Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Annie Chapman and Heidi Chapman Beall's book, Entertaining Angels: Stories and Ideas for Opening Your Heart and Home, (Harvest House Publishers, 2009).
God calls every believer to practice hospitality. No matter how many people you know or how large your home is, you can learn how to open your heart and home to others regardless of your personality or circumstances.
When you serve other people, you’re ultimately serving God Himself and ushering in blessings that will spill over from the lives of those you serve into your own life.
Here’s how you can open your heart and home well:
Pray for a willing heart. Ask God to give you the desire to reach out to other people through hospitality rather than resenting the time, energy, money, and inconveniences that can be involved. Realize that practicing hospitality is a spiritual act of worship. Pray for God to open your eyes to those around you whom He wants you to serve and give you the ability to bless them as He hopes you will.
Look beyond just those you love. Don’t limit your hospitality only to the people you know and love. Be willing to reach out to strangers, people who make you uncomfortable, and those who can’t reciprocate. Every day, look for opportunities to reach out to people who are hurt or in need.
Be generous. Go beyond the minimum that’s expected of you as a host. Give your very best effort to the people you serve
Be discerning. Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to recognize when to refuse entry to people who might bring harm into your home or life. You shouldn’t have to place yourself or your family in danger to be hospitable.
Focus on welcoming instead of on impressing. Don’t worry about your lack of a large home, cooking talents, or any other type of resource or skill you think is necessary to impress guests. The point of hospitality isn’t to impress people; it’s simply to make them feel welcome and cherished. That’s possible in any type of situation.
Be prepared. Get your house ready for unexpected guests by regularly cleaning and picking up clutter so you can host people at just about any time.
Go for cheap chic. Don’t spend more money than you can reasonably afford on your guests, but do the best you can to be thoughtful and stylish within the limits of your budget. From the food to items for the guest bedroom, keep in mind that simple elegance works well.
Show you care rather than showing off. Remember that hospitality isn’t about you; it’s about your guests. Instead of aiming to show off how well you can perform as a host, show your guests that you care about them by getting to know their individual preferences and keeping that information in mind when planning. For example, if you’re planning a party for someone who loves casual and relaxed gatherings, resist the temptation to plan a fancy and formal event.
Don’t let guests see you sweat. Never make your guests feel that they have inconvenienced or frustrated you. Refrain from discussing all the hard work you’ve done to prepare for their arrival or host them while they’ve been in your home. Ask God to help you relax in their presence and simply enjoy the time you have together.
Let go of unrealistic meal expectations. Don’t allow yourself to feel intimidated by the thought of having to prepare culinary masterpieces for your guests. As long as you have enough tasty and healthy food, you can make them feel special.
Remember to host your kids, too. Don’t become so preoccupied with hosting people outside your family that you neglect celebrating your kids’ important milestones well. Plan some creative parties for your kids’ birthdays, graduations, sleepovers, and achievements (such as sports victories). Consider hosting a “dedication party” when each of your kids turns 13 to mark the transition from childhood to early adulthood, much as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs do in the Jewish tradition. Invite people who have been positive influences on your children’s faith.
Show mercy. Be willing to reach out to people who have made mistakes, such as by hosting a baby shower for an unwed mother-to-be and helping a homeless person who appears to be an alcoholic. No matter how broken a person is, he or she is still worth whatever effort you make to reach out with God’s love.
Spend time with your grandkids if you have them. Hosting your grandkids in your home or spending fun time with them in their own home is one of the most powerful ways to positively influence the next generation through hospitality.
Ask for help with major events. If you’re planning a major event like a wedding, don’t try to do too much on your own or you’ll become overwhelmed and unable to pull it off well. Invite other people to join you in your efforts, and delegate whatever tasks you can to others who can pitch in well.
Enjoy good Christmas conversation. Don’t let yourself get so busy with Christmas holiday baking, cooking, and decorating that you neglect the good conversations you could be enjoying with friends and family during this special time of year. As a host, do all you can to foster thoughtful conversations that will enrich relationships. Prepare questions to ask your guests and learn how to listen well.
Reach out in bad times. Hospitality isn’t just for celebrating good times, and it’s much more than just throwing parties. Reaching out to people who are suffering can be a powerful way to connect them to God’s love during times when they’re especially searching for Him. If someone is grieving the death of a loved one, for example, you can write a thoughtful card and bring the person some meals. People recovering from surgery could often use help with errands and household chores. A family who has lost their house to a fire would benefit greatly from donations of items they need while living elsewhere. Use hospitality to help hurting people.
Be a good guest when others show hospitality to you. Do all you can to express respectful consideration and gratitude when other people open up their hearts or homes to you. Follow rules such as being on time, never complaining, cleaning up after yourself, avoiding controversial issues in conversation, respecting your hosts’ privacy, and sending thank-you notes and gifts.
Adapted from Entertaining Angels: Stories and Ideas for Opening Your Heart and Home , copyright 2009 by Annie Chapman and Heidi Chapman Beall. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Annie Chapman is a gifted musician and the author of several books, including 10 Things I Want My Husband to Know, The Mother-in-Law Dance, and 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know. Sharing the stage with her husband, Steve, writing books and magazine articles, speaking at women’s conferences, and ministering through radio and TV give Annie many opportunities to reach a wide audience for Christ. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute.
Heidi Chapman Beall is a professional singer whose recording projects include a music CD that complements Steve Chapman’s Quiet Moments for Your Soul. With a degree from Sheffield School of Interior Design, her knowledge of style, and her love for entertaining, Heidi shares God’s love as she conducts seminars to help girls and women with fashion, beauty, hospitality, and decorating. A stay-at-home mom, Heidi, her husband, and their two young daughters live in Tennessee.