Practicing hospitality at home can seem like an insurmountable challenge when you’re a busy mom with young kids. It’s so much easier to just hunker down and pretend the world outside doesn’t exist. And yet, when we do so, we miss out on so much. In today’s post, guest author Katie Deckert explains why hospitality matters, even when it’s hard.
I was a new mom. I was tired and lonely. My husband was working two jobs and I spent the bulk of my time at home alone with my daughter.
The job I left wasn’t a career path for me so I expected the transition to be joy-filled and easy. It wasn’t.
Though I didn’t like my job, I was always surrounded by people. There were people to talk to and laugh with and get frustrated by.
At home, it was just my daughter and me. She wanted to be held at all times and I needed something to occupy my mind.
It was a difficult (yet joyful) season. One day, my phone rang with an invitation to a playdate. A new couple had started coming to church and they had two young children.
She asked if I would like to come over mid-morning once a week for a regular playdate. It would be good for the kids and we could chat.
I was thrilled. I knew, even then, that those playdates were a lifeline for me, but it wasn’t until later that I realized just how much her hospitality mattered.
I was no longer alone and unseen.
The Challenges of Motherhood and Hospitality
It wasn’t easy for my friend to extend regular, grace-filled hospitality to me. She had two young children and getting everything done that she needed to was more than enough for anyone to deal with.
My daughter was an exceptionally good sleeper (don’t worry, my son more than made up for that) and I was usually well-rested when I arrived. My friend was not. I remember how often she suffered through nights with little sleep and how exhausted she felt.
Yet, her door was open.
We were frequently interrupted by diaper changes, nursing breaks, falling toddlers, and temper tantrums but, as most moms do, we developed the ability to pick up sentences right where we left off and the mutual encouragement of walking through the season together mattered more than anything.
Hospitality with Joy
Many of us are in that position. Our schedules are full and our children only fill them up more.
We look ahead to the coming week and breathe with regret before it even begins, trying to figure out how we will do what we need to do.
When people tell an overwhelmed mother that she ought to be opening her home regularly, it can seem an insurmountable challenge.
The beautiful thing is that God knows all about our schedules and to-do lists and he is happy to interrupt up with something better.
That’s why 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” He knew we would be tempted to grumble and would find ourselves pulled in a million directions, unsure of which things we ought to prioritize.
The Holy Spirit is our aid, he enables the joyful reception of guests, even in the face of the exhaustion and busyness of motherhood.
But why does hospitality matter? Do we really need another thing to do on our sprawling task lists? Here are five things I’ve learned about practicing hospitality in difficult times.
1. Hospitality Matters Because the Bible Commands It
Hospitality is commanded just like love, kindness, generosity, honesty, and integrity. Hospitality isn’t optional.
But that doesn’t make it easy. Offering hospitality when we have tiny hands undoing our work as we do it or fifteen extracurriculars that we must coordinate is especially challenging.
We often think of hospitality as the well-organized dinner parties that Pinterest encourages and those seem impossible anytime before the children are in college.
But hospitality is more than that. Hospitality is sharing real life. It does take a time commitment but it doesn’t take hours of party prep. It takes a willingness to open our homes and serve simple meals, trusting God with the outcome.
Breaking into our ordinary days, God gives us glimpses of his work in the world around our ordinary tables. As he does this, he transforms normal meals for his glory and the good of the nations.
God commands hospitality because he knows it is good for his people. We must depend on him for the strength to obey with joy.
2. Hospitality Matters Because We All Need Deeper Relationships
Hospitality is an opportunity for us to swing wide the doors of our lives and invite others into the messiness of real life. We have the opportunity to show them a glimpse behind the scenes of what our lives look like.
In an age of social media and casual relationships, hospitality takes down many of the barriers we put up around us. We can’t only show our guests the clean corner that made it on Instagram nor can we pretend our children always behave perfectly or our meals always come together flawlessly.
Hospitality makes us just a bit vulnerable and, as it does, it paves the way for a genuine relationship to form and flourish.
We cannot have a depth of relationship unless we are willing to let others see our imperfections and challenges right along with our successes and joys. This is God’s design and it is for our good. We are, after all, commanded to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).
3. Hospitality Matters For Evangelism
“Hospitality is fundamentally an act of missional evangelism.”– Rosaria Butterfield
Our world is aching for real relationships and extended hands. It is in the context of hospitality that we are able to bless the dying world around us for the glory of God.
Through our open doors and the glimpse they offer into our genuine Christian lives, people will hear the gospel message shared over the long haul. This is a beautiful way to spark evangelistic opportunities.
Within the context of shared meals, we have the opportunity to get to know and love our neighbors and community members. We share the table with them and begin to share our hearts.
They see the difference in how we live in light of the gospel. They see us extending the grace of the gospel. They see us willing to be inconvenienced for the good of others. They see us repenting when we are wrong. And, as they watch all of this, evangelistic opportunities arise.
Cultivating community through hospitality gives evidence to our faith in a world starving for human connection.
4. Hospitality Matters Because It Provides an Example to Our Children
Through hospitality, we demonstrate to our children that no matter what makes a person different, they are all welcome in Christ’s family.
We show them that it is worth giving up evening entertainment and comfortable situations to obey Christ in something far more valuable like human connection through hospitality.
Through hospitality, our children see that it isn’t only Mommy and Daddy who worship and love Jesus—other people live their lives in a similar manner. Through hospitality, our children experience Christ’s church in an especially unique way that we pray will draw their hearts.
Hospitality is an opportunity for us to showcase to our children that the people of God love people because he does.
5. Hospitality Matters Because It Fosters Empathy and Honesty
In a world ravaged by sin, honesty and empathy are hard to come by.
Hospitality naturally fosters these beautiful characteristics when we extend the welcome of Christ to those around us who come from diverse cultural, religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
It’s all too easy to offer opinions that are harsh and degrading to those behind screens. But, when the people we’re discussing such things with are sitting across our table, sharing a meal with us, it’s much more difficult.
We can see the emotion in their faces, hear the intrigue in their voices, gauge the combativeness (or lack thereof) in their body language.
We are forced to sit longer in the perspective of others when they share our table than we ever can when we read an article or social media post.
This leads to honest and empathetic conversations and that’s a beautiful thing for our souls and the souls of our children as they watch.
Hospitality for Our Good
Hospitality matters for all Christians. Every season of life has its challenges but they’re worth overcoming with joy for the glory of God.
Hospitality matters in motherhood because hospitality is a gift from God for our good and the good of our families.
If you have questions about how young children can help with hospitality, you may find this resource helpful.
Katie Deckert is a wife and busy mom on a mission to cultivate community in northern Virginia. She is passionate that women everywhere would open their hearts and homes to others as they live out the gospel’s radical welcome. She writes about hospitality, homemaking, and cultivating community at her blog Hospitable Homemaker.