How to Practice Hospitality

by Jul 22, 2011

Sharing meals with others can be a simple but powerful way to demonstrate and talk about the grace of God. But it takes discipline. It’s a lot easier to grab a quick bite to eat and plop down in front of the TV or the computer.

According to Hebrews 13:2 (“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”), we don’t have the option of barricading ourselves behind our front doors. So how can we break that tendency? Jeff Vanderstelt tells the story of how he developed a discipline of hospitality:

When we first arrived and got settled into our neighborhood, we had a house warming party and invited our friends and neighbors over for a party with good food and drink. We were very intentional to ask them about themselves, how long they’d been in the neighborhood and general questions about their life. Each time, we were careful to listen well looking for the opportunity to be a blessing to them with what God has given us.

We realized that we needed regularity to this kind of activity so during the Spring and Summer we started doing a BBQ/party every Friday night. The regularity was a key to making this happen. (Too many settle for doing a party a couple times a year . . . this will not do it . . . there needs to be consistency to your hospitality). Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood had joined us and there was a genuine sense of connection and warmth between us relationally. Over time, others volunteered to host the parties so that our neighborhood started sharing the responsibility.

All of this would have been good neighborly activity, but not enough all by itself. It led to us getting to know the felt and real needs of our neighbors. We eventually started working on our neighbor Nicki’s home together since her home had fallen apart after the passing of her husband 15 years prior. During our times of serving together, we would often look for opportunities to share the Gospel reason for why we were serving. Most often, after serving we would invite people over for dinner and the conversations continued.

Our home became known as the house where you could find a party or a place to rest, converse, share a struggle or receive some prayer. We let people know that we had an open door policy—if you wanted to stop by and visit or join us for dinner, you were always welcome. This led to people stopping over after a bad day, losing a job, looking for advice on child rearing or crying over a broken rela- tionship. If we needed to be alone for a particular reason, we would politely make that known, but many times the Spirit prompted us to set aside our own interests and pray for strength to love our neighbors when it wasn’t always convenient for us. . . .

We have found that the mess and the difficulty of loving hospitality done in the power of the Gospel is one of the most powerful witnesses we’ve had to our neighborhood.