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The Art and Act of Hospitality

By Lydia L. Riley

I have known some dear older ladies who truly possessed the gift of hospitality. They have inspired me to follow in their footsteps. This is definitely a Biblical practice found throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Hospitality is not only encouraged but also expected of every believer! (II Kings 4:10, Hebrews 13:1-2, Acts 16:15, Romans 12:13, Acts 2:46-47, Romans 16:1-2)

I love how God specifically uses women to often set the example of hospitality in the Bible – the “certain woman” in II Kings 4 who created a simple prophet’s chamber … Lydia, the first convert in Philippi, who was used by the Lord to house Paul the apostle right after her conversion … Phebe, an amazing woman in the church at Cenchrea, who helped many, including the apostle Paul … and imagine all the women involved in the “breaking bread from house to house” with the early church!

Ladies, let me encourage you -- Do not be afraid to have people into your home! This can often be such a special way to add to the church, encourage new converts, and minister to some of God’s choice servants!

For me and my family, as a single mother with four children, opening our home throughout the years allowed my children the opportunity to brush shoulders with some of God’s best pastors, missionaries, preachers, and faithful lay people. Many pastor’s children often get this special privilege; but what a blessing for my children to also have this joy of ministry! One of my daughters once gave up her room for an entire month for a young missionary family who needed a place to stay during their deputation; our family will never forget the blessing of this family with their small children and our sweet time together to be able to minister to them. Another sweet tradition that we began when my children were very young was to host our pastor’s family each Christmas Season for my children to present their special gifts they had purchased or made for each member. These are precious memories that have become solid traditions within our home and caused my children to understand the value and importance of our pastor and his family and also allowed our Pastor to “become like family” to my children -- a priceless treasure.

Here are some practical tips that have worked for my children and me -- ideas that have helped to make the art of hospitality more natural and easy!

~ Involve your children. Making a list of church members that you plan to invite over during the next few months and working your way through the church is a great way to get to know your church family! Let your children also help in the preparation. They can be a great help in cleaning, having their rooms ready for guests, and in simple meal preparation! The older they are, the more responsibility they carry, and as older teens or young adults, they can even plan and host on their own, while you simply enjoy!

When my children were small, and we needed to quickly clean the house, we would play fun games such as “The 100 Game.” This game involved all four of my children hurrying to empty one room of everything that needed to be put away. I helped while loudly counting to 100. We would then move to the next room and do the same thing. We could tidy several rooms within a matter of minutes and it was fast, fun, and furious cleaning!

“The Vacuum Cleaner Game” involved pulling their imaginary cords and “plugging them in” while they scampered about picking everything up off the floor and furniture – the child with the most pieces of lint, trash, or stuff to put or throw away was the “winner!” My children laugh at how “fun” they thought it was to clean the house in this way. You can make a game with nearly any task with small children, and they really can be a great help!

~ Sunday Dinner is often the easiest time to have someone over, especially if they are part of your church family. My children grew up knowing that there would always be plenty at the dinner table and enjoyed having their friends over on Sunday. Sunday is a beautiful day of family and worship, a day of rest, and often a perfect time where everyone is gathered. My daughters and I try to plan ahead on Saturday to have the meal ready. (Our oven has delayed start and cooking time presets. Crock pots are also helpful.) We have the house tidy and ready for company. Sunday night fellowships are also a special tradition for our family now where the other singles and young adults in our church get together – often serving something as simple as a pancake meal, a huge chef salad, or taco soup and tortilla chips.

~ Presentation is always such a delight. Why not use real dishes? Why not use cloth napkins? Why not set a beautiful table with cutlery in the proper place? For me, a meal and its presentation is my love language – I enjoy setting a grand table for the sweet bus children we have had over as I would for the visiting evangelist and his wife, or a group of business ladies/friends. I will use pre-made foods from the deli or bakery section if I am running short on time – and place them on my own beautiful pedestal plates, platters, and serving dishes to create a quick yet beautiful meal. The special little touches are “extra” … but have become my trademark. I’ve watched my daughters add a small fresh cut flower to a tray of food. I’ve also seen my guests’ eyes light up in delight when they see their cup of fresh-brewed coffee garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. “Do small things with great love” is one of my favorite mottos. You want your guests to sense your genuine love and feel truly special.

~ Conversation is such an important aspect of hosting or hospitality. Utilize fun ways to begin the flow of conversing. For our family, our outdoor fire pit is a great place where conversation, laughter, and sharing special memories just happen naturally. I’ve also used sets of “Table Topics” cards to encourage animated conversations. Games are a great way to break the ice and make your guests feel comfortable. If your kids are like mine, they have fun, lively stories to share that are sure to get everyone laughing.

Try to make sure that the conversation isn’t monopolized by one or two and draw each person into the fun time of sharing their own stories and memories.

~ Simple pleasures offer great joy. Remember the widows and the lonely. Since I am a home-maker and run my business from home, I have the privilege of also having the daytime free if the Lord lays someone on my heart to invite for a luncheon or simple coffee time together. These times can be more intimate between sisters in Christ and often turn into times of sharing Scriptures, blessings, and even prayer together. It is also important to think of those who might not normally get invited over to other’s homes and try to include them into your life. Longer fall and winter evenings can be lonely times for those who are not married or do not have children. A brisk fireplace, a warm pot of tea, and working a puzzle together with friends can bring such contentment and joy into the heart of someone that might otherwise spend a lonely evening at home. Your children can also learn to minister to others by watching your example.

~ Get creative and enjoy what you do best! If you are an amazing baker or chef, then capitalize on sharing this gift with your guests! If you’re a coffee barista, then be sure to include this into your evening of fun! If you love to decorate your home and each room has a theme, then let your children have the joy of giving your guests their own “home tour” throughout your house while you’re finishing up final meal touches! Is your family musically inclined? What a great way to provide entertainment and help your little ones to become comfortable with sharing their gifts with others! I remember a special Christmas business dinner I hosted in our home where my oldest daughter provided live harp music and there were times when my little ones did small “recitals” in piano or harp, to the delight of our older guests. We live in a quirky historic home, full of charm and every “flaw” is what we lovingly call “character” … My girls and I love to decorate, especially at Christmas. Our place is overflowing with holiday cheer. To make our guests feel comfortable looking about, I create a “Scavenger Hunt” each year for our holiday guests to enjoy traipsing through our home room by room! This is something that I thoroughly enjoy as I watch our friends and family mix and mingle throughout our home - this might horrify someone else, but it delights me and I love to swap décor ideas with our guests! Do what you love and enjoy. Utilize your special gifts to their fullest. It’s okay to think outside of the box and have fun!

I hope that these thoughts will be a spring-board for your own hospitality ideas and that if you haven’t had the courage to “have someone over” that you will simply start!

Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, often “less is more.”

Also, this is even a great way to reach out to win your neighbors to the Lord. I learned from a sweet older friend to always have a teapot filled with water on my stove for any guest who might happen to drop by. You never know whose life you might touch with the love of Christ. Enjoy the little things in life, like fresh cut flowers and pour-over coffee. I have recently had a neighbor lady stop by while walking her dog to join me outside for a cup of coffee (the conversation easily turned to the Lord.) A drive-by older lady (admiring my flowers while I was working outside) promised that she might actually stop by and come visit our church in the near future. And a neighbor down the road whom my children befriended became a sweet family friend.

Jesus said a cup of cold water given in His Name will not go unnoticed or without reward.

Whose life can you touch with your gift of simple hospitality?

Read more about Mrs. Lydia L. Riley at her website.


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