Jesus had no place to call home, so he relied on others’ willingness to invite him into their home to eat and drink with them. I can only imagine the types of conversations that went on around those divine dinners, but Jesus sure enjoyed them, enough to be accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. Today, however, it may seem impossible to have people over regularly. Hospitality requires work like cleaning the house, buying and preparing food, and being a gracious host. But it doesn’t have to involve a lot of time, nor does it require inviting people into your home. It could mean loving people in your community without them setting foot into your home, or it may mean stepping outside your door.
Here are 10 ways to display hospitality even when time is limited:
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1. Make a basket
When my husband and I moved into our first house, we received a nice gift basket from the neighbors next door. It was filled with fruit, candy, and an encouraging note. Since our next-door neighbors worked as missionaries, we knew they didn’t have a lot of money. But you don’t have to have a lot of money to make someone feel welcome like we felt. Simply send a note, bake a cake, or fill a basket with some fruit and trinkets. You’ll be surprised how much you can make a new neighbor feel welcome.
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2. Give water
Jesus said, “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life, (Matthew 25:44-46).
In our town, runners participate in a yearly marathon. Participants run by many people’s homes on the main road. Some people hand runners a cup of water, towels, or other essentials they may need to cross the finish line. Perhaps you don’t have in an area where you can directly do this, but can you volunteer with an organization that hosts 5ks or marathons? Set up a booth and make yourself available to the runners with water, spray bottles, or anything they may need.
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3. Volunteer in the community
One of the biggest complaints visitors have when they try out a church is whether or not the people were welcoming and friendly.
Christine Hoover shares what she learned from her experiences as a visitor in her article, “What New People at Your Church Want You to Know.”
“A warm, welcome, and helpful environment is one of the most essential ingredients for a person to become a follower of Christ and grow and connect within the church,” she said.
Even before visitors walk through your church’s doors, you can develop a reputation of hospitality in your community. Set up a booth at the next time your town holds an event, like a parade or community event. Set up a booth and give out free information about your church. Offer to pray with people. You can even set up a prayer tent and make yourself to pray with those who approach you.
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4. Assemble a Black Friday team
Years ago my husband and other church members would get up early the Friday before Thanksgiving and visit the areas with people waiting for those early bird specials. They came equipped with a wagon loaded with two large coffee urns, cups, sugar – the works. They would give free cups of coffee to people standing in line. Not everyone was receptive, but the ones that gladly took the coffee were extremely appreciative of their hospitality.
Many stores have changed their policies since then, but is there something you could do to show love to all those people trying to take advantage of a good deal? What a great way to demonstrate that some of the best things (like love and mercy) can’t be bought in a store.
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5. Make "Back to School" cupcakes
Back to school means the beginning of a new year for teachers and students alike. Make a batch of cupcakes to take to the school the day before school starts. Attach a note that says: “I’m praying for you” or “good luck for the next year.” Teachers are some of the most underappreciated people in the world. Sending a small token of appreciation can brighten their day and give them a joyful perspective on the new year.
If you’re planning on attaching a note, include a prayer, written out for them. Get inspiration from Rachel Dawson’s 11 Prayers for our Schools (Uplifting Students and Teachers Through Prayer!).
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6. Give a gift
You can even show hospitality as a guest in someone else’s home. Bringing a small token of appreciation not only demonstrates generosity to your hosts, but a little gift for the kids makes them also feel appreciated. A small teddy bear or toy of their choosing can make kids feel loved and special.
You can also give a gift when someone comes to your home for dinner. This goes the extra mile in terms of showing your guest they are highly valued, not only in your home but also in your life.
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7. Write a note
A note of encouraging words can go a long way in displaying love to your neighbors. Write a paragraph about all the ways you like living near them. By doing so, you demonstrate love for who they are, rather than what they do. This forges a good relationship with those around you, which may pay off in the future if you find yourself in need of a favor.
Sarah Elizabeth Finch talks about the unique challenges of developing neighbor relationships in the suburbs in her article, “How to be Neighborly in the Suburbs.”
“Living in the suburbs, we are surrounded by walls. We often go on walks but are met with similar scenes everywhere we go – fences, walls, and empty front yards. The reality is - living in isolation is selfish. I’m working on overcoming this,” she said.
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8. Pay It Forward
Is there a chore you can do to help your neighbor? Get out the weed whacker, paint the shutters, or shovel their driveway (without being asked). A little gesture might go a long way. If you can’t physically do it, you can show hospitality by paying someone else to do it. Whether you outsource the work or you do it yourself, helping out your neighbor demonstrates love for them.
9. Make your bathroom a special place
Decorate the bathroom in a way that is inviting. Create a basket with special toiletries or place a special towel on the sink as a way to make people feel comfortable. You can fill it with feminine products, packets of tissues, etc. It may come in handy when an overnight guest has forgotten a necessity.
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10. Host a monthly game night
Turn off the TV and other distractions and spend time together. Invite your neighbors in to play their favorite board and card games. It’s so much fun with little work. It also engages the mind and allows you to learn more about the world and others. The memories you are left with when you or your neighbors move away will not be how much time they spend in front of the TV, but how many memories were made together around the table.
Brad Brisco talks about a consistent game night and 9 other ways for you to get to know the people living life around you in his article, "10 Simple Ways to Meet Your Neighbors this Summer."
"Create time and space on a weekly (or at least monthly) basis for events that you can invite people to. This can be a regular game night, a gathering around the fire pit, a potluck, or some other type of “party.” Without a consistent get-together to invite new acquaintances to, it will be nearly impossible to build social momentum. When we do, however, we will reach a point where we not only know our neighbors by name but also discover specifically how we can really love them as well."
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"Hospitality doesn’t have to be tedious"
Hospitality doesn’t have to be tedious. Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness toward strangers or to people you already know can open your heart (and others’ hearts) to the gift of hospitality.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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Originally published Thursday, 10 May 2018.