don’t let the good message that hospitality is important blind you to the fact that it is not homebound. You can offer warmth, welcome, and a sense of belonging to anyone, anywhere, anytime. And chances are you are doing so more often than you realize. Take heart, dear women. Hospitality is not merely a well-laid table. It’s a wide circle of opportunity where you can serve right now, right where you are, even if your house is not even close to being ready for company.
This is my thinking as well. I’ve often felt that hospitality is first a matter of the heart. And I’ve often been convicted of running my errands with blinders on and thoughts churning instead of paying attention to the people around me.
I am guilty of the same thing, Barbara! Thank you for reading!
“But, I also want to send a clear message to women like me, women who are rarely home, whose kids are in fifteen different activities after school, whose family generally eats at different times in different cars in different cities” To me this is sad and disappointing. I don’t believe this is best for families. When are you actually together as a family? Choices are costly one way or the other. We’ve made ours and they are costly – sacrificial in cultural terms. I stay home (for 30 years with many children), we school at home and have many people in our home (not strictly for meals only) but it’s never fancy…. I agree that hospitality can happen anywhere but the home is the center of the family and so many folks outside of Christianity need to see a real Christian home/family doing life together.
Nancy, I stay at home like you do, and we are a tight-knit family that is also extremely active in our church and community. There are lots of different ways to be a God-honoring family. Thanks for reading!
God has given us our children and to honor Him a family needs time together. Just as we need time with our husbands connecting and getting on the same page, we need time as a family to connect. I have a 23, 21, 18, and 15 year old. Taking a walk, doing a puzzle, playing a game (board or athletic), or just having a ham sandwich together have been some of the most memorable times. There is lots of laughter and topics come up because we are unhurried and relaxed. It isn’t all roses, there is conflict that gets to be worked through, because we are all sinners saved by His grace. We can learn how to extend grace to those closest to us, handle our differences, and work out relationships.
Cleaning together is also great because they learn how to care for their own home when they are on their own, and I don’t have to do it all. Working together builds a sense of unity and ownership for them.
We are modeling family to our kids. I need to ask myself if what I am communicating to my kids about how to be a family is best for everyone in the family.
Hospitality naturally flows out of that love we share in the Lord.
It sure can look many different ways, though!
Yes, it is hard to communicate over the internet! I really like the spirit of hospitality that you are promoting in this blog!
Many blessings to you!
People can also see a real Christian family when that family is doing life with those in the larger context of a community. We’re busy, but it is awesome and this season will soon end, but we’re working for the kingdom and loving every minute!
Yes! We need to be involved in the community! Balance is the issue, I think.
I really like and encourage the idea of hospitality on the go like the article said. We should all be relating to others with the love of Christ wherever we are.
It makes me sad, though, to read about people always on the run. Busyness is a problem in our society. There are costs to not having a regular time to connect as a family. As some have commented raising kids is just a season. I hope that we can make the most of it. I hope my kids do not remember me as the one who just enabled them to be in lots of activities. I want our relationship to be more than me driving them places, feeding them and doing their laundry. Those ARE important things, but there is so much more to parenting.
Some down time can allow for important reflection and discussion that cannot be scheduled or forced. Building memories that are not based on an activity outside the family (even a church activity) can go a long way. I do not want to pass on the busy sickness to my kids. How we structure our lives and our kids lives speaks volumes to them about priorities.
As to hospitality, a somewhat messy house is not a reason to shy away from having someone in. I am not going to project perfection because I am not perfect and it would not help others to project that false image. Also, kids having friends over can sure be a ministry. If our home is too dirty to even think of someone seeing it, we need to step back and take time to clean it, for our own sake.
Nancy, it is so hard to communicate on the internet. I hope you will take from this piece the meaning that was intended instead of seeing it as a complete picture of my family’s life. I think those who know us would never claim that we spend too little time together as a family. Our life is full and fun and we know our limits. As to our house, although it isn’t perfect, now that my kids are older we all work together to keep it neat.
You’re right–the way we structure the priorities of our families is so important. I assure you that we do our best to honor God both in our home and outside of it. Thanks for your comment, and I hope that you were encouraged in some way, even if that encouragement was hoping that you don’t end up like me. Ha! Thank you for reading!
I think my concern was that the line (hyperbole though it might be) “But, I also want to send a clear message to women like me, women who are rarely home, whose kids are in fifteen different activities after school, whose family generally eats at different times in different cars in different cities” might be an affirmation for people to be too busy.
Thank you for writing this, Melissa!
I liked your words and the thought that hospitality flows from the Spirit of God,like all our gifts. As an older Christian, I’d like to encourage you with the knowledge that this is also just a season. One day the activities will be done, the house will be clean and you will have the time and energy to have people in your home if you choose, and it will be such a gift because you have practiced the presence of God in all circumstances.
Thank you, Jacquie!
I’m a tired, busy SAHM. I absolutely appreciated reading this post. So often I feel obligated to do things because I think someone else expects it from me. That’s not where the heart of hospitality flows from. Thank you for your thoughts.
I understand 100%, Brandi! Thanks so much for your comment!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have felt like such a failure when it comes to hospitality, but this really lightened the guilt and pressure, giving me much-needed encouragement.
I’m so glad, Kathryn!
I’m an older, ever single working woman who is often serving at church in the evening. I often find the best way to do hospitality is to meet with a friend for coffee or a meal, with me “treating.” I can enjoy my guest and the meal between leaving home and going to my next stop. If we do eat at my place, takeout or delivery from a nice restaurant is also a great option. I don’t think it’s about the place, as much as it it about the heart of the person who is hosting.
Great idea, Linn!
For more on hospitality, see Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 13:2; and 1 Peter 4:9.
Thank you for this, Melissa. It’s a breath of fresh air. Especially this:
“Don’t let the good message that hospitality is important blind you to the fact that it is not homebound. You can offer warmth, welcome, and a sense of belonging to anyone, anywhere, anytime….Hospitality is not merely a well-laid table. It’s a wide circle of opportunity where you can serve right now, right where you are, even if your house is not even close to being ready for company.”
Hearing you acknowledge the validity of offering hospitality outside the home is freeing. There are many reasons why people may not be at a place to have people in. Spending an hour with a friend at a coffee shop or inviting a family to join you on a favorite hike can serve some of the same purposes as having someone into your home, and allow people to offer hospitality in creative ways. Thank you.