hospitality principles and tips, by an amateur

Admittedly, I’m no expert on hospitality.  But, even being the novice that I am, I’ve gleaned some insights over the years that may be helpful for some.

Plus, if hospitality is something you’ve neglected, the holiday season is a great time to dive in and make practicing hospitality a regular occurrence in every season.

And, if nothing else, they’re helpful for me to remind myself.  Sometimes I don’t do what I know I ought.  Motives become convoluted and priorities get misplaced.

So, here are some tips [note: I claim no originality.  I’m certain everything I’m about to write has been said before by people who follow through on them better than I do.]

1) Have people over to your house.  Novel, I know.  But, it’s where it all starts.  If you don’t have people in your home regularly, you may be the most organized, hospitable person in the world and it will all be for naught.

2) Have people over frequently and on short notice.  (I’m not too good at the short notice part).  But, I do force myself to say yes as often as I can to a “short notice” opportunity.  This is incredibly liberating.  It will teach you that you can enjoy someone’s company even when there are dishes in the sink and dust on the mantle.

3) Don’t turn hospitality into “entertaining.”  Entertaining is a code-word for showing-off.  Perfectly clean house, perfectly prepared food, perfectly arranged decor becomes primary.

And at the center of it all is you, the entertainer.  “Look at all that I did and how wonderfully I did it.  Admire my home, my food, my effort,” is the heart of the entertainer, as opposed to the one offering hospitality, who humbly shares all they have out of love for others and God.

4) Don’t let your home be so messy or dirty that it’s a distraction.  This can be just as detrimental as the “entertainer” problem.  As much as people may say it doesn’t matter, having a reasonably-ordered home does matter.  It is uncomfortable to be in a pig sty.

5) Include your guests as part of your family.  Invite them to participate in everything.  If it’s your custom to sing and pray before dinner, fold them into that activity.

6) Let your guests give you a hand.  If your guests ask if they can help with something, let your usual answer be, “Yes!”  There are two reasons to do this: firstly, you probably could use the help, and, secondly, most people feel more comfortable when they’re useful.

7) Have saints and strangers over.  The Bible is explicit that it’s very important to show hospitality to saints (Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9), meaning fellow Christians, and to strangers (Hebrews 13:2).  (Again, I’m bad at the stranger part.  We’ve lived at our home for 4 years and only had strangers over a handful of times).  This takes intentionality and effort.

8) Have large and intimate gatherings.  Have 30 people over, then have 1.

9) Treat all your guests the same when it comes to the work you put into it.  Don’t make everything extra nice for people with status that you admire or rich people and let things go for others.  Do not show favoritism.  Sometimes we do this without realizing it.

10) Be conversational!  Talk!  Share!  Share more than just your food and home, share your very self.  Offer your opinions and ask for other people’s.  Give people a peek at your history and ask about theirs.

11) Invite unlikely and likely people over: the person who is alone or lonely; the person who has a special diet (I need to work on this..); the big family who feels like they put people at an imposition; loud people and quiet people; the person who seems to abound with friends and busy-ness (sometimes these people get overlooked because of these facts); the person who is always having people over to their house (they would probably be blessed by the offer).

12) Don’t be “hospitable” for worldly gain.  If you’re having people over to sell them things or earn free gifts or garner status and connections with someone, it’s not hospitality.  It’s not necessarily wrong to do, it’s just not hospitality.

There are many benefits to being hospitable: meeting neat people, making friends, deepening existing friendships.  The list could go on.  But even these benefits should not be our primary reason for being hospitable.  We are hospitable because of duty (God commands it) and delight (his commands produce godliness and joy in us).  We are hospitable because we genuinely care about others.

Finally, I’ll give this piece of advice, which isn’t about being hospitable, but rather about learning to be a good receiver: accept invitations to other people’s homes when offered and allow them to practice hospitality with you.

I know I missed a million things that should be added to the list.  Anyone want to fill it out for me with a tip or two?