Hospitality

I was reading this blog post at girltalk this morning, and realized that I go through these spells of not wanting to have anyone in my home for many of the reasons listed. It isn’t so much that I care about the house being in disarray- I joke around about my home decor theme being Rustic Library- but when life is hectic and the budget is tight, I crave peace and quiet, and my tightwad self just doesn’t want to splurge on extra food and desserts. I blame farm life :p - I spent the first 18 years of my life on the side of a hill in WV, 45 minutes away from any signs of ‘civilization’, and I am so content to be alone. But then I feel terribly guilty that I am not reaching out the right hand of fellowship to others as I should. I want to be a good example of hospitality to my kids… so how do you balance the needs of family as well as your own when it comes to hospitality? How much (for you) is too much, or not enough? If that makes sense.

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BryanBice's picture

Susan:

Expressing hospitality is a good thing. We need to teach our children the virtue of sacrificially serving others. But alone time is a good thing, too. We need to teach our children the virtues of rest, refreshment, re-creation, and together time. And I think an important idea is that both should be a joy.

Perhaps key to your question of balance is "reaching out the right hand of fellowship...as I should." As you should according to whom or what? Do you find yourself feeling the guilties no matter what you do in this regard? IOW, when you're enjoying some alone time, do you feel guilty that you're behaving selfishly? And when you're giving of your stuff in hospitality, ever feel guilty that you're not spending enough time alone...or that you can't get your child that pair of shoes he needs, etc? Most of us probably tend to err on one side or the other.

Since there are no hard & fast criteria for the "should" in these areas, I would suggest setting some personal, perhaps private (between you & spouse) goals -- e.g. one Sunday a month, we'll have someone in our home for noon meal...after evening service...and so forth. But also balance that with some corresponding goals re. alone time. And realize they are nothing more than personal goals...they are not scripturally mandated criteria.

And when the budget is particularly tight...or your family has just gone through a stressful time...ENJOY some peace and quiet so you can re-charge your batteries. Read Psa. 23 from the standpoint of what our Shepherd does for us as individuals -- "he leads ME beside the still waters...makes ME to lie down in green pastures...restores MY soul..." -- and that should help cure the guilties felt over "alone time."

Enjoy.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

When I say "As I should" I mean according to what is normal for our family. If we are having people over every 3-4 weeks, and we take a long break from having company, then I feel a bit selfish. There is also the fact that I know some who have folks over 3-4 times a week, which kinda' freaks me out. I couldn't do that in a million years, and I do wonder if I am too much of a hermit.

My husband and I often talk about this stuff, and he doesn't really have a preference. Because I would do the bulk of preparation for company, he feels that I should have the last word in how often we have company. I think because he spends so much of his work day in the company of others that I also feel it necessary to limit how often we have company so that he can unwind and feel refreshed after work (he works 10 hour days on a regular basis).

So I suppose I wonder what other folks consider normal expressions of hospitality. I'm not interested in comparing myself necessarily, but I do feel as if I am lacking in this area, and am having trouble pinning down why or what to do about it.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

How often you would you have family in your home if you had family living nearby? For example, if your parents or siblings lived nearby, would you consider it a burden to have family in your home once a week? Many people would not. Now, when it comes to the people you go to church with, they should be family, especially if they are born again.

Instead of having hard and fast rules, just look around the people at your church and ask God to help you love them like you would your own family. You should. Matter of fact, God says we are to esteem others better than ourselves in the book of Philippians. Once I have that love in my heart, God will lead me as to how frequently I have people over in my home.

For the Roof home, it averages out to about one day a week that we have people in our home. Now, there are some weeks that there are people over multiple days. There are other weeks where we have more a of break. For example, we have been gone a lot this Summer so we have not had people over as frequently but this will probably pick up here at the end of this month.

Are there people attending your church who have never been invited to a fellow believer's home? If so, it's time to invite them over.

