Hospitality Doesn't Have to Be a Burden: Open Your Home or Just Your Driveway
This past weekend we hosted the easiest party ever: s’mores on the driveway with our neighbors. If you’ve been wanting to find a way to connect with your neighbors, but you’re not sure about dealing with the cost and work needed for having people come inside your home—then this is the event for you. All that’s required is buying a package of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate, getting some long sticks, and starting a fire. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to clean up. We printed invitations a couple weeks ago and my girls took them to every house on the block, plus the cul-de-sac across the street, and boom! Done.
It was so low stress and netted a great pay-off with long conversations with our neighbors around the campfire. I even overheard some of the dads commenting to one another, “We need to do this more often. This is fun.”
You Know You Should Do It, But Calling It A ‘Practice’ Seems A Bit Much
You likely already know that hospitality is a Biblical mandate. You probably already know that Paul says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Peter says to do so without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Hospitality is of such importance that church elders “must be hospitable” (Titus 1:8).
We know we’re called to do it, but we have myriad hesitations.
We think our house isn’t big enough, our kids are too crazy, we don’t know how to cook, people don’t do that anymore; it’s weird, they’ll think we’re selling something. Or maybe we think it sounds too simple. We’re looking for a professional way of doing hospitality; for the latest three-point strategy to love our neighbors and get them saved.
Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by some of the more recent books and articles on hospitality. It feels like a burden—just too much work in your already-full life. Maybe your house already feels like chaos and adding just one more person will be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. I understand. I’ve absolutely been there.
I want to encourage you to let go of the heavy expectations that you think are placed on you by others, or you have perhaps placed on yourself. You can craft hospitality in your own unique way—even in a way that is life-giving to you.
What can you do? What sounds fun? What sounds possible in this season? Do that. Don’t worry about mimicking anyone else. Assess the resources God has given you: time, emotional bandwidth, finances, your spouse, your kids, your yard, your table. How can you use these things in a way that won’t fry you for days and will be a blessing to others?
A Few Fun Ideas for the Next Few Months
Fall just feels like a good time to connect with the people around us. Whether it’s back to school, or the new sports teams, or maybe the new football season, I don’t know. But something in the air this time of year draws people together. Plus, it’s good to make a few connections before we’re all snowed in for awhile. Here are a few ideas to get us all brainstorming ways we can connect with our neighbors in the next few months.
S’mores on the Driveway - see above
Chili on Halloween Night - Last year I made a big pot of chili and invited all our closest neighbors over for a pre-trick-or-treating meal. Chili made with ground beef is pretty cheap and it’s a one-pot meal! I asked everyone to bring drinks and sides. We headed out together in a big herd after dinner. I realize many Christians object to acknowledging Halloween in any fashion. I respect that. But if all your neighbors are coming to your door anyway, why not use it for God’s glory? At the very least, give the BEST candy on the street, please.
Monday Night Football - How about ordering a bunch of pizzas and asking your neighbors to bring the sides and drinks? You can all watch the game together and the kids can play outside.
Movie on the Lawn - Ask around and see if you know anyone with a movie screen and projector (or borrow it from your church?). Make hot chocolate, pop popcorn, and show a fun movie after dark. Every single neighbor kid will be there, I guarantee it.
Applesauce Canning - I’m stealing this idea from a friend because I have no desire to grow apples or can them. But she invites her neighbors over every fall to gather apples and make applesauce together. Everyone goes home with several jars and the hours in the kitchen together are invaluable.
Thanksgiving Leftovers on the Lawn - In America we all put up our Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving. How about dragging your leftovers outside and inviting everyone nearby over for a decorating break and some turkey sandwiches? Or maybe morning coffee together before you all hang up lights on your houses? Or perhaps dessert late at night when it’s all over? We’ve done this many times and it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with others. It’s a relaxed day and we all have a decorating common goal, which build camaraderie and friendship. Plus, not cooking, because it’s leftovers.
Christmas Carols and Cookies on the Lawn - A fellow pastor told us that he and his family invite all their neighbors to their front lawn to sing Christmas carols. They brew a big pot of hot chocolate and ask everyone to bring a plate of cookies to exchange. Even in the cold this sounds fun and easy and festive!
New Year’s Eve Potluck and Game Night - Obviously a late game night will require an investment of time and planning and maybe some more money than some of the other ideas, but ringing in the New Year with neighbors is attractive for many reasons: you don’t have to drive on a night when there’s a lot of drinking and driving, you don’t have to go far or stay late if you have little ones that you need to put to bed, you can stay close to home and head to bed as soon as the party is over. The idea can be as intricate or as simple as you want it to be.
For more real-life, doable hospitality ideas please check out The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements. I highly recommend it and reviewed it here.
Also, the Pressure is Off: Everyone Doesn’t Have to Get Saved the First Time They Visit Your Home
I don’t know about you, but I have experienced seasons of anxiety during which I felt like I had to share the truths of Christ with a visitor on her visit to my home. I was overwhelmingly burdened to share the gospel with anyone who crossed my threshold. And while we are certainly called to honor Christ and be ready at all times to share the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15), it shouldn’t become a debilitating load that we bear.
Sharing Christ with our neighbors can be something that’s done over time, as our relationships grow with them. By God’s grace we can pursue deeper and deeper intimacy with our nearby friends. The Holy Spirit can provoke us with a genuine love for them and a desire for them to know Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Such important conversations generally take time and trust and often multiple encounters.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but people aren’t projects. Let’s seek instead to love our neighbors, bear their burdens, rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn. Get to know them, their needs, their highs, their lows. And as we enter into a substantial friendship with them, God will meet us and will help us share the truth in love—hopefully over and over as we share more and more of our lives with them.
Sharing Christ through hospitality is a lifestyle, not a one-off revival in your home. I love how Paul said it to the Thessalonians, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
If you’re going to love your neighbors you have to start somewhere. Why not start with s’mores on your driveway? Or chili on Halloween night? Or carols and cookies at Christmas? Start small and God will make himself big—as you are faithful, he will be fruitful.