One of the reasons Kara and I clicked right away was our similar understanding of hospitality. The first night we met the Tippetts, they came over after dinner at a restaurant to hang out. I had a newborn baby and my house had blankets, binkies, and burp rags strewn all over; yet, it didn’t matter—no one was uncomfortable because of a bit of baby paraphernalia. In fact, Kara was one of my few friends that I didn’t mind if she did The Popover because I knew she couldn’t care less about the state of my house. And she saw it in many states over the course of our friendship… We both loved gathering people in our homes, and while our hosting styles were different, we loved the heart of hospitality and the difference inviting others over can have on hearts. If you are on the fence about hosting, maybe these six quick reasons to invite will encourage you!
1. Inviting is a way to share our gifts.
Two weeks ago, we had dinner at a friends’ house…with 50 other guests! Their house is huge and overlooks Garden of the Gods—some ate inside while some of us ate on the gorgeous patio around the gas firepit. The big kids hung out in the basement where there was a fridge full of kid-friendly drinks. It was glorious, and we loved being there. There was room for all!
We live in a modest bungalow downtown. Our children share a bedroom and we have no parking to offer guests—they have to park on side streets and walk to our house. We have a [darling] postage stamp backyard with a tiny [delightful] pond that tries to drown out the sounds of traffic. But how blessed we are to have all of this! Everything we have is a gift from God and ours to share with others. I have never once heard a complaint that our home is too small to have a party or host a Bible study.
Big or little, our homes were given to us from God as a way to share our bounty with others.
2. Inviting is a way to pursue others.
Inviting people over is becoming counter cultural. The Christian Church has always been counter cultural, so it’s not surprising that we would find ourselves doing something that is strange to everyone else. In fact, though we’ve lived in our home for five years, only one of our neighbors has ever been inside; it’s not that we haven’t invited our neighbors over—it’s that they don’t want to come! Our first Christmas here when we took Christmas treats to each family on the block, some people didn’t even want to open the door to us. I later imagined them throwing out the plates of goodies, not trusting the weirdo neighbors who brought over homemade food.
But because inviting is becoming more and more counter cultural, it sends a clear message: I want to be in relationship with you. I want to pursue a friendship. I see you, I have noticed you, I want to know you. Think of how you feel when someone invites you over. You feel honored! Special! Seen! It’s a wonderful gift and a great place to start pursuing others for relationship.
3. Inviting puts church into action and provides opportunity for organic community.
Our church is a church plant that meets at a school. This means that we do not have a church facility, so other than worship on Sunday mornings, we have to find a venue for every other church gathering. This usually means at someone’s house! And it also means that we don’t have a bunch of programs—no Wednesday Bible study/AWANA/choir practice/ESL ministry/youth group night for Westside! There is nothing wrong with programs, but not having them has been a gift—not being able to depend on a church building or programs to build community means that we church members have to build community with great intentionality! It takes a lot of intentionality to host a small group or gather women (and their littles!) for a morning Bible study or plan a fun event for the teens.
My family hosts at least twice a week (not including my piano students or my mommy’s helper or play dates), and often more in the summer when we want to take advantage of the warm evenings. We’ve learned that this person-to-person reaching out, inviting, and engaging is organic! And organic community has roots in relationship, not a program.
Even if we belong to a church blessed with facilities and programs, we can still be the feet of the church as we invite our friends and neighbors over.
4. Inviting requires vulnerability…which is necessary in relationships.
When I was a girl, my family seemed to spend a lot of time at other families’ homes, and it seemed other families were often over at ours. The Popover wasn’t rare, and it was no big deal to Mamma if a neighbor stopped by for coffee. But culture has changed, and we don’t find ourselves doing life in each others’ homes as much. Inviting people over can be a lot of work! I usually vacuum and try to make sure the bathroom is clean. I like to have drinks available and toys set out for any little guests.
But even more than the work of preparing your home, having others over requires vulnerability. When we welcome someone into our home, we are saying, Here I am! Here is my mess! This is me! For better or worse!! People get a close-up look at our economic standing, how we spend our money, our housekeeping skills, maybe our culinary skills (or lack thereof…ahem…), our styles, how much effort we put into making our home a home. It can feel like we are opening ourselves up to judgment.
I remember when Kara and I were first becoming friends. She had a get together at her house one morning, and I was sitting on her floor with Von, who was a baby at the time. I remember looking down and seeing not just one but a couple of stains on her carpet! Did I think, Oh, gross, how can this mama of four and a dog not keep her carpets perfectly clean?! No! I thought, Oh, phew!! If the pastor’s wife can have dirty carpets, I can, too!
Kara took the risk of having those women judge her floors. But the value and importance of building community were bigger than that risk. And her vulnerability showed the rest of us that we were okay to be vulnerable, too. Vulnerability begets trust, and both are needed to build community!
5. Inviting creates a safe place for others and communicates love.
When we make ourselves vulnerable by opening our home, we are saying to the invited person, I trust you. I am making myself vulnerable to you, and I am trusting you. Here is my mess—baby stuff all over, stains on the carpet, and watch out for those Lego pieces all over the floor! I’m giving you a window into my life for better or for worse. And I trust you. I am asking you to safeguard all the parts of me you see today. And I want to learn to safeguard you, too. I want you to feel safe in my home and know that this is a refuge, a haven, a sanctuary.
When I was growing up, my parents always referred to our home as those things, and I loved it even before I knew what that meant. Somehow I knew that despite what was going on in the world outside, I could come home and be safe, protected, loved. I would be warm and celebrated, and all my needs would be taken care of. Our home was a safe place. Everyone who came over was part of the family.
Many times I have been invited to someone’s home and have been treated like one of the family. It’s a powerful, healing experience. And nothing feels so much like being part of the family of Christ than being invited to someone’s home, welcomed warmly in, provided for while you’re there, and pursued relationally. A simple cup of coffee shared on your couch can be a sweet retreat for someone’s heart.
6. Inviting reflects God’s invitation to us.
Even as I strive to make my home a safe place for my husband, children, friends, neighbors, and church family, the idea of a safe place is really just metaphorical, right? Because I can’t truly make sure you are safe in my home—you could trip and break your leg. Someone else could barge in and make you uncomfortable. All your troubles follow you into my house and they’ll follow you out. But in the cozy nest of my heart where I am safekeeping you, you will find safety and love. That safety and love doesn’t exist because I’m so great—it exists because God’s Spirit dwells in me. God is our true refuge and rock, our true safe place. And He is the original Inviter, the original Initiator, the original Pursuer. What joy! And what a gift that our simple act of inviting others into our homes is a reflection of how God invites us into communion and relationship with Him
What are your hesitations about inviting others into your home? What are your fears? What are examples of other people in your life who do this well? How do you feel when invited to their homes? Who is someone you can invite over in the next couple of weeks? What can you do to make them feel safe and seen while they are in your home?