How do we model hospitality to our kids? Do we even need to pass hospitality on? Is hospitality an optional gift of the Holy Spirit? If I am too busy, tight with money, or inept at entertaining, is it OK to model other ways to love?
God shows us in his word that we must strive to be hospitable. It is not an optional extra. Listen to God’s commands.
‘Seek to show hospitality’ (Romans 12:13)
‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’ (Hebrews 13:2)
‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling’ (1 Peter 4:9)
What is hospitality? It simply means ‘love of strangers’. It is having a spirit willing to share with ‘one more’ person, for a meal or for the night. It is using the resources God gives us to extend his love to others. It includes loving friends and strangers, Christians and non-Christians, and assisting gospel workers.
Here are 5 tips for how to hand the hospitality baton on to your kids.
Plan hospitality with your children.
At the start of each term, my husband and I plan who to invite over. We know that if hospitality is to happen amidst our busy lives, we must plan it.
However, we have missed a teaching opportunity by only talking about this as a couple, rather than as a family. So early this term, around our dinner table, our whole family started a new termly tradition. We brainstormed people we could offer hospitality to - Christians who were new to town, Christian friends, non-Christians and those who couldn’t repay us. What a simple tool to teach our children God’s heart to the lost and strangers.
Make the most of spontaneous opportunities.
Our children watch our reactions to the unexpected. What do your children see when:
- a family member rings. They will arrive in an hour and would love to stay the night.
- the neighbourhood kids arrive far too regularly. They arrive with grubby hands, hungry stomachs and booming voices.
- a friend arrives on the doorstep in tears after her husband has just left her.
- you meet a new family at church who is longing to make connections.
Do they watch you say that you have an appointment? Or perhaps they see you grudgingly welcome people in, and then complain afterwards? One of the first things that impressed me about my husband’s family was their open door. When people ‘dropped in’, they were quick to set the table. Although this cost them money and family time, they never complained, exemplifying God’s open arms. Will my children say this about me?
Keep your focus on people rather than preparations.
The stress of preparation easily moves our focus from people to perfection. One way to avoid this is to keep meals simple. Sunday lunch at our house is rolls, BBQ chicken and salad in summer, and soup and bread in winter. Weekly meals with guests are just whatever we would normally have. In fact, many of our regular guests have been given chicken fajitas one too many times!
Help your kids focus on people by discussing with them how they can care for guests. Spend time asking your children questions like:
- ‘What toys do you want to share today? What do you think they’d like?’
- ‘What card game could you play to help the kids feel at ease?’
- ‘Our guest is a builder. What could you ask him about?’
- ‘Barry loves football. You could talk about that with him.’
Involve your kids
Good modelling is not just doing it ourselves. Modelling involves training our girls…and boys. Yes, boys need to learn hospitality skills too (don’t forget 2 Timothy 3:2 - hospitality is an essential attribute of an elder). Our children can:
- receive people at the door
- welcome children, showing them toys and playing with them
- serve drinks or clear the table
- ask questions to adults
- draw a picture or pick flowers to bless your guests.
- tidy the house. We learnt the ’5 minute rule’ from a friend. Just prior to the guests arrival, the whole family must spend 5 minutes tidying our living area. With all 6 of us pitching in, the cleaning is done.
Hold the grumbling and pass on the blessings
Not only are we to show hospitality, we are to do it ‘without grumbling’ (1 Peter 4:9). We are to prevent our tongue complaining about all the mess there is to clean up, how long our guests overstayed and how unruly the children were.
One way to stop grumbling is through the discipline of thanksgiving. We can practice this with our kids after our guests leave. How were you blessed by your guest’s visit? How were you able to share Jesus? What encouraged you? Thank God together for your guest.
How big is your love?
What imprint are you leaving on your kid’s hearts about hospitality? What model are you passing on to your grandkids about how to treat friends and strangers? The bible teaches us that hospitality is a measure of our love. How big is your love?
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