A few weeks ago I answered questions about hospitality on Instagram. The questions and my answers were not saved, so I am sharing some of what I said here in a blog post for permanent reference! The topic of hospitality is near and dear to my heart. I truly believe it is both a lost art and a gospel mandate; people are most comfortable opening up their hearts and lives in context of a home. Further, most Christians know they should share and live their faith in community, but because hospitality is not prioritized, this faith-sharing never actually happens.
As I challenged you on Instagram, I challenge you again:
If you aren’t evangelizing on a regular basis,
If you aren’t participating in online or real-life ministry,
If you aren’t getting to know your physical neighbors,
and if you aren’t opening your home…
How are you fulfilling the Great Commission? (Matt. 28:20)
I ask these same questions of myself. They challenge me to look at my calendar and see if it is reflecting the heart of the gospel or a heart of busyness and selfishness and ease. Because YES, it’s “easier” to never open our homes. It’s easier to believe the lies of perfectionism and personality, thinking these constitute excuses and exemptions from Great Commission love. But they don’t. And the truth is that hospitality is quite easy… when you focus on loving others instead of impressing them!
I have been opening my home for many years, including when I moved back home from college and lived with my parents; when I was a single girl with roommates; when I was newly married in a third floor apartment; when I was a new mom in a Main Street duplex; when I was a mom of two in a 1400 square foot cottage; and now here, at our farm. Since being married, Josh and I have partnered in this lifestyle of hospitality. And here’s a truth: Life has always been busy. We always have other things to do. We often had imperfect spaces and houses and “too small” living areas. No one ever cared! More on that below.
1. How do you host when you’re an introvert?
I want to address this right away. My husband is a stereotypical introvert and I am an ambivert-bordering-on-introvert. I am tired after hosting – I enjoy it, but it definitely takes my energy. While God has compassion on human limitations, He gives us His Spirit to empower us to obedience. And hospitality is an area of obedience. In Acts 2, we see that the early church was “breaking bread in their homes” and cultivating a community of welcome.
- Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
- 1 Peter 4:9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
- Leviticus 19:34: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
- Romans 12:13: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
This consistent command in Scripture is not and was not personality specific. If God expects this heart of welcome, then it follows He believes it possible for ALL people to participate in it. Personality will adapt how that looks, but it’s not an excuse to ignore God’s heart for people.
For introverts, hosting will probably work best in smaller groups – one family at a time, perhaps. Remember that the goal is not just to re-invite people you know and are comfortable with but to reach out to those you don’t. It may help to set a date each week as your “hosting day” and rotate between families you know and those you don’t know as well. You can also combine these two so that the more well-known family can help carry conversation and make the other one feel welcome.
2. How do I open my home when it’s small?
First, recognize that most people aren’t bothered by small houses. Most people HAVE small houses! It’s the heart that counts – not the size of your home. Even in tight spaces you can rearrange furniture, grab some floor pillows and folding chairs and make it work. Kids can play in a corner with toys, or utilize spaces like the kitchen if it’s nearby. It’s not about the size of your home but the size of your heart. People remember how you made them FEEL, not how big your living room was.
Live in a warm climate? Use your yard! Don’t have a back yard? Use the front yard! Set up a table and some chairs and a picnic blanket. Or meet at a park! Be a problem solver.
3. Do I have to cook? How do I make food on a tight budget?
While cooking is often cheaper, you certainly don’t have to make the food to be hospitable! Buy a couple pizzas and have the company bring a salad. There are many creative ways to feed a crowd and they don’t all require gourmet cooking skills.
That said: cooking IS a life skill that will help you long term, not just in hospitality but also in sticking to a food budget (it’s a huge reason we’ve been able to save money each month for our whole marriage – food is a big ticket item, especially when you buy it already prepped!). It might be something to look into learning!
As for sticking to a budget: have everyone bring a dish to pass. Make a simple meal like burrito bowls – rice, beans, and toppings – with everyone participating. Focus on vegan recipes if meat is too expensive. Chips and salsa are a few dollars. Look up recipes online and make a list of hosting meals for quick reference.
4. How do you open your home while also protecting your kids?
Having had an unsafe person in my home before, this is very important to me and Josh. We want our home to be available for welcome and comfort “for the sojourner” but we also keep a discerning eye on the kinds of people who enter it. We are not only responsible for OUR children, but also for the other people who enter our home and trust it to be a safe space. That means we are the guardians of this space and unsafe people do not get to come in.
Josh and I both sense “bad vibes” quickly. If we get the idea that someone is extremely unhealthy (spiritually or emotionally) to the detriment of others who may be in our home, we would meet those people outside the house either one on one or as a group in a park. For single men, Josh would meet with them a few times before they are invited around the children. Occasionally we will have people to group events (3-5 other families present) in an outdoor setting. This gives more witnesses and accountability.
We teach our kids appropriate language for their body parts, do not permit kids or adults (except parents and their kids) upstairs during hosting events (we have a baby gate), and prayerfully stay aware of any changes in the community/people we are regularly in contact with.
5. I invite people, but they never come over. What am I doing wrong?
A lot of the time the problem lies in HOW the invitation was issued. Ask these questions:
- Is my invite specific and personal? Don’t say: “Stop by sometime when you’re in town” say “Are you free to come to dinner from 5-7 PM on Thursday?”
