Practicing hospitality is a way to share God’s grace and bless others. But practicing hospitality requires just that – practice. If hospitality isn’t part of your thought patterns or family’s regular routines, then knowing where to start or how to do it might feel overwhelming.
Biblical hospitality presents two challenges to us. First, hospitality in the Bible is a command. It’s not optional. Almost every instance of the word “hospitality” in the New Testament is connected to an imperative (Cf. Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9). Second, hospitality is active. Romans 12:13 says we are to “seek to show hospitality.” We can’t just idly sit around and wait for opportunities for hospitality to come upon us, though they might. We are to be looking out for occasions to open our homes and hearts to others.
It’s one thing to understand that hospitality is an active state of living we are commanded to carry out, but it’s an entirely different thing to practically obey and apply in our lives. With that in mind, I want to provide you with some real-world examples and advice on getting started on living a lifestyle of hospitality.
Attitudes of Your Heart
- To practice hospitality, you must make time for it. If hospitality isn’t part of your natural family rhythms, stepping into it will take purposeful planning. To follow this biblical command, you might have to cut out other activities in your life or block out extra time for grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. But the joy of going deep into the lives of other Christians will far outweigh any opportunity cost we might be paying.
- Not all entertaining is hospitality, and not all hospitality is simply entertaining. Hospitality is about caring for your guests, getting to know them, and pointing them to Jesus. You can do this over watching sports or playing board games together, but you could also simply share a meal, talk, and pray with them about an issue they’re facing.
- Perhaps most important of all is to show hospitality without grumbling or complaining (1 Peter 4:9). Peter wouldn’t have felt the need to point this out if we didn’t have a sinful propensity in our hearts to gripe about others even in the middle of trying to care for them. When you commit to showing hospitality, you’ll encounter things that might tempt you to complain – someone tracked mud into the house, kids spilled juice on the carpet, your guests stayed a little longer than you’d planned. But God wants the attitudes of our hearts to reflect the openness of our homes.
Ambiance of Your Home
- Relax, enjoy the time, and get to know your guest. Remember the words of Jesus as you are serving: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Martha was an incredible host, but she missed the most important thing – fellowship with her guest. Food and fun will come and go, but relationships with other Christians are eternal.
- Stay off your phone! Resist the urge to show them the latest funny video that came across your feed. Don’t Google the year that movie came out. It’s just not as important as staying engaged in the conversation at hand. Opening the door to phones during table fellowship is the easiest way to shut the door to the heart.
- Be clean, but it’s okay if your house feels “lived-in.” When we anticipate hosting someone, we do clean the house – dusting, vacuuming, wiping down the bathroom. But we don’t try to make our house something it’s not.
Actions You Can Take
- Budget for hospitality each month. Know that it will cost you something and anticipate the expense. Shop the sales and the Buy-One-Get-One’s at the supermarket. Get a membership to a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s to make bulk purchases on things you know you’ll need to host.
- If you’re new to regularly hosting in your home, start slow. Just do something simple like pizza and chips & salsa. As great as food can be, your guests are there for fellowship.
- Consider a repeated, staple meal that’s easy to make, like a crockpot lasagna. In the flurry of prepping your home for guests, having a meal that’s easy to cook will cut down on stress and help prevent mistakes. Or find a recipe that you can prep the night before and freeze overnight. When it’s time for guests to arrive, pop it into the oven!
- One thing we’ve learned over the years of regularly hosting folks in our home is that it takes longer than you think to prep, so give yourself extra time to cook and tidy up.
- Have something on hand for last minute. Stock your pantry and freezer with a few items that have long shelf lives – tea, frozen cookie dough, individually bagged snacks. That way, you’ll always be ready to host at a moment’s notice.
- Think of the whole family. If you’ve got older kids, but plan on hosting families with younger kids, get out your kids’ old toys and books from the attic for the littles.
Wherever you are on the journey of growing in hospitality, I want to challenge you to take your next step in the next month. If you’ve not hosted another family in a long time (or perhaps ever), create some space in your calendar and invite someone over for dinner or even just coffee and dessert. If you’re a pro at hosting, help another family take their first steps into hospitality. No matter where you are, the grace we can share with others by practicing biblical hospitality is always worth it.
Austin Collins (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Serve Pastor at First Baptist Church.