Making Room for Hospitality

by Abby Barr, M.Ed., Director of Operations

Generally speaking, my husband and I are not shy people. In fact, I’m convinced that Ryan knows over half the population of Lynchburg by name, and likewise, Ryan is continually amazed at the depth and variety of topics I can cover with someone in a quick five minute chat. We have always enjoyed opening our home to others and have become very good at creating environments where people feel welcome and comfortable. When God gave us the opportunity to purchase a house in 2014, we intentionally searched for a home that would accommodate groups for Bible study, dinners, and plenty of hanging out. And, when we dream of our future, the picture we imagine always includes a home routinely filled with friends and neighbors who feel like family. We see the Kingdom value of building relationships with believers and unbelievers alike and opening our home to be a safe place for connection and discipleship.

However, in our present reality, life looks significantly different than it did when we were newly married in our first home. My husband and I have chosen busy lives and have several commitments to one another, our young children, our careers, and our church (to say nothing of friendships and hobbies we aim to keep). We feel God has called us into, and wishes us to maintain, each of those commitments. We also believe God has called us to practice regular hospitality, but I admit, I struggle to discern what hospitality looks like in this season of life. I know what would excite me (a series of elaborate and festive parties with 50 of my closest friends and neighbors!!), and I know what sounds realistic (…sweatpants at 7 p.m.). Noting the incongruity, I have looked to outside resources for ideas but am often left feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. I feel pressure to do more and be better, but I don’t fully understand how.

God, in his infinite grace and wisdom, has recently given me some clarity on this issue. He’s given me the peace to leave behind what I deem “ideal” and grace to do more than what I deem “realistic.” He’s encouraged me to weave hospitality into my daily rhythms—to think of hospitality not as an extra event to put on my weekly calendar but as more of a mindset to apply to my life. Rather than carving out hours for parties and dinners and groups, by God’s grace I aim to make extra space in the established rhythms of my life for intentional relationship building.

I execute change best with examples, so I’ve come up with a list of hospitable practices I hope to implement, and I hope that sharing them will encourage you too. Rosaria Butterfield put it well in her recently published book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: “Start somewhere. Start today. One logical place to start is at the end of your driveway.” By no means do I expect to start doing all of these things right at the same time or forever. My prayer is that gradually over time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, these changes will become my new normal, and that they bring about Kingdom impact.

– My son and I love to bake together, so I’m going to make extra to share with a neighbor.

– I’m going to make an effort to learn some of my coworker’s favorite foods, drinks, and hobbies so I can intentionally bless them as we work together.

– Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be celebrated at my house this year, and so I hope to have the privilege of setting an extra spot (or more) at the table for a friend or neighbor in need.

– I’m going to structure my work day with enough margin so that I have time to engage in meaningful conversation with coworkers. I will aim to ask thoughtful questions and listen more than I talk.

– I’m going to cut back on eating out or grabbing coffee before work so I have extra funds to spend on blessing a neighbor.

– When I load up my daughter in the stroller for a walk around the neighborhood, I’m going to text a friend to see if she’d like to join us.

– I’m going to make sure if it’s a nice day, my kids and I spend most of the afternoon outside in the front yard ready to make conversation, pet passing dogs, and encourage whoever God brings down our street.

In the end, I want my life (regardless of the amount of money, time, or energy I have) to be marked by hospitality. I want my life to reflect the rhythm of the early church, which wasn’t dedicated to elaborate gatherings, but daily rhythms of worship, fellowship, and grace for one another. I am learning that hospitality doesn’t have to be extravagant to be impactful, and so this year I’m praying that my humble attempts will make a lasting impact.

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