Hospitality: On Hold or Six Feet Under?

October 15, 2020 | Beth Holzbauer


At first glance it may seem life has pushed the pause button on showing hospitality; or maybe even buried it with its six feet distancing.  A closer look shows that hospitality continues to be a viable and valuable ministry.  How is that possible with the present restrictions we have?  We’ll find out as we look at the definition and command for hospitality, list Six Secrets of hospitality, and tackle the present hospitality challenge full force.

Definition and Command  

My experience with hospitality began as a recipient.  As a child I often went to Mamaw’s house for a delightful time of special treatment.  Mamaw had the bright idea of having a Tuesday Night Club. Each week she prepared a delicious meal for us (yes it included carrot/pineapple jello salad), we read Scripture around the table, and each of the children shared items of interests such as report cards (sometimes shared reluctantly) or fun things we were doing.  A favorite treat Mamaw served us was her Ginger Ale drink.*  Not only did it taste good, but with a touch of grape juice and sugar it foamed up to put on quite a display.  Later in the evening while my parents were teaching at Cincinnati Bible College, Mamaw would put us to bed—but not until after she’d warmed our pajamas on the tall register in her worn, but well cared for kitchen.  When I got older I learned there was a name for this kind of special treatment; it’s called hospitality.  Hospitality can be defined as sharing and serving others in our homes--or really anywhere.  It’s when we encourage people through fellowship, food, entertainment, or other means of special treatment.  Hospitality actually means “lover of strangers”.  Of course friends, family, neighbors, church family, and co-workers will likely be recipients of your hospitality as well, but we don’t want to overlook newcomers; they need our attention too.  When thinking of hospitality, the words welcome, friendliness, kindness, availability, and generosity come to mind.  We could all use a daily dose of hospitality, couldn’t we?  

In a short time I went from hospitality recipient to hospitality trainee under the influence and teaching of my mother.  Over the years she served hundreds of people from her humble galley kitchen.  I remember as a child, as our guests arrived, it was my job to serve them juice and crackers on my mother’s fancy oval glass trays.  I thought I was quite the hostess.  I enjoyed the company we had through the years - missionaries, Bible College Students from different countries, church groups, family, and friends. My Dad would always say about the dinner table, “there’s always room for one more!”  Anyone and everyone was welcome at our table.  By this time I was hooked on the blessings to be given and received through hospitality.  Hospitality is the gift I’ve used in ministry over the last 50 years.  I love it, and now our children have equaled or surpassed my hospitality passion.   When I hear they have a small group in their home, their neighbors over for a party, or when they invite us to come for supper, my heart is thrilled.  Believe me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Some may say, “well, that’s your gift, but not mine”, or “I never had any training—and my mother wasn’t a Home Economics teacher like yours.”  I get it; it may be harder for some to show hospitality because of circumstances or personalities, but actually showing hospitality is one of the commands we’ve been given as Christians.   It’s in the Bible: the command, the how to, the what, the who, the commendations, and the warnings (see Rom. 12;13; 1 Peter 4:8-10; 1 Tim. 5:9, 10; Titus 7-9; 3 John 5-8; 2 John 9-11; 1 Cor. 5:9:11).  God has told us to, “Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality” Romans 12:13.  It’s up to us to do it. 

Six Secrets about Showing Hospitality

One of my favorite books on hospitality is Secrets of Entertaining from America’s Best Innkeepers by Gail Greco.  The book is filled with ideas from over one hundred inns across our nation. I admit the title also intrigues me.  If there’s a secret to simplicity and success, I want to know it!  From my own experiences (both successes and seeming disasters) I’d like to share a list of hospitality secrets I’ve learned over the years. Next time I write, I’ll talk more about each one, and give some more specific tips and examples.

  1. Hospitality is one of the best gifts you can give a person.
  2. Hospitality is easier if you have a plan.
  3. It helps to be intentional; set some goals, invite people, and get it on the calendar.
  4. There are all kinds of hospitality and styles.  Make it fun for you and your guests.
  5. The important thing is to get started.
  6. Even our worst attempts of hospitality can actually be a wonderful experience for someone else.

Press the Play Button

To be honest, the present pandemic challenges had me convinced that I had to put my hospitality on hold.  I pressed the pause button, and I was wrong.  Nor is hospitality in any danger of extinction.  A book I recently read, Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation by Jen Schmidt opened my eyes once again to the opportunities around us.  The key is to look at the words that describe hospitality, “welcome, friendliness, kindness, availability, generosity, service.”  This type of everyday hospitality can continue through all sorts of circumstances as we interact with people in person (at the grocery, outdoor church services, in our neighborhoods, family mealtime, work) or via the latest technical communications (sending encouraging words, checking on people, and meeting needs via porch drop offs).  Through the years our circumstances and methods may change - my mother’s glass serving trays have become designer paper plates — Mamaw’s Tuesday Night Club around the table may now be watching Johnny play ball, and church has temporarily gone from a building to a TV screen or outdoor service.   The important thing is to stay connected to God and others.  Pray and press the Play Button: meet a need, find a way to be hospitable, share the love and message of God with others.

Venture Hospitality Opportunities: First Impressions Team, Special Events, Small Group Host, Meals Ministry, Children’s Ministry registration worker 

*Here’s the simple recipe to try—the kids love it: 2/3 glass of Canada Dry Ginger Ale; 1-2” of grape juice; and 1-2 teaspoon of sugar.