What about being broke? I've been there most of my ministry. We don't play politics with hospitality. I don't have a home worth "showing off" but it's clean because of my incredible wife. Most of the time, we don't have fancy food. Yesterday, we had a Pastor and his family from another church in our home for the whole day. I cooked hot dogs on the grill. We had some sweet corn, chips, salsa, and our guest Pastor's wife brought some taco salad. We ate, fellowshiped, went to the NY Giants football practice,and then went to McDonalds dutch treat for dinner. We had a blast.

The biblical responsibility of hospitalty often becomes like some kind of contest where the lady of the home feels pressured to provide the best. You can keep it simple, show a lot of God's love, and be a big blessing.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
How often you would you have family in your home if you had family living nearby? For example, if your parents or siblings lived nearby, would you consider it a burden to have family in your home once a week? Many people would not. Now, when it comes to the people you go to church with, they should be family, especially if they are born again.

Instead of having hard and fast rules, just look around the people at your church and ask God to help you love them like you would your own family. You should. Matter of fact, God says we are to esteem others better than ourselves in the book of Philippians. Once I have that love in my heart, God will lead me as to how frequently I have people over in my home.

For the Roof home, it averages out to about one day a week that we have people in our home. Now, there are some weeks that there are people over multiple days. There are other weeks where we have more a of break. For example, we have been gone a lot this Summer so we have not had people over as frequently but this will probably pick up here at the end of this month.

Are there people attending your church who have never been invited to a fellow believer's home? If so, it's time to invite them over.

What about being broke? I've been there most of my ministry. We don't play politics with hospitality. I don't have a home worth "showing off" but it's clean because of my incredible wife. Most of the time, we don't have fancy food. Yesterday, we had a Pastor and his family from another church in our home for the whole day. I cooked hot dogs on the grill. We had some sweet corn, chips, salsa, and our guest Pastor's wife brought some taco salad. We ate, fellowship, went to the NY Giants football practice and then went to McDonalds dutch treat for dinner. We had a blast.

The biblical responsibility of hospitalty often become like some kind of contest where the lady of the home feels pressured to provide the best. You can keep it simple, show a lot of God's love, and be a big blessing.


We do have family that lives nearby, but they are... antagonistic toward us and tend to be critical of us in front of our kids, so they don't come by very often. I also cannot go to their house because they have 3 cats, and I am VERY allergic. AAMOF, I am much closer to my church family than my bio family. We have always tended to have folks over on average about every 3-5 weeks- sometimes more, sometimes less. I've never considered fellowship to be a burden, so to speak. Time and effort is time and effort. My kids take time and effort, but they aren't a burden. I hope I am not communicating the idea that being with people is unpleasant to me in that sense.

I'm not worried about 'showing off' or preparing expensive meals. When we have folks over, they'll bring dessert or an appetizer or salad, and we love to grill out ... But it does take some preparation to feel that one is presentable in their home and in the food they provide- my home is my testimony as a woman. I put my best foot forward with my home and the meals I prepare, just like I fix my hair and brush my teeth before I go out. Also, having company is work for me personally- I'm not a people person by nature, as I explained in the OP. Heaven for me is a cabin on the side of a mountain, with a couple of dogs and a few goats. Biggrin Ok- chickens too- gotta have chickens.

So for you, once a week is normal. As Bro. Bryan said- is there a measure of what is hospitable enough? I am assuming that because this is bothering me that I am lacking in my efforts to be hospitable, but that is why I am asking folks how they balance their family's dynamic with their own efforts to display this Christian characteristic.

Anne Sokol's picture

lately, but in a different sense.

More about what we consider hospitality. Like, in our culture today, i think we often equate hospitality with what we call "entertaining" or fellowship. And it is that.

but i think very often in the Bible (and today), hospitality was concerned more with actual need in person's life, like a need for a place to sleep when traveling, a need of food, of a shower, a place to rest. Christians do this a lot today, too, like putting up missionaries, traveling speakers, etc

we've had singles live with us for a time, i guess that's hospitality. it's actually easier for me to do that then have people over for dinner regularly. is having ladies' Bible study also hospitality?

