The Practice of Hospitality
Hospitality is not the same as planning a party. Please don’t get me wrong. I love a good party, but you can’t host an epic event in your house every week! It’s too exhausting and expensive. The practice of hospitality for our family isn’t about boasting a fully coordinated spread of food and décor. It’s a mindset that has become established and infused into our daily lives as a result of conviction, prayer and the ordering of our priorities. Our house and everything in it, after all, are gifts from the Lord to be used to bring glory to His name. We are stewards who simply aim to use our home to love our neighbors well, to create a space of respite and safety, and to provide a place to gather and foster community in our part of the city.
Quite some time ago, we were hosting a group of friends from church in our home. One young woman made a comment that has stuck with me. She said:
“What I love about your home is that it’s not nice.”
She went on to explain — our furniture was comfortable, lived in, rather than fancy and perfect. She felt she could settle in and visit as if she were in her own home. Shaping a space where people feel at home in our house has become a driving force for our hospitality ever since. Here are just a few examples of how we have worked to create a sense of home for others:
- Our home is simple. Everything has a place; space isn’t overcrowded with things. This allows people to move about without feeling they are in the way. It also makes it easy for people to find the things they need. A few months ago, we had our community group over for dinner and fellowship. I left the kitchen to greet some people. When I returned, several women had begun setting up platters, stirring pots on the stove and assigning serving pieces to specific dishes. They had become comfortable in my kitchen as if it were their own. They knew exactly where everything was; they didn’t feel intimidated to jump in to set things up.
- Our home has several different spaces for gathering. There are places for smaller groups of two and spaces for larger groups of eight. We utilize our outside patio and yard as many months out of the year as nature will allow. People come to feel known and heard, each with their own stories and limitations. Some need that quiet space to gather with just one person to share a hardship, while others need to be swept up into the joy of fellowship in a community of believers laughing together.
- Our home is tidy, but never spotless. With three boys and a dog, we haven’t had clean floors in years. We clean our house at night after people have gone home. It seems silly to us to clean our home when it will only get dirty again an hour later. Cleaning up after the guests have left allows our family the time we need to talk through the night’s events, update one another on prayer requests as well as make plans to follow up and care for members of our community. We debrief while we clean.
- Our home has a hospitality cabinet in the basement. It holds everything we need to host a large group (water dispensers, plates, bowls, glasses and silverware), so that we can set up quickly. Our kids know the “community group drill.” Our family knows how to work together to be ready for a crowd in about twenty minutes. To have this kind of orderly action plan is a gift for our family that means hospitality isn’t intimidating and doesn’t infringe on our family life. By removing the stress of preparation, we have felt increasing freedom to weave hospitality into the life of our family. The practice of hospitality now comes easily to our children. It’s an expected part of our family culture.
While the practical elements of hospitality are incredibly important, what has been most transformative is how the Lord has allowed me to relinquish control of my home when people come over. I am a person who appreciates order, who believes there is a right and a wrong way to do things. One might think that hosting in my home would be a chance to demonstrate just how much I love to be in control. The funny thing is that people can’t feel at home if they’re constantly worried about following a set of rules dissimilar to their own. To practice biblical hospitality in our family means to relinquish control of our home for the sake of others. We still have rules, of course, meant for safety and protection, but otherwise, people can sit where they want, eat where they want, track dirt and mud in from the outside. They can spill a drink or even a whole plate of food on the floor, yet they will be met with the same grace that we receive from Jesus every day.
Our hope as a family has been to use our home as a place for Jesus to work and for the gospel to be on display. We welcome people into our messy, loud family, to make them feel at ease, to become a part of our community, to be known and loved for who they are. If our practice of hospitality allows this to happen in even a small way, we are grateful. The hard work, frustrations and disappointments along the way will have been worth it.
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