I am afraid that the practice of hospitality in our society today is quickly becoming the exception and not the rule. And no wonder, when our lives are filled to the brim and so much of our interaction with our “neighbors” and friends happens online.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is often easier to try to check in with people via my phone–text messages and Instagram comments are my jam. But I am also very passionate about hospitality, however imperfect or messy it is.
Nothing can truly replace the connection that occurs when you talk with someone face-to-face. Empathy, interest, and love are shown much more effectively through actual eyes, facial expressions and physical touch. As much as I enjoy finding the perfect emoji to accompany my cleverly worded messages, it simply is not the same as looking in someone’s eyes and telling them you care, or sharing a tear-inducing laugh with a friend in the same room.
I see the trajectory our society is on, and it makes me wonder what it will mean for our children. Will inviting others over to your home to share a meal be completely replaced by posting pictures of your respective dinners and clicking “like” from two different tables? Will the art of setting the table and carrying on conversation be lost to our kids? Will the biblical commands to “practice hospitality” be seen as something done “back then” but no longer “relevant to us”?
I sincerely believe that we can influence the answers to each of these questions by starting right now to teach our children by example how to be hospitable and to care for the needs of others.
3 Things You Can Do To Raise Hospitable Children
1. Practice Everyday.
You are much more likely to learn something if you do a little everyday, rather than doing it only occasionally. If I were to practice the piano a little everyday, I would learn quickly. But if I only sat down to practice once every few weeks or even once a month, then my piano skills would be about what they are now– nonexistent.
The same goes for the habits of hospitality. Hospitality is much more encompassing than just a shared dinner together, but it does often start there, so we will use that as an example. If you want your children to be able to sit at the table while you have guests over, they should practice staying at the table on “regular” dinner nights. If you want your children to be able to ask questions and show interest in your guests, then begin by modeling good conversation during meals everyday. Ask them questions and encourage them to do the same.
Think of what hospitality means– making people feel welcome, showing kindness and consideration, sharing from your abundance, serving one another, deepening relationships– and look for ways to make those the normal characteristics of your home. When it is natural in the everyday, it will be natural on the special days too.
2. Involve them in the process.
Kids want to be useful. They want to be given opportunities to express their ideas and to do meaningful work.
It can be tempting to always tell your children to go find something to do away from your preparations. But just as is true for praying, reading your Bible, handling conflict with your spouse well, and all the other things we want to pass on to our children– if they never see us do it, they will have a hard time knowing it happens and a hard time being able to follow our example.
In order for our children to be hospitable themselves, they need to have opportunities to learn what they ought to do.
Talk to your kids about who you can invite to dinner or what needs you can help to care for in the community. Discuss what to serve for dinner and maybe let them help you prepare part of the meal. Give them jobs to do to prepare the house to be a welcoming and comfortable place. Even the youngest of children can help to carry napkins to the table or suggest a dish to make.
carrying the serving bowl to the table after the kids made one of our favorite pasta dishes
3. Give them a big picture of hospitality.
Words can become oversimplified over time. A word which once had a rich, robust meaning can lose it’s depth as language and ways of expressing ourselves change. I think hospitality is an example of a word which now conveys much less meaning than it once did.
We tend to think of being hospitable solely as feeding or housing people, when really hospitable people do much more than just cook food or provide a room for someone.
Being hospitable means anticipating your guests needs and what will bless them. It means creating an atmosphere where everyone (including you!) can feel relaxed and comfortable (which in no way means a spotless house!).
In short, a hospitable person remembers the difference between entertaining and hospitality— the focus is not on the food nor the decor, but the people and the community you can build.
We will do our kids a disservice if we practice hospitality that worries more about appearances than eternal value. Be intentional about having conversations with your children about WHY you are going to the trouble of having guests over, about how you can make the time more about your guests and less about yourselves, and how God calls us to be hospitable people because hospitality is a reflection of the deeply generous and loving nature of God.
How do you teach your children to be hospitable?
More posts on hospitality you may be interested in:
- Hospitality That Doesn’t Make You Pull Your Hair Out
- Makeshift Hospitality: Offering What You Have, Even When You Don’t Have Much
- Do You Believe These Common Lies About Hospitality?
- Risky Hospitality