Open Your Home With Small Kids

A hospitable Christian home should be the norm. When Jesus ascended, His last command was to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:20). When you’re a mom of young kids, leaving to disciple people in a foreign country probably isn’t on your agenda; your primary discipleship is to the little people under your roof. But you also have another mission field: The one outside your door.

Your neighborhood.

Your street.

Your town.

Your church.

The people here are in your life for a reason. As a follower of Jesus, you are called to share Christ with them through your words and your life. One of the best ways to do this is to open your home.

As a teen I watched my parents (both introverts, by the way) open their doors over and over, host and invite and live out hospitality even when it wasn’t reciprocated. I remember my mom stacking piles of dishes by the sink, saying: “You may do 80% of the inviting and only 20% of the time get invited to your guest’s homes. Invite anyway.”

This is something Josh and I are dedicated to doing with the home God has given us. We bought a house in town so we are accessible to those coming through. On average, people are in our home 2-5 times a week for parties, dinners, or simply stopping by! Our intentional effort has been deeply rewarded by God and the people we’ve met.

Whenever I share this, I’m asked how to make this happen with small kids. We have two daughters ages 3 1/2 and almost 1 1/2. We’ve been opening our home weekly since we moved in when Adeline was just turned one. So basically, our entire hospitality experience has been accomplished with small children!

Those who’ve followed me a while know I believe in rejecting the cultural motherhood narrative that makes us “victims” of our children – a narrative which says we can’t get dressed, shower, shop, or live since we birthed these little souls. The reality? People have opened their homes for thousands of years while caring for young children! In fact, having your children there to observe hospitality as your norm will transform their own view of this biblical pursuit – just as it did for me.

Hospitality with small kids requires intentionality. Following are a few things we’ve implemented to make this practice as simple as possible.

Change Your Mindset

To open your home when your kids are small you must let go of perfectionism. If you are only willing to open your home when it looks like a Pinterest picture, you’ll never do it! Jesus isn’t calling us to be Martha Stewart. He’s calling us to emulate Him, opening our arms and our tables to the people He has purposely put into our lives.

This shift requires a thought exchange:

  • Exchanging pursuit of perfection for pursuit of generosity. A perfectionist is more concerned with everything being RIGHT instead of everyone being BLESSED. A generous person realizes people don’t care what everything looks and tastes like if the community meets their deepest needs.
  • Exchanging fear of man for reverence for God. If you fear the opinions of people, you’ll spend the whole night worried about what they think of your house, food, and you. But if you serve others out of love for God, you’ll be released from that pressure.
  • Exchanging a desire to control for a desire to love others. A controlling spirit tries to make everything go according to plan, usually to maintain appearances (attempting to control others’ opinions!). When you open your home with only one motive – to love others – you’re released from the need to control. This is the most freeing of the three mental exchanges, because it will also change how you treat your kids! You’re less likely to “lose it” when getting ready to host because they’re no longer variables who mess up a controlled environment.

Establish Freeing Routines

Discipline brings freedom. This is my mantra as a mom, a home manager, and as a minister of the gospel. I have had the same cleaning routine since I had Adeline, cleaning a room a day every day, top to bottom, and picking up, doing dishes, and sweeping every night. When it comes time to host, I don’t have to do a whole-house-cleaning-spree because the house never falls that far behind.

This isn’t because I’m a superhost. It’s because I know my weaknesses, I saw a problem, and I found a way to fix it. Be a problem solver! Establish routines that work for you, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to host others.

If you struggle with routines and productivity, take my free email course. It will teach you how to individualize your routines in a way that works for your personality!

Open Often and Imperfectly

If you wait for the perfect time, house, kids, or community, you will never open your home. And if you never open your home, you’ll never engage with the very people who need to see Christ in you.

This is why we open our home so often. Whether it’s hosting overnight guests in our play-room turned guest-room, or hosting a weekly Bible study, or inviting couples to dinner, or setting up an at-home play date, opening our home often breaks the need for everything to be perfect. You can’t maintain perfection when you’re opening a real, lived-in home twice a week (or more!). Practice makes perfect.

Do Not Fear Boundaries

Now, some people tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater and think hospitality is the absence of boundaries. This is not the case! We have very clear boundaries, both with our kids – sleep routines, naptimes – and with others, who need to respect our family schedule.

For example, when people ask if they can stop by, I usually tell them to come by before noon or join us for lunch. This way my girls still get their afternoon nap, which is the only time I have to do my work. Especially if you are a work at home mom (or even a SAHM who needs afternoons for home tasks), you have the right to protect certain time frames for the good of your family. There will be days this can’t happen, but those days should not be the norm.

Good hospitality happens within structure and boundaries. Otherwise, it can’t be emotionally maintained.

Raise Hospitable Kids

Involve your children in the hosting process. Have them stay in the room when you converse with the adults, greet each person who comes in, and sit at the table for dinner. My girls have been in rooms of 20+ rowdy adults during our bible study nights. They’ve been passed around a campfire as we roasted marshmallows into the late Michigan summer nights. They sit at the table when friends stop by for coffee. They are part of our missional family journey.

It’s so important for children in Christian homes to understand this: Our faith is not just inward, but outward. Children must see that faith is meant to spur evangelism, and evangelism begins in the home.

One of my funniest memories is illustrates how real this is for us. One of my friends swung by to say hi, and Adeline – in the throes of potty training – proudly handed her a bowl of her own pee. Nothing says “Welcome to our real life!” like a potty full of urine!

Live Out the Gospel

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach Christ, and if you must, use words.” While I get what he’s saying, I disagree with this quote. Our lives should preach the gospel… but so should our mouths. When you have small kids, the best way to live and speak the gospel to the people God has entrusted to your life is to open up your home.

A few ways we do this:

  • Learn our neighbors’ names.
  • Host weekly bible studies.
  • Invite couples and families to dinner once a week.
  • Offer for people to stop by when in town.
  • Set up Adeline’s room as a guest room and train our girls to sleep anywhere we put them, so we can open up that bed when guests need it.
  • Host pizza parties for the college students at our church.
  • Host mini-parties for groups of friends and invite newer community members over to meet them.
  • Do more creative events, like Pinterest parties, book swaps, gaming hang outs, and the like.

It won’t be perfect, and that’s the point. We don’t preach the gospel through perfect lives. We preach the gospel through real ones. This doesn’t require you to let your house fall apart or fail to tend to the needs of your home; it requires balance, discipline, and a generous heart! The beautiful thing? All these are achievable when we walk by the Spirit and troubleshoot our weak areas.

Don’t wait for the perfect time or place or people. God has you and your home here for a reason!