Hospitality: A Life that Says Welcome

hospitality quote

Welcome to Hospitality Week, here on the blog!  I hope over the next few days to discuss varying styles of hospitality, with the goal of illustrating that we are all called to hospitality, and that we can all be good at some form of it.

Karen Ehman has writtten an excellent book, called Life That Says Welcome.  In it, she discusses the Biblical call to hospitality.  The why, the how, the precedent behind God’s design that we open our homes for one another, and share our tables.  Scripture is clear on the important call to hospitality.  Acts 2 describes the response to the Gospel, as one which should prompt our hearts to open toward others.  In Acts, we see the formation of a brand-New Testament church, with believers seeking to honor God in their relationships with one another.  And interestingly, one of the first fruits to be borne, is that of hospitality:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Do you find this kind of Acts 2 hospitality strenuous?

Admittedly, I do.  I am challenged with a definition of hospitality that has long haunted me.  One that demands formal invitations and prepared meals and a plan.  I have never been good at long-range planning, so formalities are not my strength.  I am easily stressed by the chaos of crowds, so how do I exert a welcoming spirit despite my less-than-perfect wiring?


In reading Acts 2 however, and seeing it fleshed out in Ehman’s book, it struck me that I may not have assessed the call to hospitality with enough breadth, with enough grace, and have been wrestling with feelings of failure, due to a too-narrow definition of what hospitality looks like fleshed out in my life.

Ehman expounds on the very concerns I have, giving space for the definition of hospitality to grow and to evolve.  Hospitality she states, can be of two kinds: in-home and out-of-home.  And both functioning together with intention, are what provide communities with an optimal sense of welcome.

In-Home: In-home hospitality involves opening our doors, setting out extra dishes,and preparing for additional mouths to feed.   It is the invitation to life in the home, lending itself to an intimacy that is easiest found by breaking down barriers of space and physical boundaries.  It is the cup of cold water (or coffee or tea) prepared to provide rest for the soul of another.

table set

Out-of-Home: Out-of-Home hospitality Ehman maintains, is every bit as necessary and personal as in-home hospitality, but involves work beyond the front door.  Out-of-home hospitality looks like welcoming new neighbors, visiting those who are lonely, preparing meals for friends, and looking out for the physical and emotional needs of others and seeking to meet those “felt” needs.

All of us Ehman, maintains, are called to hospitality, but this definition can be as broad as our individuality allows it to be.  And it can change with the seasons of our experience.

For example, for nearly 9 years we have lived in our neighborhood.  And in the course of that time, we have had a revolving door of small children in and out of our home, nearly daily.  Perhaps because of this, we have not exerted as much formal hospitality as those might who live in a more isolated setting.   Keeping our home occupied has never been difficult.  However, the last few months have seen several of our closest neighbors move out of state, and so we have been filling the void with more formal invitations to our home.  Our season has changed and with it, our expression of hospitality.

But isn’t this life?  God’s commands are firm and resolute.  But with His desire for our obedience to His will, also comes His hand of sovereignty.   And as His plans shift our circumstances, grace is there to meet the interpretation.  So while His call to hospitality does not shift, the expression might vary, depending on our season.


Do you find Ehman’s in-home/out-home definition of hospitality encouraging?

Can you define your area of strength in hospitality? 

Can you think of one thing you can do this week to demonstrate a hospitable spirit to others?





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11 thoughts on “Hospitality: A Life that Says Welcome

  1. Great questions at the end. Hospitality is something I WANT to do, but rarely follow through on. I will have to add that book to my reading list. And, like Grace, your home looks beautiful!

    • Betty, I am the same with formal invitations. I think more than I act! Trying to better address that end of hospitality, this year:)

  2. One thing I have learned about hospitality is I just have to ask people over and not think about it too much. The more I think about it, the less likely it will happen. I definitely get tons of joy and satisfaction out of having people to our house but definitely go through seasons where I really get too inwardly focused and stop asking people over. As a result of not extending invites, I find I’m more unhappy during those seasons!

    • Susanna, what an interesting point about being more unhappy with less hospitality. It makes sense, though. We are always happier doing what God desires. I am going to think more in line of your observation, here. You are definitely a good example of someone who embraces open-ness!

  3. Kim, I am the same. I think that this Winter has been a difficult one to be outward-focused in- so cold and grey. Hoping for some beautiful Spring days, for sharing life together!

  4. I’m an in-homer for sure. I think this is partly because we have a larger family. It’s much easier to have people come to us. I admit, I’ve struggled at times with resentment that few people are willing to invite our large brood into their home. But rather than dwell on the hurt, my husband and I have made hosting a way of life. We’ve found that everyone loves to be invited in, but most are far too intimated to do the inviting. If we can help facilitate fellowship for those who find it very difficult to initiate it themselves, then we are happy to do it. One thing that has made hosting larger groups less labour-intensive is sharing the job with a friend. Often, we invite our closest friends to co-host with us in our home. We split the cooking/baking. Plus, we get that helpful backup for times when conversation lulls or gets awkward.
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    • Jo, didn’t you invite your entire church over recently? You have always impressed me with your skills at crowd-management. Great point about sharing cooking with another family!

  5. Great reminder. I too go up and down with hosting but find the benefits are so great! I need to practice this more!

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