"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:9-10
Fellowship is so important. God made us to be social and to need friendship and support from others, especially from fellow believers. But there is one thing I've learned over the years: people don't invite families with young children over very often. When you have a large family, invitations become even more rare. Which means, the ball is entirely in YOUR court.
If you have a large family and want to fellowship with others, it is going to depend on you to invite others into your home. Hospitality can be scary, and sometimes it seems overwhelming, but it is a blessing! God tells us to be hospitable several times in the Bible, but it isn't just so we can bless other people. It's also because God knows that hospitality blesses US! When we open our homes and hearts to others, everyone is blessed. (Besides, your house gets clean!)
As a homeschooling family, and a large family, our home is rather crowded. It is designed for function and daily living, not Martha Stewart style entertaining. It is old and it needs to be repainted, but we can't let that stop us. Yes, my dining room is also my school room. Yes, there are bookshelves full of school supplies in there and maps on the wall. So what? It doesn't stop conversation, and it doesn't affect appetites.
For years, I was so hung up on the inadequacy of my home that I didn't invite anyone over, except family. That is when we realized that we weren't getting invited anywhere, and our need for fellowship could only be met during church functions. After we moved, we found that there wasn't enough time at church functions to really get to know others better. There were families we wanted to know better, but we couldn't do that in the church foyer before or after services.
Last year, Steve and I purposed to begin to open our home to others again, so we could develop deeper relationships. This actually began when Steve and I joined a Dinner For Eight program at church. Four couples, four meals, four months. We enjoyed inviting those 3 couples into our home on one of the 4 months, and we enjoyed eating at their homes. The fellowship was sweet, and we participated in two different cycles of Dinner For Eight. But it isn't designed for family fellowship, so we decided to branch out on our own.
When I was pregnant with Baby V, we were busy working to declutter the home and organize it for the baby. We decided to take advantage of that cleanliness to invite families over before the baby arrived and life (and the house) got messy again. We had several families over during the course of that final month of pregnancy, and enjoyed it! Our hope was to return to hosting families in November, but we haven't yet succeeded. Though, we have allowed the children to have their friends over several times, as long as they help prepare the house for their guests. Housework is more fun when you have friends coming over!
At the moment, winter illnesses make entertaining difficult. I'm hoping we are well soon so we can begin to host families again. I've been missing the fellowship, and I've found that hospitality isn't that hard. My busy family and full house hasn't scared anyone away yet. We will need to take advantage of the cooler weather in Spring, because our home has no air conditioning and we won't want to subject guests to that in summer.
Some tips for beginning to share hospitality:
- Remember that guests are coming to see YOU, not your house.
- Remember that a cheerful welcoming spirit will shine more than a spotless or beautifully decorated home.
- Remember that their house probably isn't perfect, either.
- Plan a meal that you're familiar with cooking, your family enjoys, and that is easily increased.
- If guests offer to bring something, let them bring a salad, rolls, or dessert.
- It doesn't have to be gourmet -- even hot dogs and hamburgers can be the backdrop for great fellowship!
- If a full meal is too scary, start with an evening of dessert or an ice cream sundae bar one afternoon.
- Get the whole family involved in cleaning the house, and talk to your children about the importance of hospitality as you work. Teach them to have a servant's heart.
- Start out by inviting someone you feel comfortable with, and then branch out to others.
- It's easier if you stay in the habit of being hospitable. If you have to take a break, expect it to be a bit rusty again.
- Getting your home ready for guests is work, but it isn't just for the guests. Having a clean home blesses your family as well.
I regret all the years I refused to have company over to our previous home. It was small. It did have some cluttered areas, and it still does. But, we missed out on lots of fellowship opportunities. I don't want to let that happen again.
Are you in the habit of practicing hospitality? Do you need to get in the habit? Do you have any tips to share with me as I prepare to resume hosting families?