Building genuine relationship is both a gift and a calling, and it doesn’t happen by chance.
If you’re longing to invest in people, to really build in a way that matters, it takes being brave, and being intentional, and going for it. We have to put ourselves out there, to practice intentional hospitality, as a way to connect to others. We invite genuine connection when we welcome interaction – whether we open our homes or step into someone else’s, whether we go for a walk inthe park or chase our kids at the playground, whether we offer a smile to the cashier at the grocery or meet a young mom for coffee and a heart-to-heart.
Hospitality is more than just inviting someone for lunch (and there’s not even lunch required!); it’s about making room in your heart and your life to have genuine conversations, reaching out to help someone when they need it, or just asking questions that get to the heart of a matter.
One of the simplest ways to invite the kind of conversations that invest in people, is to open our door and invite them in. But maybe, the idea of intentional hospitality seems overwhelming. Maybe your schedule seems to full, or “hosting” seems intimidating. I think there are some things we can do to set ourselves up to really make a difference in someone’s life (and in our own), when we make a few decisions in that direction.
Prepare your heart –
Pray first. Invite God in.
Before you ask someone to your house (or head to theirs), pray for your time together to be beneficial to you both. Pray for your heart to be about the good of that person, and pray that you’ll move past focus on yourself or your home, the food you’ll serve or what you won’t. Pray for conversation that’s truth-centered and encouraging.
Open your Bible and dig a little.
… ask God how He wants you to have a less temporary, more “forever focus” in relationships. These passages help give us a picture of how God views “home,” and they can shape how we present our own homes, and how we approach time in the homes of others we spend time with.
- Psalm 23:5 – God provides for us by “preparing a table”
- Ps 23:6 – followers of God will dwell in His house forever
- John 14:2 – Jesus goes ahead to prepare a place for us
- Mt. 28:16-20 – we’re called to go into all the world and preach the gospel – to be about building relationship that points people to the God who loves them
Take care of you.
Build time into your schedule to rest, to get ready without being stressed, to be calm and engaged. If you’re hosting, prepare your home and provisions in advance so you’re not stressed and rushed. And when you’re ready to spend time with someone, be all in. Put away your calendar and your phone. Let go of perfectionism and just be present, really engaging with the person you’re with.
Create space (Prepare your schedule) –
Make time in your calendar.
Block off “connection time” just like a solid commitment to work or school. Leave “grace space” on your planner pages so you have availability to spend time with others. Don’t let “I’m busy” become a reason to avoid real connection with people who matter.
Make space for your kids.
TRUTH: If you’re a parent, you’ve got a lot on your plate. It’s just as important to make space to practice hospitality with your kids as with strangers and acquaintances (more-so, actually). Carve out time for them before you fill your calendar, and be especially intentional to “create welcome” for them by leaving time and space for conversation and casual interaction. If you’re hosting others, it becomes even more important to invest in your own family first.
Your home might be the “space.”
Weeks 1 and 2 of this series we talked about planning purposefully and creating meaningful home design. You might decide because of your season of life our your investment in your home, that you want to do as much of your relationship building as you can in your own home. If so, make it work for you with how your set up your space, so that it’s not added stress to welcome others on short notice or even with planning.
Space “away” might be a better option for you.
Maybe you’ve got a space that just feels too small (although my beautiful friend Sarah creates a haven of welcome in her apartment that’s the size of my master bedroom, and it’s pure delight for me to be invited there). Maybe you’re a mom of littles and sometimes it’s easier to leave them with daddy while you go visiting for a little while. If you decide to get out, think about heading somewhere that makes it easy to have quality time with someone else. Choose a location that fosters communication. Pick a quiet coffee shop over a loud one. Accept the invite to a friend’s home if they’re offering. Maybe the’re more comfortable if they have little kids and it makes it difficult to travel.
Be creative – what can you do together?
