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.