Grow: Practicing the Art of Hospitality
The holidays are a great time for kids to practice the beautiful practice of hospitality. While hospitality can initially provoke thoughts of decorations, food preparation, and cleaning, the act of hospitality actually goes much deeper.
Hospitality is the act of welcoming others. We decorate and we cook and we clean to prepare an environment that will make people feel welcomed and celebrated. It can be really important (and fun!) for our children to join us in preparations for others. Sometimes we have discussions like:
- What do you think ____________ would like to eat? What kinds of foods would best fit our time with them?
- What kind of decoration can we make for the table that would be nice for our friends to look at?
- How can you help clean the house so that our friends have places to sit and walk without falling and breaking their necks? 🙂
Once our guests are with us, how can we continue to offer hospitality? While there are lots of ways that are unique to each family, here are some of our ideas:
- Make up some questions that the kids (or yourself!) can ask of your guests. Think about what your guests like to do, what’s going on in their lives, etc. and prayerfully ask- what can we talk about with them that is going to be meaningful? How can I encourage __________ today? Teaching our kids to ask good questions will help them as they grow and learn to love others well.
- Practice listening. Talk about what a good listener does and does not do. Practice listening to one another and following up with other questions. Our kids aren’t going to learn that in one evening, but we can be great models to them. It can sometimes be a challenge for us to really listen to our friends after asking them a question because there’s usually a lot going on (food! drinks! kids! clearing the table!)
- Give people something to do. Working together on something is a great way to get to know someone better. Allow your guest to make the salad or chop the veggies or pour the drinks. When we let others serve, they too are sharing in the experience.
As we embark on the holiday and entertaining season, here are some verses to linger over as we think about the practice of hospitality:
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9
Finally, I want to share with you two stories of when Jake and I were the ones to whom hospitality was shown…and how it helped us broader our views of what it could look like.
Early in marriage, Jake and I had to live apart for about a year when Jake was stationed in Oklahoma and I was working in Missouri. Over Easter weekend, I was able to visit him, and we decided to take a weekend trip to Texas where we had heard of a pretty cool church called Mosaic Arlington. We had been reading the blog of the pastor for a few months, and when we told him we would like to come for Easter service, he was overjoyed- and asked us to come stay with him and his family for the weekend. So, this pastor, his wife, and three children welcomed us into their home- gave us a room and a key to come in and out as we pleased, cooked us meals, and spent hours with us, talking on the couch after the kids went to bed about life, faith, sports, whatever. The night before we left, they even took us out to a really nice restaurant! To them, we were absolute strangers who they knew would not stay and be a permanent part of the church plant. But yet they invested in us for a weekend, adjusting their whole lives at the last minute (and during a traditionally very stressful time for a pastor!). We learned that weekend about embracing the stranger…about encouraging those whom God places in our paths…about investing in people, even if it’s not “permanent”… about rearranging lives to welcome another person into our homes…. to practice hospitality even while having children to tend to.
Here’s to blessing our friends, families (and strangers) this holiday season with the gift of hospitality- a warm welcoming that ministers to the heart of the people whom we are spending time with.