- Is my invite too vague? Don’t say “We should get together sometime” say “I have X time this week, are you free then?”
- Did I forget to follow up? (I do this!) “Hey! Wanted to check in about Saturday – would that work or would you prefer a different day?”
The next question I ask is, “If they came here before, how was the experience? What could I do to make it better?” Was conversation flowing, as far as you could help it along? Were the kids utter chaos – do you need to have a parent take turns watching them? Think about what could be improved for a better experience.
Lastly, if you have invited someone multiple times and they continually ghost, say no, or always ask “who else is coming?” before saying yes (this is a tactless question – it basically is asking “are you worth my time to attend?”), I would stop pursuing them and focus your energy elsewhere.
6. I’m single! How do I host families??
First, I love this question because it shows such a great heart. We have a strong single community here in NoMi and I admire them so much. They frequently invite families into their lives, and we invite them as well. This kind of ageless community is so vital to church growth! Marrieds-with-kids: don’t forget the singles and newlyweds!
For singles, I really recommend investing in some secondhand toys in a bin you can keep in a closet. You can even ask mom friends for ideas and check Goodwill (then clean them up with cleaning spray). Kids love new toys and books! This will help entertain them when they visit. You can also host groups of a mixed-relationship background: a family and a couple singles, perhaps. It’s great for these groups to learn how to take interest in one another’s life paths!
7. I feel like my house is never presentable enough to host. What do I do?
First, remember that biblical hospitality is not entertaining. Entertaining is about YOU: You being Martha Stewart, you hosting the perfect meal, you having the Pinterest house, etc. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful house, but that’s not the point of biblical hospitality. Hospitality is about the other person. It’s selfless. And that’s incredibly freeing!
When hosting is not about you, it doesn’t matter what people think of YOU or your house. What you’re thinking about is THEM and their experience. That means you will want to create a home that is at least clean (no dog hair in their food, etc!), but certainly does not have to be perfect. It’s much easier to host regularly when you aren’t overwhelmed by home management… which is where routines come in. They are a gift to you and they also bless others as you walk in the Great Commission. I have a free course teaching you how to create routines for your home and personality.
8. I have no problem hosting… but when I do, people won’t leave! What do I do?
Be specific about your end time on the invite (via text or in person)! You can even say why: “We have to put the kids to bed at 8, so we need to be done by then.” I would recommend giving yourself a half hour wiggle room in case you get to talking and go past the timeframe.
If someone just won’t leave even after significant hints, you might have to be straightforward. Stand up and say, “Well, we have to get to bed because of an early start tomorrow! It was so good seeing you. Can we help pack up your things?” Sounds cringey, but you do what you have to do! Hospitable does not mean “no boundaries”.
9. How often should I host?
That depends on your season. When I’m newly postpartum, I’m not hosting anybody for six weeks at least! In some seasons our home was open three, four, five times a week for play dates, bible studies, and dinners. When I broke my leg and had to recover, our season made hosting impossible again for a time. Allow your hosting to flex with your season!
I still recommend picking a day a week (can move around if needed) for hosting! It helps you to have it set in the calendar and be ready to invite whenever the opportunity arises. I also keep paper plates and cups on hand plus easy meals in the freezer or a meal list to work from.
10. How do I get my spouse on board?
Pray. First and foremost, pray! Ask for God to change their heart and help them see His vision for His people.
Then… communicate! Talk through the objections and questions. Look at the suggestions in this post and think about how you can do this in a way that fits your season and lifestyle! It does not have to be over complicated.
11. BONUS Q: Small talk wears me out. What do we talk about?
I recommend studying how to make conversation. Yes – this is a life skill, one that will be helpful to you in every arena. I believe the fact we do not teach how to hold a conversation is actually at the root of much social anxiety. When you know how to ask a question, change a topic, think about the person, you are far less likely to be nervous when talking to someone new.
My first tip here is to stop thinking about yourself and instead focus on the other person. Their response to you is not what matters – what matters is your desire to make them welcome. If they are awkward or difficult about your welcome, that is their responsibility, not yours. Focus on welcoming them and give the rest to the Lord.
As for practically talking one-on-one, ask basic questions if they are new: “What do you do for work?” “Where are you from” Then build on their answers: “Wow, so what does software engineering entail? Where did you go to school for that?”
Ideally, they would then ask YOU a question. But if they don’t and you run out of topical conversation about their life, try these:
- I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately! Do you have a favorite fiction book? Why do you love it?
- I’ve been wanting to try a new restaurant here. Do you have a favorite?
- Couples: How did you guys meet? What drew you to him/her? Tell us your love story!
- I’ve been thinking about _____ . Have you read/thought about that? What are your thoughts?
In our home, “going deep” is normal. We often talk about life, church, parenting, Scripture, and culture as naturally as breathing. Because of this, our conversations with others often go that direction. Deep talk starts with small talk, though, and you have to lay that foundation. Don’t knock small talk – get good at it, and the deep stuff will come with time!
I hope these are helpful. Down the road I am sure I will teach a class on this with further ideas! For now, don’t hesitate: prayerfully think about who you can open your home to and how you can walk out the love of Christ more than just in theory.