Reviving the Art of Hospitality

Featured on The Essential Life

Years ago, it was just what people did. They invited people into their homes for fellowship & a meal. It was normal, accepted, & wonderful. & somehow we’ve slipped away from that.

Anymore our homes are very private. If we’re ever invited into a neighbor’s house, it is a rare treat, & feels very invasive. Our generation has gotten lazy on keeping their homes “guest-ready” & have become absorbed with their TVs, social media friends, meeting outside the home to shop & dine, & people never really invite people over. Ever.

Don’t even think about knocking on someone’s door without a good reason (like that their dog escaped). They’ll think you’re selling something, might not even open the door at all, &, if they do, they will probably eye you very suspiciously. We just naturally are suspicious of strangers, & even with the people we do know well we have a hard time accepting them into our homes.

Maybe occasionally you’ll get the house gussied up & host a dinner party, or you’ll have the family over for a birthday party, but having others over for something other than a scheduled event is rare-to-non-existent.

Why? What Happened?

There’s a somewhat old-fashioned word called “hospitality.” This is what people did. All the time. If someone was known for being hospitable, they were known for using their home in a way that blessed others. Inviting people for meals, having a guest room ready for a needy traveler, taking meals to sick or house-bound people, or when a new baby arrived… there are a whole list of ways it was used & so appreciated by people.

I can’t really tell you all the reasons why this art is dying. But it is. & I think it’s high time to revive it.

I’m grateful to be part of a church that is all about hospitality, & it’s pumped into my veins to try to be that way. I still find it difficult in our culture, though, like I’m swimming upstream. I, too, have those natural feelings of just wanting it to be “us” in the evenings, jealously clinging to our free-time as something precious I need to hoard. But I’m so humbled when I remember that there is much more reward in sharing something precious than in keeping it all to myself.

I recently facilitated meals for a friend who had had a baby. I enjoyed doing it, but it got to be so awkward! It felt like pulling teeth trying to get willing people to share their time & make a meal for her, & it was hard to explain to her why there weren’t enough meals. Even though I knew there were a lot of people who loved her & wanted to help, people were very hesitant to commit to taking a meal. & it was disappointing. I called upon a few trusted friends & we shared the load for her (which she appreciated so much), but it was a sad reminder to me of the nature of our culture.

It’s Time for a Change

There is such a beauty in being intentional & slowing down our lives so we can enjoy them! Enjoying them with others is an even better blessing.

You’ll be surprised how big of a difference it makes when you invite people into your homes & really get to know them. We are so consumed with “putting on appearances” & having a perfect “profile picture,” “Instagram-worthy” life on social media that we don’t intentionally get to know people & let them know us. That’s a shame. Let’s stop living “perfect” lives & just share our humble, imperfect, but real lives with others!

Here are a few ideas for how to increase your hospitality so you can bless others & bless yourself & your own family!

  1. Commit to having someone over for dinner on a regular basis. Whatever this needs to look like for your family (it will differ, for sure). We try to have a different family over for dinner at least twice a month. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a goal in our minds that we’ve committed to as a family, & so it helps push us to do it!

  2. Be careful not to fall into a rut of having the same friends over that you feel comfortable around. The point of being hospitable is to increase our love for each other & to get to know people better. Reach out to a neighbour, a family at church you don’t know very well, or a relative you don’t see often. Or even a stranger! I had a friend who met someone at the park & invited them over for dinner. That initial awkwardness might just turn into a lasting friendship!

  3. Make your home available. If a friend needs a place to hang out & just talk, have her over! We don’t always have to meet other places, we can really bless people by having them to our homes! It gives them a good picture of our lives & really lets them in on a deeper level than just meeting for coffee. Have other moms over for a play-date, plan your next book or Bible Study there, or invite a friend for coffee & homemade muffins at your place! It’s a way to bless others & share your life with them.

  4. Make your home comfortable. It doesn’t have to be expensive! Having a comfy couch & pillows & some pretty flowers on the table can be comforting to a friend who just needs to talk. She’ll be grateful for a private & cozy place to share her heart with you! Make some iced tea or a snack & be ready to bless her before she’s even walked in the door. The little things do matter! I didn’t even realise how much until several of my friends mentioned how much they loved how I always have a snack or tea for them when they come over. It was something so simple I hadn’t even realised it, I was just hungry or thirsty & thought I’d share, yet it blessed them, & encouraged me to keep on doing it!

  5. Get organised so it’s not so agonising. I know, I’ve been there. The last minute scramble before company comes because the house is a mess. With little toddlers, it just isn’t possible to have it all perfect, & that’s okay. People will be understanding of your life (they know you have toddlers, too!). But it’s surprising how much a little organisation can go a long way! Having a place for everything makes clean-up much easier (even last-minute, “hey, I’m on my way” clean-up). Take a weekend to get some organisation done & relax in the knowledge that your home is much more prepared for hospitality. I find that when I am prepared for being hospitable I’m much more willing to actually be hospitable!

  6. Make some freezer meals specifically for taking to someone. I have a good friend who rocks this & always has a few meals in the freezer she can just take to someone on the spur of the moment when needed. It’s so great! It doesn’t always have to be a baby or a death that drags a meal from us! Sometimes it’s nice to give a meal just because! If a friend is having a hard week, offer to bring her a meal! It was such a blessing to us a few months ago when we were so sick with the flu & 3 people brought us meals & groceries. It was incredibly helpful & such a wonderful blessing. It may not mean as much to you on your end, but the person receiving it will be so grateful!

  7. Just double your dinner so you can take them a meal! I usually do this. I’m not great about the freezer meals! But I can definitely double my food & take half to another family. So, don’t feel like you have to plan something elaborate & expensive to take someone a meal. Just plan your meal plan with a little extra & maybe a nice bagged salad & you have a simple meal that will be a big help to someone else. Of course, you are welcome to do more than that, but I know from experience that people are grateful for any help when they are down, sick, or recovering, & something small to you might be perfect for them!

  8. Slow down a little. It’s hard! We just tend to gravitate towards busyness so easily! But commit to slowing down enough to take the time to bless others & you will find something so fulfilling & worth all of the time you spend on it! I promise you, the more you share your life & home with others, the more you will be blessed yourself. It just always works that way.

Get to Know Your Neighbours

In short, look for ways to be hospitable. Hospitality doesn’t just happen, which is perhaps why it’s slowly dying. It’s something we have to practice at & get good at just like anything we do. We also have to look for opportunities to use it well.

Instead of waiting for that next meal calendar to go around, or for someone to invite you over first, take the initiative! Invite someone over, make family commitments to be hospitable with your home & your time. Make some freezer meals, or at least commit to taking a meal to someone when given the chance. Little things like these are what make up the blessing that is hospitality.

Baby steps are totally okay! It doesn’t have to happen overnight at all. Start somewhere & see where it takes you. I’m confident that if you become better at hospitality you’ll have a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.