Hospitality is the gracious welcome of individuals into one’s home. The practice aids in instilling meaning into the home by opening it to be a place of ministry and welcome to others. The comfortable setting of the home is ideal for sharing and building relationships in life. The benefits to practicing hospitality are numerous, but yet so are the barriers. In fact, it’s the barriers that get primary attention. Though I believe in incorporating hospitality into my home and family, I still battle with fears and insecurities. These emotions burden the hospitality effort, and eventually manifest in the form of excuses such as having no one to invite, inadequate accommodations, inconvenience, expense and inability to be entertaining.
The first barrier to hospitality is in the form of a question: “Who do I invite?” Begin by inviting individuals known well or that share some known commonalities. This approach will provide a starting point. As hospitality becomes a more common in life, then so with the ease at which it is conducted. At that point, inviting and conversing individuals with whom you are less familiar will become easier. Set a goal of choosing one family to invite each month. Can you think of just twelve contacts you have in your life? Who do you know well and would enjoy greater time together? Who do you know on an acquaintance level that you could invite to begin a greater level of friendship? Perhaps even a family member could be your guest. Should it not be ordinary to invite a sibling, aunt, uncle or cousin to be a part of your home and family? Choose one individual or family, muster up your courage, and simply ask.
It would seem that the size of the guest list must be equal to the accommodations available in the home, but this is not necessarily the case. Always remember that people are greater than possessions. Paper plates and cups can supplement the dishes in the cabinets. Floor cushions or kitchen chairs can be used to increase seating in the living room. Spread a vinyl tablecloth or large plastic on the floor, and allow any children to have a picnic. Whatever the issue may be, there is a way to solve it by keeping the focus on people.
Another hospitality barrier is the matter of convenience. Opening the home in hospitality and connecting with others requires time and effort, which are often so tightly squeezed in the many activities in life. However, some of the greatest or most meaningful moments in life are also highly inconvenient, yet are absolutely worthy of the investment. Convenience isn’t everything, but relationships are! Life is enriched by relationships, and so is the home and family. We all have a need for connectedness, and this effort is worthy of enduring some inconvenience. The potential strain and stress of hospitality within the home can be lessened by planning. Make a list of all tasks that need to be accomplished, and then divide them among the time available. The goal is to not get caught making all preparations just prior to your guests’ arrival. You’re family and guests will have little appreciation for hospitality if you become a nervous-wreck trying to get it all together at the last moment. Second, the most important aspect to remember is to keep it simple. There is no need to make a grand meal or fuss every time. Pasta dishes are easy and enjoyed by everyone. During warm weather, serve a large salad. Soups are fantastic for cold weather (plus they can be cooked or kept warm in a slow cooker!). Hospitality is not about impressing guests, but blessing them.
The temptation to impress guests can also be seen in the attempt at making each moment together entertaining. Determining activity or conversation can be a challenge, especially if the host is naturally shy or introverted (that’s me!). The greatest resource for learning what to do is to take notes when you are invited to others’ homes. If conversation is an issue, come up with a few guest-oriented questions or topics ahead of time. You may not need them, but if you get in an awkward silence then you have a back-up. I recently picked up the idea of a comedy video as a great activity. A shared movie night can also but fun, but keep in mind that staring at the screen leaves little opportunity for interaction. My favorite activity is playing games. There are so many fantastic group games available! The more hospitality is practiced, the more ideas there will be to draw on.
Even with aforementioned hurdles jumped, there remains one really big concern- expense. Hospitality does not and should not have to cause a financial strain on your family. This can occur, however, when the focus becomes distant from the heart of the effort. Again, keep it simple! Use the accommodations that are already in your home, make economical meals, and allow a joyful spirit in you be that which is attractive. A really fun meal idea that spreads the cost around is to create a theme for the gathering. For instance, invite guests to a “Make your own pizza night!” You supply the crusts and sauce, and then each guest brings his/her favorite toppings. Trying everyone else’s favorite is a fun way to have plenty of pizza varieties (not to mention that you didn’t have to purchase each ingredient on your own). Themes can be to “make your own: baked/mashed potatoes, nachos/tacos, hot chocolate, ice cream, chili, chocolate/cheese fondue etc.” Toss out the idea of hospitality having to be fancy, and just have fun! It is possible to practice hospitality without going broke.
Hospitality is a worthy endeavor to begin incorporating in life. If you weren’t raised in a home that practiced hospitality or if your own home has come to have closed doors, then resolve to take steps today to open them even if those steps are small. Even if fears and insecurities persist, they don't have to become the root to excuses for avoiding hospitality. Hospitality can come to easily incorporate the simple invitation of friends and family, adequate accommodations, convenience, less expense and less pressure to be able to be entertaining. The heart of hospitality is about connecting and deepening relationships with others.
Linked up at: A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Deep Roots At Home, Raising Homemakers, We Are THAT Family, Raising Mighty Arrows, Our Simple Country Life