Building Relationships through Missional Hospitality

**This post was originally written for the Heroic Life Discipleship blog. You can see the original post here.

In my dining room I have a large map of the world with the words “Beautiful are the feet that go” written underneath. We just moved into a beautiful older style home this last summer. Until now, I have not had the wall space for a world map but have wanted one as a reminder to me of God’s heart for all peoples and of Jesus’ call to preach the gospel to every nation. Over the last year or so, my understanding of the great commission has expanded as I realize I may not have to go far to “go” into all the world. It may mean just bringing someone to my dining room table.

All of us find it easier to invite close friends and family over. We may even be comfortable with the idea of hospitality to members of our church family. But what if our homes were a primary place of ministry to unbelieving friends, neighbors, and strangers? What if we viewed our ordinary resources, homes, and families as beautiful tools for the gospel? That takes a bit more effort and intentionality. 

Practical Tips for Implementing Hospitality as a Family: 

  • Intentionally pursue relationships –If you stop for a minute to think and pray, you might be surprised by the amount of unbelieving friends or strangers you already bump into on a regular basis. How can you be more intentional and extend kindness to them? Or maybe you need to initiate inviting someone new into your life: a single person who would love to regularly become a part of your family routines, a foreign exchange student who needs a welcoming family, local moms who would want to be part of regular play dates with a fellow mom, a co-worker who needs an encouraging word.
  • Be willing to look odd – The first time we brought Christmas cookies to our neighbors in our apartment building, they looked at us like we were going to rob them. One man literally peeked through a small slat in the door and said, “What’s the catch?” as we attempted to pass him a plate of cookies. Showing care for a stranger can seem socially odd in our individualistic society. But if God could love us while we were still His enemies, we can intentionally extend unexpected grace. Go out of your way to demonstrate the generosity of God and see what happens.
  • Find the ways God has already equipped you – You don’t have to conjure up something new to be great at hospitality. Ask God where He’s already gifted you and use that to intentionally bless others. Whether it’s lawn care or being great with kids, your outgoing personality or gift for doing arts and crafts, God has gifted you in some way. I have found many ways to use my enjoyment of cooking and baking over the last few months: a meal to a friend, extra dessert for a next door neighbor, apple crisp delivered to a friend’s front porch. These are natural and fun ways for me to love others. They are a way God has already equipped me to form gospel relationships.
  • Include your kids– Yes, sometimes including my almost three-year old and ten-month old takes twice as long and is more complicated, but it always, always makes more memories and teaches them along the way the importance of loving others. Ask for your children’s ideas for how you could bless someone in need. Leave extra time to let them help with hospitality preparation; have them make a card or craft for someone who needs a pick-me-up. There are so many ways kiddos can come alongside in extending hospitality. And often, kids are the perfect ones to open doors for showing Jesus.
  • Strategically use holidays – My husband and I have found holidays to be a great place to start building relationships. People are already celebrating and are more open to interacting. This year we hosted an open house style pizza party at our home for surrounding neighbors on Halloween and had hot cocoa and candy to pass out in the front yard for trick-or-treaters. This was a fun way to get to know neighbors and open the door for future conversations and relationships. How about doing a Valentine’s craft in the front yard for neighborhood kids, a 4th of July cookout with unbelieving friends and neighbors, or giving a Christmas treat to someone who regularly serves others without thanks (i.e. your mailman, delivery person, or cashier)?
  • Simplify – Hospitality doesn’t have to look like a five course dinner. It doesn’t have to look like dinner at all. Hospitality can be a welcoming smile; it can be popcorn; it can be game night; it can be including someone else in your already made plans for the day; it can be treating the cashier at the grocery store with the reception and care that God would give her. Building relationships and intentionally blessing others can be done in very simple, yet meaningful ways as a whole family.
  • Partner with other believers – This is so important. Just as we are seeking to form gospel relationships as an extension of our home and family lives, we are in need of that very same community. Jesus designed the church to be that community and the committed, missional family of God. Don’t do hospitality alone. Forming gospel relationships and blessing others can be done even more effectively alongside other followers of Jesus. For our Halloween pizza party, we couldn’t have done it without having two other families partnering with us. While I was off cleaning up a spilled drink and my husband was outside giving candy to early trick-or-treaters, those families were engaged in conversation with our neighbors and making sure they were comfortable. Partnering with other believers deepens our relationships with each other, pushes us to greater growth and obedience to Jesus, and demonstrates to the world the love that Jesus said should mark us as His people.

The world map in my dining room now reminds me that this place of homethis place where we spend so much of our time preparing meals, nourishing and caring for the big and little people that make up our families, washing little faces and dining room tables, changing diapers, and cleaning up toys–this place can be the very place that as a parent and momma I, too, can play a part in the great commission. Our homes, our kitchens, our comfy couches, or even our loud, messy toy rooms for that matter, can play one of the most important roles in the making of disciples. 

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Recommended reading: The Turquoise TableThe Gospel Comes with a House KeyCome and Eatand The Simplest Way to Change the World(probably my personal top favorite!)

Recommended listening: Everyday Gospel, Sessions 1-5 by Jeff Vanderstelt 

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