Friday, April 29, 2016

Hospitality, the key to building relationships

Guest post by my wife, Hannah.

The best friendships I’ve had as an adult have been cultivated sitting around a dining room table with a cup of coffee or lounging in a backyard gazing at a fire pit. Inviting people into your home or going to others’ homes is key to developing life-long friends. A house is not just a gathering place; it’s a reflection of you. From vacation souvenirs to family photos to the messy closet, your house tells your story. It’s where families are typically the most comfortable and conversation occurs naturally. When you ask someone to visit, you’re opening up your life to them. While relationships do grow in other places, the best friends typically aren’t people you happen to run into once a week at church or the kid’s soccer practice. Restaurants are helpful, but they don’t offer the intimacy of a home and they can be costly. Families may be reluctant to stay long as they carry their little ticking time bombs with them.

So with this great potential for strong relationships, why is hospitality becoming a lost art? It seems increasingly unusual for a new friend to invite someone over.

Our culture fears being judged more than anything. Inviting someone to your home carries the risk that the person will judge your income level, house size, cleanliness, approach to raising children, and much more. Yet people tend to be thankful for the invitation and often don’t notice half the mess you think they will. When a couple we met agreed to come over last minute and share a quick spaghetti dinner, I knew they would be close friends. They have been ever since. When you put on a façade of formal dining and extreme cleanliness, people don’t feel at ease. The insincerity leaks out into your friendship. Be prepared and feel free to serve a meal, but don’t spend hours making your house look like Martha Stewart visited. The goal isn’t to impress, but instead to open up your home.

Many are too busy to have others in their home. Even with a scaled-back approach to hospitality, they can’t spare the time. If you have so many activities that you don’t have time to build relationships, particularly with other Christians, it’s time to cut back. Consider what prevents you from spending a few hours a week hosting people. If the children’s activities take up the majority of your time, weed out the unnecessary events. Your kids will also benefit from the opportunity to hear others’ stories, make new friends, and develop life long friendships. When my 4 year old makes a new friend, she always asks me when the friend can come over. She’s learned it’s a natural part of relationships.

It’s true that having people doesn't always result in a life-long friendship. Sometimes you won’t connect with an individual’s personality or like them at all. But more often than not, you’ll enrich your life as you do life together with others. Your children will gain mentors and have a great example of hospitality to follow. Stop worrying about your house, clear off your schedule, and invite someone over this week.

Offer hospitality to one another without complaining. 1 Peter 4:9

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