Practicing Christian Hospitality | How to be a Gracious Host

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The need for Christian hospitality

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 the Biblical times, hospitality was motivated by the nature of God.  As people travelled 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 a home.

I also have hospitality on my mind because over the next few months we’ll have 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.

Christian Hospitality versus Entertaining

In the book  Still Living By Faith, Annie May Lewis writes the following:

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, it 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, is for two things – nutrition and celebration (from her book Living on Less and Liking It More).

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 rich 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?

10 Ways To Host Instead of Entertain: Mastering the Art of Christian Hospitality

  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 we’ll have some time to visit.
  5. Smile, Joke, 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.
  10. Pray – Ask God to allow you to be a conduit of his 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.

What tips do you have for hosting instead of entertaining?  How has your life been impacted by the hospitality of others?

Comments

  1. Scott F says

    Great article! And you guys are excellent hosts! However, I must say, the kids are entertainers — but in a good way! :)

  2. says

    I like this post! That first quote about hospitality saying our stuff is a gift from God and to be used for His desires.

    Expanding on point 5, sharing stories about your life, how you grew up, what you do today, etc. is a great way to make them feel comfortable.

  3. says

    Excellent article! We had a guest pastor come last Sunday because our pastor was out of town. My wife and I had him with us between services, and we loved every minute of it!

    He was such a wonderful, humble and sincere man that it was easy to open our home (really apartment) to him. I honestly can say that I can’t wait until we have the opportunity to do it again.

  4. says

    Craig,
    My wife and I all too often fall victim to the “entertainment” instead of “hospitality” aspect of having company over. As a result, we get sort of paralyzed by the stress of having people over (entertaining) and end up not doing so as often as we could. The best times we have at other people’s houses are when we are able to relax and simply enjoy the visit. I don’t think I have ever thought any less of someone because I saw some dust on a table.

    Thanks for the pointers. I think they will help!

  5. Rachel says

    Craig,
    This post was so timely…I think God is tapping me on the shoulder. :-) We just had a Ladies’ Day at our church last month and hospitality was the topic. I love the hosting vs. entertaining idea.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  6. says

    Craig,

    Just wanted you to know that my wife sent me this article yesterday telling me how great it was! She didn’t realize that I had already posted a comment on it.

    We are definitely going to be more conscious of hosting vs entertaining when we have guests over in the future!

    Thanks again!

  7. says

    Today’s Scripture lesson at the services I attended included Abraham and the strangers, and Martha and Mary hosting Jesus. Do you catch the details in Abraham’s story? He told his wife and staff to prepare the best they had in camp. They didn’t run to the bazaar to get above and beyond; but they did serve the best that was in the house, so to speak.

    It’s a rare occasion for us to have guests, but when we do, they are usually from out of town. So we have a list of local things we share or do that are simple and inexpensive, such as: pizza from the “local place,” photo sessions at the local landmarks, fresh ground coffee beans from the locally owned coffee shop, attending services at our church and explaining the historic details.

  8. says

    Hi Craig,

    I really liked how you separated entertaining from showing hospitality, a great distinction to be aware of. However, do you think it is possible to show hospitality and use nice china and the like?

    I found the 10 tips you gave very practical as well, helpful for all Christians to read.

    My wife and I have just started a hospitality blog and are looking forward to think through some of the things that you have mentioned.

    Calum

  9. becky bowling says

    Craig,
    I enjoy your words on your site. I am trying to put together a lesson on Christian Hospitality for a group of ladies that our church is joining to come together for some bible study and encouragement. Do you have any resources on Christian Hospitality to share. I would love to have some great stories of real life hospitality to use in my studies with the ladies. Any help……….

    Thank you
    Becky Bowling
    Kitts Hill Ohio

  10. says

    Valuable information ..I am delighted to read this article..thank you for giving us this useful information. Great walk-through. I value this post.

  11. Jan Chalgren says

    Thank you for pointing out that Christian hospitality is hosting rather than about entertaining. An additional point about prayer – Many Christians as well as unbelievers appreciate being asked “How can we pray for you?” We like to ask our guests this before we all get up from the table. then have a season of prayer together.

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