I think this can broaden the idea to offering one's home to people without family, people in crisis situations, etc.

Diane Heeney's picture

I think hospitality can have a lot of faces, but there's a resemblance between them all. It can look like inviting a family over for Sunday dinner, a young couple coming over for games and a bowl of popcorn, having my daughter's friends for a sleepover, or having someone feel they can drop by any time and get their glasses adjusted or their tire pressure checked (my husband is a master mechanic as well as an optician) or to talk about a pressing concern. It can be sending a meal to a neighbor who is reluctant to come over, or cooking a pot of soup for someone who is too sick to venture out, but needs a meal infused with love. It may mean that yours is the back yard with no grass, because it is where all the kids in the neighborhood want to play. The trait that can be seen in them all is reaching out with the love of Christ for people. Big gestures and small ones (some of my favorite times of fellowship had no food involved at all --is that possible in Baptist circles? Wink --just great conversation and communion.

An hospitable person is like a welcome mat, personified. Their home will always have an open door, whether there is an "occasion" or not. Smile

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

BryanBice's picture

Diane Heeney wrote:
I think hospitality can have a lot of faces, but there's a resemblance between them all. It can look like inviting a family over for Sunday dinner, a young couple coming over for games and a bowl of popcorn, having my daughter's friends for a sleepover, or having someone feel they can drop by any time and get their glasses adjusted or their tire pressure checked (my husband is a master mechanic as well as an optician) or to talk about a pressing concern. It can be sending a meal to a neighbor who is reluctant to come over, or cooking a pot of soup for someone who is too sick to venture out, but needs a meal infused with love. It may mean that yours is the back yard with no grass, because it is where all the kids in the neighborhood want to play. The trait that can be seen in them all is reaching out with the love of Christ for people. Big gestures and small ones (some of my favorite times of fellowship had no food involved at all --is that possible in Baptist circles? Wink --just great conversation and communion.

An hospitable person is like a welcome mat, personified. Their home will always have an open door, whether there is an "occasion" or not. Smile

I believe your applications are "spot on." Incidentally, I came across an interesting observation in the book Evangelism for the Rest of Us, dealing with those of us who are more "alone" oriented by nature. The author pointed out that where you are on the introvert-extrovert spectrum determines whether being around people saps or restores your energy. The thinking is that, if you're more of an introvert, you can enjoy being with people (expressing hospitality, for example), but it will take energy out of you--you'll need alone time to restore your energy level so you'll enjoy being with people again. If you're more of an extrovert, alone time tends to sap you--you are energized being around people, but alone time is necessary for spiritual nourishment. From my personal experience and my observation of others, I think this is a helpful insight into the hospitality/aloneness tension.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that there are many ways to show hospitality, and I have no qualms when it comes to providing lodging, meals, etc... to folks. I was thinking of those activities as more discipleship or evangelism, not as hospitality per se...KWIM? When I said 'hospitality', my primary thought was fellowshipping with other believers in one's home. We have many, many church activities and ministries, so there is plenty of time to chat and encourage each other there- but I'm not necessarily the 'host'. But I do organize showers and weddings on a regular basis- so just because it doesn't take place in my home doesn't mean that isn't hospitality, right?

I can definitely relate to Bro. Bryan's post about people sapping your energy. I am limp as a dishrag when I've been around people for extended periods of time, and there are occasions at church activities where I have to find a quiet place and regroup. I see people for whom socializing is like breathing- my son Seth is like that, and my best friend. They make me nuts sometimes with their hither and thither. I enjoy socializing on the internet because it's on my terms, I can think before I speak, reconsider, proofread...and I can walk away when it's too much without appearing rude.

I'm starting to feel better about this- I appreciate Diane's and Anne's posts- the additional perspective is tremendously helpful as I work through this in my head.

