By Craig Ford
There was a day and age when hospitality was a regular part of life. But, in this generation we’ve mastered the art of outsourcing hospitality. That’s what hotels and restaurants are for, right? In Biblical times, hospitality was motivated by the nature of God. As people traveled from place to place, they expected to find a home within the people of God. While I was traveling last month, I stayed in four different homes and two different hotels. Without question, my home stays were more enjoyable than my hotel stays. Even though the hotel staff is trained to make you feel at home, you can never replace the feeling of home. I also have hospitality on my mind because over the next few months we’ll be having people in our home for a total of four weeks. I’m really looking forward to it. People wonder if that stresses us out, but it doesn’t. I think that’s because we believe in hosting, not entertaining.
Hospitality versus Entertaining
In the book Still Living By Faith, author Annie May Lewis writes, “Entertaining says, ‘I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, and my gourmet cooking,’ Hospitality says, ‘This is not mine. It is a gift from God, and I’ll use it as He desires.’”
I’ve been to homes where I was entertained. The ambiance was nice. The surroundings were exquisite. But, the atmosphere was stale and cold. I’ve also been to homes where I was hosted. The walls were stained with crayon marks. The chair I sat on wobbled. But, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Which do you think was better? In the introduction to More with Less, the author says, “Serving guests becomes an ego trip, rather than a relaxed meeting of friends around that most common everyday experience of sharing food.” I would rather host than entertain.
Two Functions of Food
Food, says Maxine Hancock, author of Living on Less and Liking it More, is for two things – nutrition and celebration. When we sit at a table we are nourished, but we should also celebrate. Every meal is a thanksgiving feast. It is by the hand of the Lord that we eat. So we celebrate the continual provision of God. One of the things every Christian should do is to acknowledge God as the source of every blessing. Sometimes it is easier to celebrate the goodness of God when we are in the presence of others. But, what if hosting is hard for you? What if you don’t know what to do when people come into your home?
Here are 10 ways to host instead of entertain so you can begin mastering the art of Christian hospitality, especially as you enter a season filled with friends and family in your home:
1. Keep it plain.
Hosting is about the experience, not the presentation. Prepare a meal that allows you time to visit, not one that takes you away from your company.
2. Be authentic.
It is truly liberating to present your true self to people. Often times we become so used to wearing masks that we can never truly be ourselves. Remove the masks and let people see the true you – warts and all.
3. Request a dish.
When you have company, it is completely appropriate to ask them to bring something.
4. Announce the desire to be informal.
When you are inviting people into your home, let them know you want to have them over so you can get to know them. It won’t be fancy, but you’ll have some time to visit.
5. Smile, joke, and tell stories.
One of the things I love about visiting people in their homes is sharing stories. Make the atmosphere casual and relaxed.
6. Use your regular dishes.
There are some occasions to break out the good stuff. However, the more formal the china, the more formal the setting.
7.Ask for help.
After you eat together, don’t be afraid to say something like, “Alright, men, you’re on dishes duty and we’ll clear the table.” If people are offended by the idea, then you’re probably not going to be friends for a long time.
8. Show pictures.
Pictures are a great way to share your life with someone. They stimulate stories and they encourage conversation.
9. Prepare the kids.
When you have kids, hosting can be difficult. Still, if your kids know the expectations and boundaries, things will be easier for everyone. In our house, the kids typically share in the table conversation and then go play when we retire to the living room.
Ask God to allow you to be a conduit of blessing. Ask Him to help you touch the people who enter your home. When your hospitality ministry is clear, then practicing hospitality will be simplified.
With a willing heart and a little change in your thinking, you can move from entertaining that causes stress to hospitality which is all about ministering to others and enjoying their company!