I took one of those spiritual gift inventories in college. Hospitality was at the bottom of my list, right above mercy (sorry, kids). There are those who can just sit down at the piano and play because it makes sense to them. In the same way, there are those who can just do hospitality because they are truly gifted in it.
For the rest of us, we have to be very intentional about hospitality because it doesn’t just flow out of who we are. Check out Romans 12:13
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (NIV version)
I love that this verse says we need to practice hospitality. Anything that has the word “practice” in front of it doesn’t come easy to most people. This means I can improve my hospitality skills if they’re lacking. How encouraging!
Generosity breeds hospitality. I’m not naturally generous, which may be why I’m not a natural at hospitality. If I’m stingy, any event I host will end up looking a bit like a play date between two year olds, with my guests feigning enjoyment and me shouting, “Mine! Mine!”
Thankfully, because of the outstanding example of gifted teammates and friends, stinginess no longer taints my efforts of hospitality. From my observations of hospitable people, I’ve noticed that they are ridiculously generous. The stuff I would’ve saved to eat while hiding from my children on a rainy day and the import item I never would’ve bought in the first place are happily shared with their guests. And they don’t use measuring spoons to make sure everyone only takes their share! Scandalous!
If generosity breeds hospitality, hospitality breeds community. That’s why it’s key that we put aside excuses and do it. Start serving. Start hosting. Start living relationally. It’s easy for me to get stuck in the rut of my daily life and entirely let hospitality go by the wayside. I’ll do it next week, next month, next year. Sure enough, before I know it, next week, next month or next year is upon me and I haven’t deepened my relationship with anyone because I’m just not paying that much attention.
Here are some of the excuses I’ve used to get out of hospitality and my personal rebuttal to those excuses, because if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably used at least one of them.
Excuse #1: I have kids. Find a way to involve the kids. Have them hand out appetizers. Chinese college students we hosted wouldn’t take food from a tray that was simply set on the coffee table American-style for them to help themselves. So, we began having the kids pass around the tray. I think a child handing out food is endearing in any culture.
Excuse #2: My home is inadequate. You don’t have to have a house that looks like it came out of the pages of a magazine to have a dinner party. Just have some people over. Who cares about that clutter in the corner. One of my most memorable dinners at a friends’ house was eaten on a fold-out table in the bedroom.
Excuse #3: I can’t cook. If you can’t pull it off yourself, call in some favors. A friend often invited me over for dinner, but she was rarely the one cooking. One time, it was her father-in-law. Another, her neighbor. If you’re not a wiz in the kitchen, don’t let it stop you from entertaining. Learn to make one dish well and let that be your go-to thing. Or, host a pot-luck or a movie night or a game night.
Excuse #4: I can’t afford it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to practice hospitality. A teammate who fed us split pea soup and salad blew me away with her generosity. Even though the meal didn’t cost much, her time was valuable, and she had a large family of her own to feed. A little creativity and willingness to share goes a long way.
Excuse #5: I want to be alone. I understand that sometimes, especially during transition, it’s difficult to have people in your home and in the midst of your craziness (or quietness). There are times when it’s okay to take a break. However, putting in the effort to live relationally will bless you as you bless others. It’s worth it!
Excuse #6: I’m not gifted in it. I’m a living testimony that you really can learn the art of hospitality. “Burnt toast” headlined as my kitchen specialty when I began this journey.
Excuse #7: I don’t want to clean up the mess. If you don’t feel like cleaning up after a bunch of people (because that’s what you do all day), simplify by ordering pizza instead of cooking or hosting an event that’s not during a meal so you don’t have to do the dishes.
Are you a natural at hospitality? If so, can you give the rest of us some tips? If not, can you relate to my excuses by sharing one of your own?