Ann B.'s picture

It depends on many things. I grew up having people in our home, maybe not every week, but certainly regularly. My parents welcomed company. Now, with my husband's odd work hours, he wants company only occasionally. This has been difficult as I would have people over more often. But he is the one with the weird schedule and he must be my first priority--even if hospitality is not as often as I'd like. Fortunately, we have had enough company to be a good example to our children.

It also depends on the season of life--both someone's age and someone's circumstances. Sickness takes its toll on me and makes me want to hibernate. I've had some physical difficulties lately and find myself avoiding opportunites to interact instead of embracing them like normal.

Hospitality in the church (as in, between church families) appears to have gone way down over the past 20 years or so. People do not go to others' homes as much as they used to. Furthermore, much interaction is done in restaurants instead of homes. I think something is lost there.

Greg Linscott's picture

The word "hospitality" includes housing guests, but also includes a connotation to http://net.bible.org/strong.php?id=5381 ]"loving strangers." The point is that this can include having company over for meals, but it isn't the only way. We exercise hospitality to some of our widowed, elderly neighbors by bringing them food to eat at their leisure. We also shovel their driveways when it snows in the winter. These are activities that include our whole family. I will also help older folks with their computer problems. "Entertaining" can be wearing, especially if it means putting on a show or spending money on trifles you wouldn't purchase for yourself otherwise. I would say that if this is becoming an issue for you (like some of you seem to mention), work hard at finding ways you can continue to intentionally "love strangers" in tangible ways, even when you may not be feeding them desserts and playing games with them.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Becky Petersen's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
The word "hospitality" includes housing guests, but also includes a connotation to http://net.bible.org/strong.php?id=5381 ]"loving strangers." The point is that this can include having company over for meals, but it isn't the only way. We exercise hospitality to some of our widowed, elderly neighbors by bringing them food to eat at their leisure. We also shovel their driveways when it snows in the winter. These are activities that include our whole family. I will also help older folks with their computer problems. "Entertaining" can be wearing, especially if it means putting on a show or spending money on trifles you wouldn't purchase for yourself otherwise. I would say that if this is becoming an issue for you (like some of you seem to mention), work hard at finding ways you can continue to intentionally "love strangers" in tangible ways, even when you may not be feeding them desserts and playing games with them.

I think Greg and Diane have good points here. We need to be open to having people come over. An open home. Loving arms. I'm not always that way. Sometimes I love to have people over, but I tend to think it is more "entertainment and giving a meal" than what I believe is the true definition of hospitality and that is, --just having an open home.

We've been on the receiving end of much hospitality by people in many churches in the states. Sometimes people are afraid to have others in their homes for fear, like Susan, that they will be judged for the clutter, etc. that someone might see. That is so sad, IMO. We should be oblivious to the clutter and be honed in to the people. When people think they have to have a cleaning crew in for a week just so they had host a party or have company, then the focus is on the wrong thing. I'm really not talking about normal cleaning, but about major, massive, deep cleaning. But the truth is, those of us who "live in our homes" and home school and use them will tend to have more "used homes" than those with few children, no children at all, or send their kids out all day to a regular school.

We only wished that some of the people with the larger homes would be more willing to open them up to missionaries. We've had both, though. We felt bad in one church where one time the only people who would have us lived in a mobile home. Not for our sakes, but it meant that the couple moved out of their bedroom, put their kids together all in one room so the missionary family could have places to sleep. There were people in that church with large, largely unused homes, who could have volunteered. We had a wonderful time, but even the couple commented on it (actually they were the ones who told us about it since we wouldn't have known otherwise).

Some of our favorite memories are with people who actually let us see their 'less than perfect' selves. Of course, my kids were thrilled with huge beautiful mansions and we felt spoiled. But it was really unnecessary. We aren't that way and don't need it to feel comfortable.

I think we are confusing hospitality with entertaining. Sometimes I don't feel like having an open home. Esp. when teh floor needs mopping and the living room needs straightening. Then I have to pray for patience. (We've had our share of drop in visitors, and they expect us to be glad they are here--even when we are not--they often are people with no "social skills" and don't know when to leave.) DH is better at getting them leave than I am--for example, by offering to take them to the bus stop, etc.

