by Austin Collins
JACKSONVILLE, FL – Practicing hospitality is a way to share God’s grace and bless others. But practicing hospitality requires just that – practice. If hospitality isn’t part of your thought patterns or family’s regular routines, then knowing where to start or how to do it might feel overwhelming.
Biblical hospitality presents two challenges to us. First, hospitality in the Bible is a command. It’s not optional. Almost every instance of the word “hospitality” in the New Testament is connected to an imperative (Cf. Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9). Second, hospitality is active. Romans 12:13 says we are to “seek to show hospitality.” We can’t just idly sit around and wait for opportunities for hospitality to come upon us, though they might. We are to be looking out for occasions to open our homes and our hearts to others.
It’s one thing to understand that hospitality is an active state of living we are commanded to carry out, but it’s an entirely different thing to practically obey and apply in our lives. With that in mind, I want to provide you with some real-world examples and advice on getting started on living a lifestyle of hospitality.
Attitudes of Your Heart
To practice hospitality, you must make time for it. If hospitality isn’t part of your natural family rhythms, stepping into it will take purposeful planning. To follow this biblical command, you might have to cut out other activities in your life or block out extra time for grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. But the joy of going deep into the lives of other Christians will far outweigh any opportunity cost we might be paying.
Not all entertaining is hospitality, and not all of hospitality is simply entertaining. Hospitality is about caring for your guests, getting to know them, and pointing them to Jesus. You can do this over watching sports or playing board games together, but you could also simply share a meal, talk, and pray with them about an issue they’re facing.
Perhaps most important of all is to show hospitality without grumbling or complaining (1 Peter 4:9). Peter wouldn’t have felt the need to point this out if we didn’t have a sinful propensity in our hearts to gripe about others even in the middle of trying to care for them. When you commit to showing hospitality, you’re going to encounter things that might tempt you to complain – someone tracked mud into the house, kids spilled juice on the carpet, your guests stayed a little longer than you’d planned. But God wants the attitudes of our hearts to reflect the openness of our homes.
Going deeper: The best way to grow in showing hospitality is through intentionality. My wife and I sit down every couple of weeks after the kids go to bed and plan out the next few weeks’ schedule and meals. We always discuss who we can be showing hospitality to. We intentionally schedule at least one or two times per month to try and have families over for a dinner or just to hang out. Rather than letting hospitality always come to us, we carve out time to host others in our home and build our schedules for the week around it.
Ambience of Your Home
Relax, enjoy the time, and get to know your guest. Remember the words of Jesus as you are serving: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Martha was an incredible host, but she missed the most important thing – fellowship with her guest. Food and fun will come and go, but relationships with other Christians are eternal.
Stay off your phone! Resist the urge to show them the latest funny video that came across your feed. Don’t Google the year that movie came out. It’s just not as important as staying engaged in the conversation at hand. Opening the door to phones during table fellowship is the easiest way to shut the door to the heart.
Be clean, but it’s okay if your house feels “lived-in.” When we anticipate hosting someone, we do clean the house – dusting, vacuuming, wiping down the bathroom. But we don’t try to make our house something it’s not.
Going deeper: Buy your furniture (or even a future home) with hospitality in mind. We recently needed to purchase a new couch for our den. Since our small house doesn’t have a guest room, we made the conscious decision to purchase a sleeper sofa so we could comfortably host folks overnight. Plus, the upholstery is interchangeable and cheap, so when the inevitable stains of daily life start to happen, we can change it out easily. It might not be the most stylish or luxurious couch, but it serves us well in caring for others.
Actions You Can Take
Budget for hospitality each month. Know that it will cost you something and anticipate the expense. Shop the sales and the Buy-One-Get-One’s at the supermarket. Get a membership to a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s to make bulk purchases on things you know you’ll need to host.
If you’re new to regularly hosting in your home, start slow. Just do something simple like pizza and chips & salsa. As great as food can be, your guests are there for fellowship.
Consider a repeated, staple meal that’s easy to make like a crockpot lasagna. In the flurry of prepping your home for guests, having a meal that’s easy to cook will cut down on stress and help prevent mistakes. Or find a recipe that you can prep the night before and freeze overnight. When it’s time for guests to arrive, pop it into the oven!
One thing we’ve learned over the years of regularly hosting folks in our home is that it takes longer than you think to prep, so give yourself extra time to cook and tidy up.
Have something on hand for last minute. Stock your pantry and freezer with a few items that have long shelf-lives – tea, frozen cookie dough, individually bagged snacks. That way, you’ll always be ready to host at a moment’s notice.
Think of the whole family. If you’ve got older kids, but plan on hosting families with younger kids, get out your kids’ old toys and books from the attic for the littles.
Going deeper: You never know when the Lord might be calling you to host for whatever reason. One way to be prepared is to prep three “hospitality baskets” – bathroom, guest room, and snacks. The bathroom basket can include basic toiletries, rags, and towels. The guest room basket can have sheets, an index card with the WiFi password, phone chargers, a Bible, and other useful items. The snack basket, of course, contains bagged snacks like chips, crackers, mints, gum, candy, and water bottles. You could store each of these baskets in storage bins in your closet to have ready to pull out when you need it.
Wherever you are on the journey of growing in hospitality, I want to challenge you to take your next step in the next month. If you’ve not hosted another family in a long time (or perhaps ever), create some space in your calendar and invite someone over for dinner or even just coffee and dessert. If you’re a pro at hosting, help another family take their first steps into hospitality. No matter where you are, the grace we can share with others by practicing biblical hospitality is always worth it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Austin Collins (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Serve Pastor at First Baptist Church Jacksonville. Prior to joining First Baptist in 2018, he held roles in student ministry, as a worship pastor, and as the research assistant at the Institute for Biblical Worship. He is also a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Austin is passionate about turning strangers into servants and loves helping guests and church members take their next step of faith, whatever it is.