“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
According to Dictionary.com, hospitality is “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers,” or “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” Hospitality visibly portrays the acceptance that we have in Christ. It is a concrete and practical way to show love for our neighbors and, therefore, our obedience and love for God. Plus, it’s just fun to have people over.
The writer Carolyn McCulley was very influential in shaping my thoughts about hospitality when I began to grow in this area. Her article The Single Woman’s Home: A Mission Field and her posts on home and hospitality on her blog were the spring board for my desire to start opening up my home to others. Also more recently, I’ve become acquainted via the internet with Sandy Coughlin who has some great thoughts about hospitality. You can check out her book The Reluctant Entertainer and/or her blog for some great info.
Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade (and honed my cooking skills, for which my new husband is very grateful). So here are a few basic tips on showing hospitality:
- Now is the time. You don’t have to wait until…whatever you may be waiting for—marriage, better utensils, more room… Learn to cook and bless others by showing your love through hospitality.
- Use what the Lord has given you for His glory (being mindful of those you live with, of course; they are your closest neighbors). You don’t have to have a wonderfully spacious and fancy-schmancy house (I currently live in a 600 sq ft one bedroom apt). You don’t even have to have a house! You can make people feel welcome wherever you are or bring the welcome with you in a meal to a hurting family.
- Start Small. You don’t have to throw a party for forty people or be an expert on all things domestic to be hospitable. Just a few friends (or even just one!) over for dinner is good. As you get more comfortable, then you can start to invite people who aren’t like you and learn from them. Cultivate relationships with unbelieving neighbors or coworkers, married couples, families, retired people, college kids, etc. The possibilities for blessing others are limitless!
- Prep beforehand. Do everything you can before your guests arrive. Think about what it will take to get everything on the table at the same time. When do you need to put the casserole (that you assembled the night before…) in the oven? Make a list to get the timing down if it helps you.
- Enlist help. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring something. And once they get there, delegate. Filling cups with ice or stirring the sauce or setting the table are things that most guests are happy to do and it can sometimes even help them feel more at home.
- Have a go-to stash. I learned to keep some extra food on hand for the unexpected drop in or impromptu invite. For example, I keep decaf coffee and a pack of break & bake cookie dough in my freezer for last minute guests (you can just pop them straight in the oven and give them a little more time than the package says and voila! You have fresh baked cookies for your guests in no time flat. Note, it can be dangerous to have cookies available at all times…).
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. People will remember the way they felt in your home more than the way everything looked (or tasted). I quickly learned that my home allows for deeper conversations on more personal topics than a restaurant does. Also, intentionally seeking to show hospitality can be a way to minister to the lonely or hurting and can also help with your own struggles by placing your attention on someone other than you.
- Enjoy. There were many times during my early attempts at hospitality that I became anxious and overwhelmed, but as I learned how to manage time better (so that my guests were not trying to converse with a frantic, panicking hostess…) things got easier. There were many times (and still are) that I heard the Lord tenderly call me “Martha” and remind me that there is “only one thing necessary” (Luke 10:38-42)…and it’s not the food or the look of my house, it’s the Lord Jesus and serving Him with a joyful and peaceful heart. So I learned to relax and enjoy, and hopefully, it was also more enjoyable for my guests.
I hope these tips are helpful. There are lots of great websites and books on entertaining and showing hospitality. You don’t have to look far. So get to it! And may the Lord bless you with a fruitful ministry.