Daniel's picture

I have been following this now since it started and have found it interesting. (in a good way) One thing my wife and I did before we got married was agree that we would invite people over then clean the house rather than clean the house then invite people over. I know it may not be a big deal, but IMO if you do the latter you probably will hardly have anyone over.
I also agree that being hospitable is less about giving meals and more about sharing your home in whatever form that may be.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
Sometimes people are afraid to have others in their homes for fear, like Susan, that they will be judged for the clutter, etc. that someone might see. That is so sad, IMO. We should be oblivious to the clutter and be honed in to the people. When people think they have to have a cleaning crew in for a week just so they had host a party or have company, then the focus is on the wrong thing. I'm really not talking about normal cleaning, but about major, massive, deep cleaning. But the truth is, those of us who "live in our homes" and home school and use them will tend to have more "used homes" than those with few children, no children at all, or send their kids out all day to a regular school.

I just wanted to clarify that I am not concerned about appearances per se, but my home is a part of my testimony as a 'keeper at home', KWIM? There are times when we are into large scale projects that make it impossible to sit down, much less fellowship. I can't think or relax when I am surrounded by a mess, regardless of whether or not there is company coming. My home is definitely lived in, and there are piles of books everywhere, and always will be. So I'm not looking to be thought of as a Martha Stewart disciple, but I am just not comfortable with messy clutter, and it doesn't mean that I am trying to 'impress' people with my home, but that as a housewife, my home is an extension of who I am, and I'd be just as uncomfortable at the grocery store in curlers and flip-flops as I would be having company with tools and muddy boots lying around and a fine coat of sawdust on every surface.

I really appreciate that so many have focused on other aspects of hospitality, rather than just the 'entertaining' element. One thing that has bothered me is that when we brought my mom into our home, keeping missionaries and out-of-town visitors trickled to a halt. She hates it when there are people she doesn't know in the house. At first I just ignored her complaints, because I felt I couldn't allow her discomfort (she has her own suite, for Pete's sake) to run our home. But since she has gotten worse emotionally and mentally, it has become a HUGE deal for her. We've stopped keeping people because of that, and I miss it terribly. I'd rather keep people in our home for an extended period of time than just have folks over for dinner- don't know why that is, except maybe there is time to really relax and get to know people.

Becky Petersen's picture

Susan R ][quote wrote:

I really appreciate that so many have focused on other aspects of hospitality, rather than just the 'entertaining' element. One thing that has bothered me is that when we brought my mom into our home, keeping missionaries and out-of-town visitors trickled to a halt. She hates it when there are people she doesn't know in the house. At first I just ignored her complaints, because I felt I couldn't allow her discomfort (she has her own suite, for Pete's sake) to run our home. But since she has gotten worse emotionally and mentally, it has become a HUGE deal for her. We've stopped keeping people because of that, and I miss it terribly. I'd rather keep people in our home for an extended period of time than just have folks over for dinner- don't know why that is, except maybe there is time to really relax and get to know people.

That would be a tough situation to be in. I've not had nearly as many people in our home lately either. Various reasons.

Actually many reasons.

Mostly, I've not met too many people who actually "need" the hospitality of a place to sleep and eating on Sun. afternoons (a favorite time to have people over) is complicated by taking a lady home who lives almost a half hour away.

Unlike many people, as a mssionary family, I actually don't mind if people take us to a restaurant. I'm aware that this takes a lot of the pressure off the wife, and I'm all for that! Smile Plus, it takes the pressure off my kids because they can order what they like. But it's mostly about taking the pressure off the wife. I know that she won't be stuck with a lot of cleanup after we leave (assuming we leave right after dinner) and that she didn't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen ahead of time fixing food for us. Of course, if she LOVES it, that's one thing, but most women these days seem to prefer to do something else and are really into quick and easy.