Do you want to be more hospitable, but don’t really know where to start? We are certainly not hospitality experts, but if us two introverts can figure this out, so can you. Let’s look at some of the logistics of hospitality.
What do I mean by logistics? This is not an article on why you should be hospitable; you already know that. You also want to be, but may be lacking experience or have a wrong view of what exactly hospitality is. Here’s the key that unlocks this whole thing: Hospitality is about loving other people with what you have. That’s it. It is self-perpetuating, because as you are hospitable to others, you start caring more about them, pray more for them, and then want to spend more time with them. Exactly what you do, how fancy your food is, or what state your house or apartment are in, are all secondary, so you are free to focus on the people.
The first step in sharing what you have is to just offer it to others. Invite someone over. Maybe it is someone you’ve been sitting by in church, or met at some activity, or someone you work with. A simple “Hey, would you like to come over for dinner in the next week or two?” usually works for us. Notice the time frame is specific, instead of a vague “sometime”. If they say yes, my immediate follow up is to ask for a few specific dates that work for them. This implies that I know which days work for us; our shared calendar—which I’ve written on before—is indispensable for that. Now the ball is in their court, though it doesn’t hurt to follow up once or twice after a little while. In the end, more often than not, I am able to add another event to our calendar.
The get-together itself need not be fancy. Your house doesn’t have to be spotless and the food doesn’t have to convince a Michelin star judge. Just share what you have. If that’s rice and beans, scrambled eggs, or pizza delivery, that is fine, because it’s not about the food or a perfect atmosphere, but spending time with and getting to know people. We actually try to schedule enough time into the evening to just hang out, either before or after the meal, which also gives our kids more time to play together if we’re spending time with another family. If personalities don’t really click, the evening may be awkward and subsequent shared meals unlikely. That’s okay, we don’t need to be best friends with everyone else, but don’t just invite over your favorite people.
How often you do this depends on your schedule and other commitments. Balance is important here and any specific frequency would only be arbitrary. If you never do this because you and your kids are doing a hundred activities every week, consider dialing back and instead modeling hospitality for and with them. On the other hand, if you are neglecting your own family because you are loving others more than them, plan more family outings, or one-on-ones with your kids and spouse. If you don’t have a family, things don’t really change a whole lot; you can invite other singles or families over for dinner just as well, and if everyone is showing hospitality to everyone else, it won’t be weird.
One invitation we still remember fondly was extended to us after visiting a church for the first time. We sat by a few other couples who invited us to their shared lunch afterwards. We gladly accepted and stayed at the church for the rest of our college years; not just because of the invitation, but it very much helped. What a great way to welcome visitors and show them that our theology extends beyond our own heads!
I purposefully described a very narrow aspect of hospitality: sharing a meal together. In truth, hospitality is much more! It is an incredibly useful tool for discipleship, so let’s look at how hospitality plays into discipleship next week.