When my friend Christy and I had tiny babies and roaming toddlers, we would call each other up and ask for help with projects we wished we could accomplish, but struggled with alone. “Hey, come help me clean and paint my playroom!” Christy asked one afternoon. I took my pack-n-play and my babies napped and played with hers and we hammered out a huge project and had a blast together while we did it! Maybe you can pick a friend to run errands with or offer to help with chores. We’ve had such sweet opportunities to bless, and be blessed by, our neighbors – over first aid for an injured basketball player, shoveling and snow blowing during a blizzard, and even borrowing the use of a shower when frozen pipes meant no running water one winter! We made new friends by joining a sports team carpool, and we make a point to host team get-togethers and know the names of teammates so we can cheer alongside their parents. Sometimes “intentional hospitality” just means being there to help when someone needs it.
Prepare your family –
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to offering intentional hospitality is our own family. We might feel frazzled with a too-busy schedule. We might be frustrated with our relationships within our home. We might be struggling with our own “issues” of insecurity or even just stubbornly don’t want to share our time (because let’s be honest, connecting with others does take work!). We can set ourselves up for success (and get priorities in order) when we invest in our family first.
Get on the same page with your spouse.
As a newlywed, I worried that my husband would be the homebody who’d hold me back from lots of social interaction. Funny enough, decades later, I’m often the one who wants to play the hermit! Whichever is the case, good communication with each other can make all the difference between a sweet game night with neighbors, and frustration over an over-booked calendar. Talk together about your desires, and use a printed or digital calendar system (we do both!) to connect over your schedule. Manage expectations for timelines. I used to simmer silently and then burst out in anger when my husband didn’t help me with the things I felt needed doing when we were hosting. I’ve learned to use emails, texts, and plain old calm conversation to ask for what I need help with, and he appreciates the clarity and opportunity for teamwork. And remember that “prepare your heart” thing? Pray together for the people you’ll spend time with!
Communicate with and prepare your children:
Teach your children to invest in others. Tell them how to make eye contact, answer and ask questions for conversation, look others in the eye, and offer them a drink. Manners do matter!
Model good conversation for them. Ask leading questions to really get to know others. Invite your children into conversation when it’s appropriate, and also teach them when to be quiet so others can speak.
Give practice opportunities. Spend time together with others of different ages and different stages of life. Expect your children to engage, not tune out others. Don’t take the easy way out and always send the kids away; sometimes it’s important for them to be a little uncomfortable so they learn that investing in others is important. Talk before about opportunities to interact, and if needed, guide them during time with others.
Hold them accountable.
Expect your kids to follow the guidance you give. Don’t accept rudeness or refusal to engage reasonably or justify it with a “he’s shy.” Of course, honor your child’s comfort zone, put them in safe situations only, and respect their need for boundaries. But within reason, you can expect your children to be polite to others. Follow up afterward, speaking words of encouragement for practicing hospitality! Offer consequences or challenge if they refused to honor others, and give them other opportunities to succeed.
Do you have teens/young adults?
Meet them where they are. Work to engage with them based on your living situation and look for ways to intentionally interact in their social world, as well as ways to invite them into yours. I’m in the midst of working this out and DON’T always get it right.
Prepare your Home –
If you decide your home is the best place to spend time with someone, set yourself up to relax and enjoy your time together. For some ideas on how to do this, read some thoughts about meaningful home design.
If you’re wanting your home to be a place of respite for you, your family and those you invite in, one simple and powerful way to create that is to incorporate artwork and decor elements that reflect who you are and what you believe. Using scripture art on your walls is a way to literally “write these things in your home” (see Deuteronomy 6), reminding you as you live and work, what really matters for eternity. I love the trend of using scripture and scripture-inspired quotes on our walls and in our decor.
And now for a super-cool giveaway! I first met Danielle of Strauhaus Creative through an online “mastermind” group of fellow writers and Jesus-girls running our own businesses. I was immediately drawn to her sweet spirit and her excitement for her art. She’s a graphic designer, and she decided to build a business with her hand-lettered artwork. Since I’ve been simmering in (and sharing with you!) this concept of Temporary Nesting, I loved the idea of having her artwork on the walls to remind us of what really matters. When I asked, she jumped at the chance to give away this beautiful piece to one of the Everyday Welcome readers!
So now – go! Enter to win your own beautiful framed scripture art and use it to help you practice intentional hospitality. Then come back and share your ideas!
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