Friday, June 22, 2012

The Practice & Power of Hospitality

Once we invited our neighboring Mexican family over for dinner to celebrate the husbands birthday.  I knew he had tried roasted prime rib once and loved it, but they couldn't afford it, and didn't know how to cook it.  Of course when I served it for his birthday meal, he lit up like a kid in a candy shop!  "For me?", he asked.  "Really? I have not had anyone ever go to so much trouble before to celebrate my birthday, and you even know that I like this meat best!"  He beamed throughout the meal, and the family was all smiles that we were celebrating and honoring their family in this way.  They stayed well into the evening opening up and sharing personal stories, and allowing us to pray for them before they left.  A door into their heart was opened to Christ through roasted prime rib.

Hospitality is not the kind of spiritual gift that dynamically changes a life in a moment, like the gift of healing.  Nor is it powerful in unlocking understanding, as in the gift of teaching. It is not especially empowering or encouraging like the gift of prophecy.  For all these things that it may not be, hospitality is powerful in unlocking and preparing a person/persons for all these spiritual things to take place.  It is like a platform, an environment, that creates an atmosphere of welcome, acceptance, freedom, security and love from which ministry and the Presence of Jesus can flow and accomplish His purposes. Living a life of hospitality is also living a life of ministry and mission.  Hospitality is a "one another" ministry to those who already know Christ.  However, when extending hospitality to those who don't know Christ, it then becomes missional hospitality.  Your mission is to introduce and communicate Jesus in tangible and powerful ways, and then let Jesus take it from there. This is one of the best and most valuable reasons for living simple, organic church out of your home.  It's a powerful venue if you understand and make us of it's power.

Here are some tangible ways to communicate the value and worth of people as we welcome them into our homes and ultimately our lives. Whether it is for one day, an evening, or a few days, the basic principles are the same in practicing hospitality.
  • Greet people at the door when they enter, and see them off when they leave.
  • Don't ignore your guests and get busy with other things.  Once they enter your home, they should be your focus.  If you have children, involve them in serving them also. This is where the team of husband and wife can "tag-team" together so the guests don't feel ignored and left to themselves.  Of course you can always involve them in preparations that still need to happen.
  • Research your guests and know some information about them. They will notice that you made an effort (however small) to attend to their uniqueness and that will immediately communicate their value to you. Things like certain foods and drinks that they enjoy, putting dogs/cats in other rooms if they are afraid or allergic to them.  Find out any particular comforts that will mean a lot to them, like a glass of water near their bed, the particular snacks they like, extra blankets, etc.  Fine tune your hospitality to meet their needs.  When I visit with my friend the Dale's, they always turn the jacuzzi on in the evenings because they know it is a treat for me to use it since we don't have one, and I love to sit in the jacuzzi!
  • Serve your guests. Especially in the beginning until they feel comfortable in your home. For some people this may take awhile, and for others this can be pretty quick, but look at it as an opportunity to serve them while they are with you and not to teach them independence and autonomy.
  • Let them have the best you have to offer.  We have a large leather recliner that is the most comfortable chair in our home, as well as some comfy couches.  Instead of securing the best spot for ourselves, we sit in the least comfortable places, giving preference to our guests. 
  • One thing I learned from my friends from other countries, was to provide a small gift on occasion for those coming over. Chocolates, a card, something personal in their guest room, all communicate (with the power that giving gifts uniquely does) how special they are to you.
  • Listen, ask questions, be interested in their life!  I can't tell you how many times I have been a guest in someones home and I have not been asked anything about me, my life, my family, etc. That alone communicates loudly that you are really not interested in them, and to only talk about yourself and your life exemplifies it!
  • In our culture, and depending on the region you live in, the practice of "dropping in" is regarded as uncomfortable at best, and rude at worst.  But if we want our home to be a hospitable place, folks need to feel that they can come by anytime and we will be happy to receive them.  This was hard for me because I was the type of person who wanted the house nice, clean and everything prepared when someone came by. I wanted to feel "ready" for visitors. We have a Laotian friend who is deaf who would stop by at the worst times.  He'd walk in the house while I was napping, dressing, getting ready to leave, just sitting down to dinner, disciplining our get the idea.  But we got over it, and we learned to love his interruptions of our lives, and enjoy his company for the time he spent with us.  Repeat and repeat that you're okay with people "stopping by" unannounced, and then when they do - receive them like your okay with it.  If your not, then don't do this, but realize that may cause people to see that you have "conditional hospitality" that is based upon their pre-scheduling their visits.
*A note about this if your wanting to reach your neighborhood with hospitality. Kids in our neighborhood always have the invitation to come into our house anytime during the day or early evening, and we encourage them to experience our home as an inviting and safe place, and as a refuge if they needed it.  Many have done this, and some powerful times of sharing, prayer, and counsel between them and our kids, and with Tom and I, have occurred over the years.  A couple times instead of running away, they came to our place instead because they felt comfortable coming into our home.

The bottom line of hospitality is to communicate through your words and actions - love.  God wants to use our lives and homes incredible ways, if we understand the power that hospitality holds and make diligent use of it.  The Bible says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13: 34-35.

 Let's be known for showing love and using hospitality as a venue to do so.


  1. Hi Katie,

    You've collected together some great ideas here. Thanks for compiling them and sharing them, they'll help anyone who wants to be hospitable.

  2. Chris, thanks for the comment! I'm hoping to revive an issue (hospitality) that is not as glitzy as some other topics in simple, organic church conversations, but is really powerful in the impact it can have.