Updated: Nov 1
I am trying to draw on memories of how my grandmother did it. Whether she was a natural or learned it from her mother, hospitality was at the center of her lifestyle. There were always guests, either popping over casually or formally invited. Even with us children, there were always treats whenever we came over: ice cream cones or popsicles, animal crackers or Cracker Jacks. We always had fun there and couldn’t wait to visit. How did her guests know that they were always welcome, invited or not?
Then there was my college trip to UCLA. It included a stay with family that lived in the area. Every morning of those two weeks, we were greeted with a breakfast spread that you might find on a cruise ship. And every day, we were taken around to all of the tourist places: from Hollywood Blvd and Mann’s (now TCL) Chinese Theatre to Griffith Park, from a beach day in Malibu to Raging Waters water park. Hospitality is a treat when we are on the receiving end!
We are all charged with the practice of hospitality, though. So what do we do when we don’t have the faintest idea how to implement it, when we don’t know how to play host? It starts with the heart. Hospitality is about showing the heart of God to others, showing them that they are invited to His table. It is inviting them to your table as He has invited us to His. Once we see the purpose for practicing hospitality, we can more easily integrate practicing it into our daily lives.
What is Hospitality?
As I explained in a previous blog post on this topic, hospitality is "the activity or business of providing services to guests,” as defined by Merriam Webster. We see an illustration of this in the Bible by the Shunammite Woman in 2 Kings 4:8 (AMP):
“Now there came a day when Elisha went over to Shunem, where there was a prominent and influential woman, and she persuaded him to eat a meal. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he stopped there for a meal.” We also see this illustrated by Martha in John 12:2 (AMP):
“So they gave a supper for Him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.”
From the Shunammite Woman and Martha, we learn that hospitality can be practiced by providing a meal to your guests. Hospitality, however, is not limited to meals. It also includes providing your guests with a place to rest or sleep as we can again see from the Shunammite Woman’s example in 2 Kings 4:9-10 (AMP):
“She said to her husband, ‘Behold, I sense that this is a holy man of God who frequently passes our way. Please, let us make a small, fully-walled upper room [on the housetop] and put a bed there for him, with a table, a chair, and a lampstand. Then whenever he comes to visit us, he can turn in there.’”
In short, hospitality is loving your neighbor as yourself.
When Should We Practice Hospitality?
Hospitality is not just something we practice during the holidays. For Christians, hospitality should be a lifestyle. God wants us to show His love to others all the time, not reserve it for special occasions. He wants us to live in community and fellowship with other believers, to do life together.
I love how Abby Turner teaches us in her devotional cookbook, The Living Table, to grocery shop with a hospitality mindset. That way you are more likely to have things stocked in your pantry–like boxes of pasta and your favorite pasta sauce, or a gourmet frozen pizza–that you can easily prepare for unexpected guests. But this form of hospitality does not have to be limited to your home! You can also take soup to someone who is ill, a casserole to a new mother, or baked goods to welcome a new neighbor. And you can even provide a meal by taking someone you know could use the company out to a restaurant.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” - 1 Peter 4:9 AMP
Creative Ways to Practice Hospitality
Not everyone has the means of the Shunammite Woman to build a guest room onto their house for visitors. But everyone can and should practice hospitality. I have a really small space, a studio apartment, so hosting dinner parties does not really seem practical. But I can reach out to those around me as I did the year I taped Christmas cards to my neighbors doors. It got a very positive response with neighbors commenting how it truly brightened their day. One neighbor even left a card for me in return! Their delighted responses made me consider starting a greeting card ministry. Everyone loves getting personal mail, right? So why not send greetings throughout the year, on birthdays and on other special occasions? Letting people in your life know that they are special and important is one way to show the love of God to others. Here are some other creative ways that you can practice hospitality:
Host a Bible Study or Prayer Meeting
Having a small group to study the Word together is an excellent way to practice hospitality. Not only does it allow you to grow together in faith, but it is an opportunity for fellowship with those who are like minded. Put out some spreads like hummus, homemade or not, and pita bread. Or serve a delicious snack like homemade s’mores popcorn.
The same goes with a prayer meeting. You can offer a safe space for a small group to have their needs heard and to be edified. A make-ahead recipe, like French toast casserole, is perfect for a morning prayer meeting.
LET THE SEASONS INSPIRE YOU
Host a Game Watch Party
If you like sports, fall football season is a great time to have some people over to watch the game. There are so many easy things to serve, such as Buffalo chicken sliders. Plus, everyone who attends can bring something to share.
Host a Movie Marathon
With all of the Christmas movies, winter is the perfect time for this. Set up a hot chocolate bar and a popcorn board so that your guests can personalize their own snacks.
Host a Backyard BBQ Picnic
Late spring, such as Memorial Day Weekend, is a nice time for a picnic. You can even take your picnic to a park and make it potluck! Or you can serve up some Rib Tips with Sauce and Southwest Potato Salad.
Host a Pool Party
If you have a pool, invite some friends over for a pool day. I do this at my apartment complex, but not nearly enough. If you don’t have a pool, you can make it a beach day gathering. When I first moved to L.A. I was in a small group at church that played flag football at the beach on Saturdays. We each brought something, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, bottled water, and so on. The best part is when people who did not go to church saw how much fun we were having and asked to join.
Isn’t that what hospitality is about, being a light for others in a dark world? When we do that part, God can do the rest.
“Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
- Hebrews 13:2 AMP
About the Author
Robyn Jones started her blog, Above Rubies or Pearls, to inspire women to live a virtuous lifestyle. She shares tips and inspiration for developing inner beauty through faith in Christ, modest fashion, and living a Christian lifestyle of loving God and others. Above Rubies or Pearls includes Robyn’s LTK Shop where she recommends modest fashion finds, and her Mary & Martha Shop where she recommends Christian-inspired home goods and devotionals that help with the practice of hospitality, including The Living Table where you can find all the recipes recommended in this article. In her free time, Robyn loves quiet time with God, beach days, and spending time with family and friends. You can find Robyn on social media @aboverubiesorpearls. To test your inner beauty, take her free quiz How Deep is Your Beauty?